How ANZ's CMO has brought financial wellbeing brand purpose to life

Taking up the mantle as customer champion, collaboration and enabling innovation are all helping ANZ's marketing team to build brand distinctiveness around helping people and communities thrive

Being the customer’s champion, providing the glue that drives alignment across the organisation and enabling innovation are three ways ANZ’s marketing team is working to bring the financial services giant’s purpose of helping people and communities thrive to life.

ANZ chief marketing officer, Sweta Mehra, joined the speaker line-up at this week’s Forrester CX APAC virtual event to detail what it’s taken to drive increasingly connected experiences at ANZ, and how a focus on practical financial wellbeing is bringing brand distinction in what has been a non-differentiated market.

Upon joining the bank four years ago, Mehra said almost every document she saw stated ANZ’s purpose of ‘helping shape a world where people and communities thrive’. It was also evident the philosophy was deeply embedded within the organisation, she said.

“But as I drove further and understood more about the brand, it was also obvious the only thing customers saw ANZ as was as the blue bank – it’s how they differentiated us versus our peers,” she told attendees.  

“As a result, when something bad happened with one bank, it was assumed it was true across all banks. It was also obvious it wasn’t just customers who saw things like that; our community saw it like that, as did government and partners everywhere.”  

Regulatory asks over recent years, including the Royal Commission, Productivity Commission and the Australian Bank Levy, further indicated financial institutions were not delivering against expectations and were set out to address the gap. While these led to change from a process and systems perspective, they also provided a positive trigger for a brand rethink led by customer value, Mehra said.

One of the biggest opportunities she spied was syncing efforts across the organisation to get everyone on the same page about what financial wellbeing truly means for ANZ customers.

“Some teams across the bank were talking about making services faster, some were about making it cheaper, some easier. But there was no clarity on what we stood for and how all our efforts sync with each other,” she explained. “As a marketing team, we saw this as an opportunity to lead change and bring all the functions together.”

As a result, Mehra said the traditional role marketing had played needed to change.

“One of our roles was driving the reputation of ANZ and making sure we stood out and were top of mind. That remained,” she said. “Another was reinforcing the work we’re doing to drive revenue and attract more customers to the franchise. However, there were things we needed to do differently and dramatically - and with everyone.”

Top of the list was becoming the customer champion. To do this, marketing needed to identify what customers needed and expected from ANZ and then make sure the group delivered against them. This also meant building capability talking to consumers and synthesising propositions.

What’s more, marketing needed to act as the glue within ANZ to drive alignment and rally teams around bringing its purpose to life. By bringing this together, marketing could also enable innovation through a common language and approach that allowed ANZ to go to market faster, Mehra said.

The customer path

In its quest to become the customer champion, Mehra said three themes kept cropping up. The first was customers did not believe banks were on their side. “We were seen as a store of value but not a driver of value,” she said.

Another customer learning was ‘thriving’ is not about what you have, but what you do with it. “Each customer felt they could be doing more with their money. However, they had no idea where to go or how to get started,” Mehra continued.  

This led to the third realisation: It’s all about doing, not talking. “Banks are very good at making money, but customers didn’t believe banks would be interested in telling them what to do,” she said. “And even if we told them, they felt we’d talk in bank language and down to them, versus helping them do and make things happen for them.”

Having gleaned these insights, Mehra rallied a team of product and channel leaders and laid out all the trends, data and behavioural economics knowledge as well as ANZ’s purpose to see how it could bring the concept of financial wellbeing to life.

“If the purpose is creating a world where communities and people thrive, and we know our north star is improving the financial wellbeing of our customers, and we knew our brand campaign is around ANZ helping you get on top of or stay on top of money, we needed to figure out what it really means for customers,” she said.  

Through dialogue, three distinct pillars emerged: Make banking surprisingly easy; provide proactive ideas to customers using data insight; and be the trusted coach helping improve the customer’s financial wellbeing.

