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Finance is a “very big and slow sector” that has suffered a great deal of turmoil within the last decade. But times are changing, and the industry is slowly but surely re-shaping itself to reflect the customers and technological advances of 2018.

“We are just over 10 years since the financial crash and at the point of the financial crash, trust in financial services, whether that be banking, or investments, went completely through the floor.” Explains Jim Ker, Marketing Executive at Kingston Unity.

“The main duties of my role as the Marketing Executive at Kingston Unity are acquisition,brand recognition and brand awareness within the financial services.” Jim says. “Financial services areintangible products – so it can be very hard to communicate the services clearly from a b2c perspective without having anything physical to show to the customer. We depend on communication methods, such as paid search and social media and that can also be very challenging.

“A lot of my work relies on the creation of brand equity, brand awareness and the positioning of our brand as the alternative to some of the major competitors, the more well-known ones such as HSBC, Barclays and Halifax.”

As Kingston Unity faces some established competitors, Jim believes that one of the key challenges to conquering them is to identify why the customer would choose to trust them instead of the “friendly alternative” such as a mutual.

“A lot of my role is presenting the brand and the reasons why the customer would choose us, Kingston Unity,” Jim says. “I also take a lot of the digital work on and that encompasses things such as SEO and paid search, social media and web development alongside user experience.

“I also think it’s really important to look at the upcoming aspects of digital things such as how we can better use machine learning, AI, big data and new technologies too. Even looking towards things such as blockchainwhich is kind of a hot potato at the moment in the industry”

“This linear growth which we can see currently will only go as far as people see the commodity and requirement of banking,” Jim explains. “We can already see some very quick learners and fantastic companies basing most of their banking online. The use of traditional physical banking branches has already died down, most things are moving online, but think how that has expanded throughout the market.

“If one bank had thought about a banking app two years before it became the hype, think about how well they would be doing now. We as marketers have to think about what the next tool could be, machine learning, block-chain etc. and how to best utilise them. They are the opportunities that are exciting for this sector. We need to be looking beyond the requirements of today’s customer and towards tomorrow’s customer expectations.”

One of the most crucial points in terms of marketing within the financial services is developing brand resilience, trust and identifying customer pain points, as Jim says. But once all of that has been accomplished there is another vital element to identify; how useful opportunities can be presented to customers in a non-intrusive manner that will showcase and inform them of the service available.

“We depend on the customer telling us what they want from us now,” Jim says. “From that we can build a pretty good customer persona and identify who that customer is. Then we can clearly identify a specific customer journey for them and highlight their pain points enabling us to ensure that we are meeting their needs every single time.”

“Data is the oil of the sector nowadays.” Jim continues.”The use of data allows us to identify those customer pain points, it’s about making the most of this resource. Then we can learn from it and deliver the customers quality information that they need to make their decisions, instead of just having a blanket approach and throwing everything at them.”

“In the financial sector we get a lot of new people who are excited about the hype tools such as social media, which generally is being utilised very well. But I think marketers sometimes forget to look at things from a holistic point and a strategic point of view. I will always say to people “If I gave you a bag of concrete and told you to build a house, how are you going to build it without any bricks?”

The positive message that Jim spreads is that any tool can be used brilliantly, but if there is a lack of grounding to the brand, the campaign will never get to an end point successfully.”You have to have a grasp on the strategic level first before you start using these tools well” he says.

“I hear a lot of people saying that they have thousands of followers, but that is the same thing that their competitor is saying. People need to stop and think about what they are doing and why? Ultimately the whole process is for the customer and is about the customer. They need to be asking what can I do for that customer? What do I stand for? What is my vision and how will that relate to the customer? Then it’s the time to be moving on to the tactical solutions.

“But to be an actual disruptive company, and to really take on these big companies, I think it should go beyond these tactical solutions and start looking at the likes of Big Data, AI, Block-chain etc. All the fun quirky tools that are creeping up.”

Aside from working as an executive at Kingston Unity, Jim is also a board member for CIM (Charted Institute of Marketing) for Yorkshire, representing professional and financial services.”In terms of CIM my main responsibility is to attract and nurture new marketers who are coming into the sector.” Jim states.

“For example, if you’re looking to go down a dedicated social media management route when this is more of a strategic marketing route then this might not be the route for you.I am working on that nurturing perspective as well, which I think Is really important if the people coming through are going to be the future face of our industry.”

You can keep updated with Jim’s journey via LinkedIn.

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