Our sixth instalment of ‘The Now & The Next’ was focussed on the Finance sector. Peter Cowie sat down with Nicola Charles, Chief Marketing Officer GI at Aviva (formerly of RBS, LV=, Hastings Direct and reviti), James Rowland, Digital Performance Director at Refinitiv and Mike Best, Chief Growth Officer at TIPi Group on the morning of the 1st of July.
A video of the session is available to watch here, and the key points are copied below:
Peter Cowie: So, Nicola, you landed in your new role at Aviva during lockdown if I’m correct? Did anything differ from your expectations in your new role?
Nicola Charles: Yes, you’re right, so I arrived at Aviva in a crisis management situation really, we were transitioning 1000s of call centre employees to working from home, dealing with the issues surrounding travel insurance and business interruption, and the change in ebb and flow of motor due to lockdown. It was certainly a baptism of fire!
The scope of my immediate priorities changed to managing the crisis and trying to understand what the world will look like after the pandemic, however in the background we were still working on delivering the challenging targets of restructuring that I had joined Aviva to undertake.
There are so many unknowns in the environment today and the near future, our role is look at potential outcomes and try to plan for these.
PC: What about consumers? How have their demands changed and what situations have Aviva’s front-line staff faced during this period?
NC: The early noise from the start of lockdown has settled down, as both consumers and staff have become accustomed to the ‘new normal’. Interestingly, despite our call centres remaining open, we have noticed that consumers have been more likely to use digital channels for self-serve during this period. As consumers shift more naturally to online self-serve, we are looking at how we can grow this area.
PC: As Aviva restructures, it will be interesting to see how you use your digital channels. With customers becoming increasingly digital savvy during this period and moving towards online purchasing, do you think you’re well prepared to react to this?
NC: Yes absolutely, Aviva has invested heavily in digital over the last few years, meaning it now has a store of market leading assets. At present, we are focusing on how our customers interact with these assets today and in the future, looking at where we should focus our investment, based on the value it brings to our customers.
PC: James, tell me a bit more about the extraordinary data that Refinitiv collects?
James Rowland: So Refinitiv collects data across finance and risk points, anything to do with trading and stock markets, and this data is used by large institutions and small & medium enterprises alike. COVID-19 has reaffirmed the importance of having such data in one place, so businesses can prepare for the future, and react to the present.
PC: Looking at digital marketing, how does Refinitiv plan to use digital to move forward?
JR: Refinitiv understands and places huge amounts of value on digital marketing. At the minute, we are doubling down on our SEO strategy, building more content which will allow us to hit the ground running in 2021. This period has also allowed us to spend some time on larger projects, for example, a project of mine at the minute is attribution modelling, which we are building from the ground up.
PC: James, how will your role and objectives change coming out of this period?
JR: There will definitely be more of a focus on digital, however as for whether things will change, a lot of marketeers talked about pivoting at the start of this period, but within digital marketing, we are always on the brink of new technology emerging. Rather than pivot, we will continue to advance with technology and platforms and try to continue attaining higher standards. Voice technology is a good example of this. We are currently working with Rabbit & Pork (TIPi Group’s voice experience arm) on an exciting voice search project, hopefully assistants will soon be able to answer, ‘who is Refinitv?’and then after that the potential for growth in this area is huge.
PC: Mike, working with clients during this period, how have demands changed, and how has TIPi Group helped with these challenges?
Mike Best: Thank you Peter, this question has changed quite dramatically over the past four months. When this period began, we had to ask a different, more short-term set of questions than before the pandemic. At this point, a lot of paid media was being reviewed or paused and we were working with our clients to facilitate as much flexibility as possible. Aside from these immediate actions, our clients were also asking us, ‘what’s next?’, and at this point we were working with clients to offer them opportunities to embrace the value that digital delivers.
We were also doing a lot of listening at this stage which allowed us to ascertain consumer sentiment and an idea of what competitors were doing to evolve their offering and value propositions.
Now however, we are looking towards the longer term again, and having important conversations with our clients about resilience and their capacity to navigate big change more effectively than before.
PC: Nicola, the pandemic caused many people to rapidly shift their strategies, has this started to settle down at Aviva and are you now planning for the future?
NC: We moved quickly and adjusted our strategy to deal with the problem at hand; dealing with regulators, working from home setups and ensuring that our customers could reach us. In turn, this accelerated our communication capabilities and has impacted on our strategic thinking going forward. It has had positive impacts on our ways of working, not only in terms of workplace efficiencies, but how we listen to our customers. We won’t ever be ‘business as usual’ again in the sense that we are working differently now, however we have certainly moved back into a more normal cadence in terms of our strategic planning.
PC: James, how has your marketing strategy at Refinitiv changed during this period?
JR: Transitioning to homeworking has had impacts on the way we interact with our clients, whether through events or personal contact, however, we’ve adapted and have forged new partnerships to make up for marketing efforts which aren’t viable at present. Our current focus is on becoming more personalised with our content and with our targeting, by bringing together data from people on the front-line and the more top-line data that we ourselves collect, ultimately, it’s an exciting time to get access to more data points.
PC: Looking at projected recoveries of the economy, the Bank of England noted a V-Shaped coming to fruition, will budgets be larger than normal to facilitate this?
NC: Demand for car insurance and insurance generally won’t change, although we will see a change in the way people shop for it, and a growth in the number of challengers who can offer more tailored cover. The big challenge for us will be in the arena of travel insurance, due to the demand and the type of cover we are able to offer. However, in terms of budgets, I certainly don’t expect a slump.
PC: James, Refintiv is a massive success story, will growth in marketing spend continue with company growth?
JR: There are always markets we would like to break into, regardless of COVID, South America and China as two examples. Ultimately, to achieve growth, we need to invest in marketing.
PC: Mike, any final thoughts?
MB: On a market level, moving towards 2021 is going to be interesting, the most resilient markets will be those who encourage the most stable consumer spending. However, this needs to be interrogated at an individual market level, as we’ve seen with the airline industry, despite demand for travel remaining, the airline industry is displaying signs of lasting damage from COVID-19, it will be interesting to see how airline companies go forward from here and hopefully recover.
On a market level however, I expect the UK and Europe generally will be able to weather this and recover by 2021.
Thank you to our panellists for the insight-packed session. You can find out more about the upcoming ‘The Now & The Next’ sessions and watch previous sessions on the TIPi Group events page.