28th July 2016

Why Financial Services Companies Fall Short on Digital

New research from creative consultancy Radley Yeldar discovered that there is plenty of scope for improving the digital presence of banks and financial services firms. The agency’s digital director Richard Coope looks at what can be learned from the best performers.

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Why Financial Services Companies Fall Short on Digital

(Above) Richard Coope

When everything feels very complex, it can often pay dividends to focus on the simple basics. So, as the business community begins to soak up the implications of Brexit, one valuable task marketers would do well to concentrate on is auditing the state of their digital presence. At a time when public trust is at a premium, online platforms provide a responsive and easily-accessible channel by which a company can communicate many elements of its operation, and aid in the strengthening of its brand loyalty.

We surveyed digital platforms of all the FTSE250 companies, analysing them for a variety of elements. One of the striking conclusions we came to was how variable the websites of banks and financial services companies are. The sectors as a whole don’t rank well – 10th and 13th respectively, of 14 in total – and while some have excellent sites others leave substantial scope for improvement.

So what divides the great from the not so good? Despite the poor show of the financial services sector as a whole, the websites of three investment management companies are actually in our top ten of sites of FTSE250 companies – Woodford Patient Capital Trust, Rathbone Brothers, and Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust.

What these and other top performers like Hays and the Weir Group do well is present a well-integrated picture of their company that feels consistent right across their digital channels. They pick a narrative and then ensure that all the elements support this.

That narrative is often a corporate voice on an issue that is bigger than just their own operations – a societal issue that the organisation can position itself as part of the solution to. For instance, Rathbones enables its customers to ‘help you look forward with confidence’, and its website supports that proposition.

With this strategy arranged, it’s a matter of curating content that always fits within it, in an inventive and creative way. The most impressive corporate websites now look more like that of a magazine publisher, with attractive visual content like that of Sainsbury’s, GSK and AstraZeneca. Indeed, the pharma firms are really displaying the most progressive websites – the latter two pharma giants are also impressive in their creation of genuinely interesting written content.

Integrating social feeds into a site is something that increasing numbers of companies are having the confidence to do – and it pays dividends in terms of projecting a progressive, inclusive attitude. Woodford’s blog includes moderated comments, meaning it retains some control. You can see how engaged its users are by the responses to its Brexit video post.

Site navigation is important to get right so that the user experience is clear and simple. This means working on peppering the site with relevant links to allow the user to move easily between sections, and offering intuitive section headings.

We’ve noticed that the most progressive companies are paying a lot more attention to integrating the investor relations and careers sections of their sites, so that neither of these stakeholders feel as if they are visiting a ‘ghetto’ of the site. Shell and Centrica stand out for the quality of their careers content, with Shell adding interviews with its staff to give potential employees an idea of how it feels to work there.

Similarly, IR sections of the best sites are no longer dull tables of numbers but feature content that makes a more active case for investing in the company. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its controversial ownership, Royal Bank of Scotland’s Investment Case page is a good example.

Like the rest of the business community, financial services companies must be asserting their place in the changed political and economic landscape. The time has never been more appropriate to ensure that digital is pulling its marketing weight.

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