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The importance of thought leadership content in the financial services sector

The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 marked a turning point in the financial services industry. Not only did the collapse have disastrous financial and regulatory consequences, but it also caused reputational damage on a mass scale, leaving the entire industry to rebuild trust. Indeed, as little as two years ago, AXA Group CEO, Thomas Buberl, commented that while trust may have returned to the financial markets, “it has still not found its way to society and citizens yet.”

Perhaps hauntingly, Mr Buberl also warns of the need to “better understand new risks to avert the next crisis”, which he says “could well have a non-financial cause.”

If the issue of trust remained fragile two years ago, then the challenges that COVID-19 has added only compound matters. KPMG recently reported that out of six principal matters financial services organisations face as a consequence of the pandemic, communications and transparency is right up there. For Executive teams and CMOs, in particular, this highlights the need to communicate effectively, not just with customers but with employees, suppliers and third-party dependents too. 

But what does effective communication entail? As Yogesh Shah, CEO, iResearch, argues, now more than ever there is a huge opportunity for financial services organisations to leverage the benefits of thought leadership content within their communications strategies to re-build brand authority and trust at a time when it’s needed most.

Banking on industry expertise

Within every financial services organisation, a CMO will be able to find spokespeople with a wealth of expertise and experience in a range of industry matters. From data security to financial liquidity, business stability and risk mitigation, it is these experts that must form the backbone of an effective communication strategy. Effective communication, after all, relies on the ability of the reader to relate to their content; this in turn, relies on the ability of the author to convey their thought leadership position.

Thinking back to rebuilding trust post-Lehmans and beyond, there are many related and relevant topics to be addressed. What impact will particular regulations have on not just demonstrating compliance, but on providing customer insight as well as safeguarding customers and investors in the event of economic uncertainty? How will these regulations enable the market to continue to grow, whilst protecting data and removing unethical sales and promotions from the industry? Furthermore, how can customers be reassured about the use of automation, AI and data security in the midst of seemingly consistent reports of cyber security breaches? Every CMO should have a solid content strategy built around addressing these topical issues – and planning for other eventualities.

There are numerous examples of financial services companies that have used thought leadership effectively within their content strategies. In addition to the excellent example from Mr. Buberl, in response to the discussions around topics such as Brexit and the coronavirus, J.P. Morgan regularly produces thought leadership articles, reports and insights on the consequences of new developments and practical advice for not just its customers, but for the industry as a whole.

Demonstrating data depth

Using data within thought leadership content is also extremely important. Backing up key arguments with industry research or surveys to show why the issue or challenge is so pertinent, and how the rest of the industry might be responding to these issues, will also see engagement soar, especially if the research is relevant, timely and issues-driven. BlackRock Investment Institute has used data intelligently within its thought leadership strategy by creating focused investment information that aims to improve the way its portfolio managers control their funds and, importantly, helps its clients to maximise their own investment results.

Community and continued communication 

Thought leadership content should be used to create a community; after all, every CMO will be aware that the financial services sector has been through the same challenges together for years. Capital Dynamics has been a prime example of this, regularly producing a 200-page guide of professional advice, guides, statistics and case studies in order to encourage other institutional investors to invest in its clean energy strategy. It is by creating this community that financial services companies can truly establish trust and authority with their target audience, and in turn, that the industry’s reputation can continue to be rebuilt. HSBC is demonstrating both data depth and continued community communication effectively in this space through their annual sustainable financing and investing survey.

Opportunities to engage in uncertain times 

KPMG highlighted how important both communication and transparency are for financial services organisations, and with so much change and turbulence currently across many sectors, customers in both the B2B and B2C worlds need to be assured that they can have confidence in financial services organisations once again; that they are one step ahead of industry issues and that their investment, in any capacity, is safe. And, with no doubt that more disruption and uncertainty is on the horizon, CMOs need to plan how they can use thought leadership content to support future contingency plans and be prepared with comments on possible scenarios.

By discussing issues directly relating to the sector and subtly showing the reader a solution to their challenge, thought leadership content will demonstrate invaluable industry expertise. Every CMO knows that content is king, but data-driven, issues-led thought leadership content is a proven way to appeal to target audiences and show how they can trust financial services industry once more.

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