The retail banking sector has traditionally had something of a staid reputation, particularly when it comes to marketing. This has been highlighted by the industry's tendency to lag behind on adoption of digital techniques.
However, recent years have seen major changes take place as competition for customers increases and firms look for more creative, unorthodox marketing techniques to attract new people to their offering.
On a recruitment basis, this means they have been looking outside of their own sector for potential marketing and digital hires, examining candidates from telecoms and utilities companies. Other large parallel sector services companies with a track record in mass market communications are also potential breeding grounds for the kind of marketers banking needs if it is to compete in the 21st century.
What are some of the challenges facing marketers in the retail banking sector?
There has been a major push recently to make it easier for consumers to switch banks. Combined with the reputational damage many institutions have suffered as a result of scandals such as the PPI mis-selling stories that emerged last year, this has put pressure on financial services firms to improve their retention processes for existing customers.
What this means for candidates and recruiters is that more retail finance institutions are looking for marketers with expertise in campaigns that encourage consumers to stay with their current service provider.
Experts in B2C communication with a focus on retention are in demand, hence the fact that banks are looking to people working in the telecoms and utilities industries.
These sectors face similar challenges when it comes to keeping existing customers engaged and happy with their current provider, meaning they are well-equipped with the skill-set necessary to undertake similar campaigns within the context of retail finance.
Last year, a global report from Bain revealed that although banks have made some progress in driving up customer loyalty, they are not yet taking advantage of that by cross-selling to their existing base.
Although about half of respondents in developed countries had purchased a new banking product over the last 12 months, roughly one-third of these had been bought from a provider other than the consumer's 'primary' bank.
One way of improving within this metric is to bring in the right marketing talent, suggesting that retention-focused roles are likely to crop up more often among the financial services market over the course of 2014.
Increasing creativity and innovation
Customer retention is not the only factor driving recruitment in banking, however. Another trend is seeing financial firms attempt to move towards more creative, innovative marketing as they realise there are possibilities beyond the relatively narrow remits they have tended to utilise.
With competition increasing among banks, producing campaigns that engage strongly with consumers is one way an organisation can stand out from its counterparts in a crowded marketplace.
Creating marketing collateral with a strong visual impact rather than simply focusing on the technical side of the product offering is set to be a priority in 2014. Direct and online marketing have not always embraced this element of the process, but as the digital sector matures this looks likely to change.
Ultimately, banks are hoping to redefine how they are perceived by customers, shedding the stolid image referred to above, as well as moving on from the reputational issues of the last few years.
If financial marketing is to become more innovative, however, it needs to attract the best talent from other sectors, particularly if it hopes to take a different tack than it has done in the past. Simply encouraging existing staff to change their approach is unlikely to have the desired effect, particularly if senior workers are stuck in their ways and not keen to embrace change.
Although there is still likely to be an element of conservatism to the marketing of a sector that is heavily policed when it comes to making claims, hiring workers from leading transactional sectors - such as travel and leisure - could see the industry freshen up its approach with an injection of new ideas and talent.