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CMO50 2016 #26-50: Kylie Smith, Perpetual

  • Name Kylie Smith
  • Title General manager, marketing and communications
  • Company Perpetual
  • Commenced role December 2013
  • Reporting Line CEO and managing director
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 24 staff, 8 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Financial services
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    During the 2016 financial year, Perpetual’s marketing team delivered a business-changing infrastructure project: A responsive website on a new content management system hosted in the cloud.

    This was the company’s second-largest project investment of the year and was delivered on time, on budget, and with a range of additional enhancements. In the first year, Web visits were up 7 per cent and engagement was up over 50 per cent, results triggered by a focus on delivering compelling content and technology innovation, the group’s CMO, Kylie Smith, says.

    At the outset of the project, Forrester Research was engaged to undertake an independent benchmark assessment, rating the previous Perpetual site -9 on its global Client Experience Benchmark on a scale from -50 to +50. Post launch of the ‘minimal viable product’, the site rated +17, and the team moved immediately to continuous improvement to deliver 32 code enhancements. The site is now ranked by Forrester in the top 3 per cent of platforms, with a client experience rating of +27.

    But as important as delivering the project was the structural and cultural changes it instigated. Smith restructured parts of marketing to build a team capable of commercially leveraging this infrastructure, and the team now has proven capability in client insights, brand, digital and social advertising, content marketing, digital production and UX design. This is helping drive business growth via lead generation, retention, brand building and employee engagement.

    This was also one of Perpetual’s first projects with agile delivery, with an additional benefit of building digital organisational capability among the more than 40 employees who collaborated on the design and build, she says.

    From the CMO50 submission

    Empowered business thinking

    Smith was charged with articulating Perpetual’s digital strategy in partnership with IT leader, Nick Scholefield. In terms of strategic performance, this was one of six key performance measures on the company-wide scorecard for 2016.

    The ambition was to ‘drive growth through connected services which bring Perpetual closer to clients, new markets and each other’. Smith says it was clear an ambidextrous direction that builds foundational capability while exploring new opportunities was needed.

    To develop the digital strategy, the pair formed a digital alliance of general managers and high performers across the business who engaged in collaborative goal setting, client research and insight gathering, articulation of the digital aspiration, a digital capability assessment, and ideation and prioritisation sessions.

    The resulting digital aspiration featured nine strategic initiatives and four key areas of capability build over the coming three to five years. In addition, six of nine initiatives outlined in the strategy were started ahead of time as thanks to Smith’s ability to collaborate.

    Data- and technology-led approach

    As an example of marketing leading customer engagement using data, Smith points to the Perpetual Private lead acquisition and lead nurture strategy designed to grow pipeline, and ultimately new clients and revenue.

    In 2016, the ‘Sails For Your Second Wind’ campaign leveraged client data and insight to produce a repeatable campaign which has generated significant results in its first six months.

    Customer-led approach

    According to Smith, marketing has to be the champion of client insight and research. Upon being appointed in December 2013, her first move was to bolster client insights and research within marketing with the appointment of a new senior leader with superior collaboration skills.

    A number of initiatives have also been orchestrated that highlight how marketing is leading a more customer-led approach over the past year. One is expansion of the annual client advocacy (Net Promoter Score) survey and measurement system into an enterprise-wide program with clear roadmaps and accountabilities.

    To increase collaboration and speed to market, Perpetual established the ‘ZAPT’ (Zippy Action Planning Team) with representation across the business to drive client-led change. To date, this team has helped push the Perpetual-wide client NPS result for FY16 to a ‘Superior’ result, the highest possible outcome.

    Perpetual is also participating in a Continuous Improvement (CI) strategy with Bevington Group. “While significantly changing our approach to client communication in Perpetual Private, this project helped champion and demonstrate the fact CI is about increasing client value not just removing waste from the organisation,” Smith says.

    Like many financial services peers, Perpetual had been in the habit of articulating its offer to clients in product and service terms, not in terms of client needs. This has done a 180-degree turn in the past two years, Smith says, and the organisation now favours client testimony over product features, and frames products and services in terms of client needs.

    The development of the new website using personas, rather than using business divisions as a starting point, was a big help in driving this change, she says.

    Fostering capability

    Capability building is Smith’s number one priority year in, year out. “Team engagement and function development, along with clear goals and commitment to developing a high performance culture, sits above all other business priorities, because having the right people in the right roles is the only path to commercial success,” she says.

    This emphasis on employee engagement in the marketing team has seen scores lift significantly, including a 30-point uplift in the year to 30 June 2016.

    Smith attributes her success to a number of factors. One is developing a clear program of activity for employee engagement and individual development and committing to action throughout the year. It’s also about getting the basics right for Smith, and quality conversations about development and performance are regular across her team through one-on-ones, and individualised development plans. Collaborative goal setting then helps ensure team alignment.

    Making hard decisions to ensure all roles in the function align to strategic direction and requirements of a modern marketing function is another aspect of leadership. “In a tight cost environment this has involved removing roles in order to build required capability where there were gaps,” Smith says. “In the past year, this has allowed for investment in new team members in the areas of digital and content.”


    For Smith, creativity is linked to the ability to improve business outcomes, and she believes marketing at Perpetual now has the right creative license.

    She notes that 100 per cent of marketing and communication team members agreed in the annual Perpetual Employee Engagement survey that: ‘My people leader creates an environment where people suggest new ideas to improve business outcomes’, up from 60 per cent year-on-year.

    “This shines through in many ways, from the care and flair of how images are selected for online and social media posts, to pushing the boundaries of agreed segment strategy to see if we can attract new business through fast and inexpensive exploratory testing and learning,” Smith says.

    It’s also prevalent through company-wide initiatives like ‘Ideas are Perpetual’, where her team contributed the most logical and also out-of-the-box ideas for potential growth.

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