CMO50 2016 #12: Rebecca James

  • Name Rebecca James
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company ME
  • Commenced role January 2014
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 80 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Financial services
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Since joining ME as CMO, Rebecca James has instituted a restructure of personnel and departments across the business to put customer experience at the heart of everything the banking group does. This work brought together marketing, product design, digital sales channels and customer insights under the CMO for the first time, giving her the scope she needed to start truly changing the way the business operates.

    As part of the shift, James divided the product design and marketing areas into two groups based on ME’s two key market segments: The stability market; and the growth market. She also created new roles in each function to ensure marketing covered the whole customer lifecycle, supported by roles with a specific focus on CX, including ‘experience designers’ and ‘customer evangelists’.

    The new structure gives priority to the customers’experience and is the reason ME has been able to generate significant new growth in customer numbers, deposits and home loans in the past year, James says.

    And it’s this internal change, coupled with an emphasis on digital-led experiences, that led to James’ proudest moment in the last 12 months: Winning online bank of the year.

    “This is a testament to the team’s hard work building great new digital customer experiences, including launching a new mobile app, new online application processes so customers can apply and be banking in minutes, relaunching our brand, and designing new award-winning savings and credit card products,”she says.

    As change is enacted, one attribute James hopes she’s fostering in the marketing function is inspiration.

    “By this, I mean using your own inspiration and only doing work that inspires you,” she says. “There are no shortcuts when it comes building a great experience for customers and we’d never want shortcuts because the satisfaction of creating something great is the best reward you can have.”

    More from the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    As an example of how ME’s approach to marketing has changed, James points to the complete brand refresh she has orchestrated since joining the group. There were four key elements. The first was a new central organising idea. Based on new research indicating high levels of financial anxiety, ME has repositioned its purpose from ‘bank fairer’ to ‘make the most of ME’, which provides a more universally appealing concept, James says.

    The second piece was the name change from ‘ME Bank’to ‘ME’, while a third pillar was launching an integrated ad campaign that features an anthropomorphised version of the brand’s logo singing its name to different tunes. This has helped lift brand awareness by 25 per cent, James says.

    The fourth component was new products that prove the promise, including ‘frank’, an award-winning low rate credit card; ‘buck’, an everyday transaction account with no account fees or ATM fees; and an online savings account that’s one of the first to offer an ongoing loyalty bonus rate.

    These efforts saw ME win 2016 Financial Review Online Bank of the Year and Mozo’s Australia’s Best Bank 2016 awards. Importantly, it’s prompted a brand awareness increase from 40 to 50 per cent.

    Empowered business thinking

    As more banking customers fulfil their needs online, ME’s website and Internet banking portal provide critical information and services to customers and are key touchpoints.

    One of the jobs James has been tasked with the complete upgrade of ME’s website. Launched in September, the new portal reflects the new brand, and the overall information architecture will make it easier for customers to find the information they need, reducing calls to the call centre, James says.

    The new technology also allows for responsiveness, as well as for the bank to plug in new services it otherwise could not offer, such as the ability to display super balances for customers.

    Data- and technology-led approach

    Another top objective for ME is to provide strategic value to its 29 industry super fund owners. James identified an opportunity to help them win and retain members and funds and is leading a project to build a system that will allow a two-way collaboration to share and analyse customer data.

    For example, this will help provide insight into members and their lifestage plus crucial financial moments, allowing funds to pre-empt and reduce member attrition.

    It will also help ME’s marketing team to better target marketing activities and better leverage its unique ability to market to industry super fund members directly.

    Fostering team capability

    Building the skillsets and strength required for modern marketing thinking and execution has been a vital component to James’time as CMO of ME. To do this, she’s investing in five key areas to help foster capability.

    Data analysis is the first, and James says she’s advocated for and sponsored several new roles within the business to enhance its data analytics capability and create a data culture within the bank. This includes a new customer insights role, plus a general manager of data.

    User experience capabilities is another component, alongside digital capabilities, and James has boosted the digital experience across her department by growing the number of digital natives from 5 per cent to 25 per cent.

    Social media capability is also in there, and this is another part of the team that’s been expanded. Finally, lifting design capability has seen James increase the size and capability of ME’s design team by bringing the design process completely in-house.


    For James, creativity is ultimately linked to customer experience, and it’s embedding that into every part of the marketing process, from product and service design, to packaging, pricing and promotional activities, that has generated great results.

    As an example, she points to the ‘frank’ credit card, launched in 2015 as a key source of new customer acquisition. The card is a low-rate, no-fee card, providing one rate for all transactions. This removed a key complexity for customers, she says.

    Another illustration of creativity for James is ME’s mock April Fools campaign this year, which capitalised on the bank’s growing reputation to release novel and market-leading products. The tongue-in-cheek campaign announced the launch of a new set of cards, labelled the Cardashians, and was rated among the top 10 social media campaigns for April Fool’s Day, reaching half a million people and boosting ME’s social presence.

    A third launch was ME’s online savings account, which underwent a complete rethink under James’leadership in order to instil longer-term funding and greater customer loyalty. This was done by redesigning the account to provide a high ongoing bonus, and making it eligible only to customers who also have an active everyday transaction account.

    James says the new product has significantly boosted long-term bank funding, customer retention and is also attracting new customers.

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