“These three elements became the glue through which we’re trying to hold all the innovation, experiences and propositions together,” Mehra said.

Mehra described the process then as “syncing it insight-out within ANZ”: Using purpose and the brand’s customer value proposition to feed into innovation and product design, customer experiences and communications.

“First we needed to smart small and see if this actually worked and if we could build propositions behind these three things,” she said.

Mehra pointed to early work done around the first-home buying proposition in 2017. This was focused on the target audience consumers relying on the bank of Mum and Dad to get their first home, as well as brokers to get a lot of information. In response, ANZ created digital forms to make it super easy for customers to contact its team to have a conversation around getting their first home. It also offered up to $1000 back to cover conveyancing, a hidden cost within home purchases, then created material for home loan managers to answer typical questions when you’re buying a home.

“We also changed the name of the home loan manager to home buying coach. That was a massive thing for our people, as they felt empowered to be coaches. Our consumers were delighted as they weren’t meeting someone who was just trying to sell them a home loan, and it was a massive success for us,” Mehra said.

“That gave us the confidence in our three pillars… they can connect from the offline to online world and the offer construct as needed.”

You can’t improve what you can’t measure

In addition, ANZ conducted a wealth of research into unpicking financial wellbeing, working with various external partners including Roy Morgan and academia to detail what it truly meant to be financially well off. The research found a combination of meeting commitments today, consumers being comfortable while they’re meeting commitments, and ensuring they feel ready to take on whatever may come at them.

“We started tracking and now have data for last 6-7 years on financial wellbeing for Australians and of ANZ customers on a monthly basis,” Mehra said. “We have been able to get data on every local government area so the trends are very obvious. We know for example, that every January and July, financial wellbeing goes down after a holiday.

“We used this information to build credibility with community partners, we’ve provided information to regulators and senators, and we’re building all this credibility and knowledge around financial wellbeing.”  

Another valuable insight was realising that the difference between the bottom quartile on financial wellbeing versus the third quartile was having $1000 in your bank account. Off the back of this, ANZ’s marketing team built several propositions and experiences all around savings. It also encouraged customers to name a goal, then created nudges and features that would encourage customers to contribute to their goal.

The work resulted in consumers who set goals saving at almost double the rate of those who hadn’t set a goal. “But as a brand is as a brand does, there’s no point in talking about financial wellbeing when I’m still not able to drive experiences,” Mehra said.   

In January 2020, ANZ started syncing brand communications with experiences and put financial wellbeing on the agenda as a problem. It communicated the positive and dramatic benefits of getting on top of your money, and used its marketing and media to point to its wider base of solutions that would help support financial wellbeing.

Mehra said the work has resonated not only with customers, but also bankers and partners. And the financial services organisation has seen a rise in positive metrics as a result, including a 2.3x lift in brand consideration at a rate faster than its peers, plus immediate lift in sales responses. Most encouragingly, data showed ANZ was tackling that all-important brand differentiation goal.

“People are beginning to notice we are there to help them get on top of their money; they are trusting us more to do the right thing for them; and they are also seeing we are innovative,” Mehra said. “It’s the end outcome versus the aim of what we were trying to do.”

Marketing learnings

It’s been a four-year journey and Mehra said she’s in no doubt ANZ has a long road ahead. But reflecting on the work to date, she noted a “few aha moments” and learnings.

The first is to make sure you envision what customer obsession looks like, while the second is identifying the right stakeholders across the organisation. “There’s no one function, person or team that can drive the change,” Mehra said.

It’s equally important to make employees feel like they are part of and own the customer journey. “It’s not my or my team’s job to help people make the most of their money; it was the job of everyone,” Mehra said.

“We spent time aligning what each person would need to do to make the experience easy, provide proactive ideas and become the trusted coach. We used our framework as the glue but then everyone needs to make it their own.”

Mehra described this process as one of “educating and then letting go”. “We can create the success measures, testing and frameworks to make sure we’re delivering, but it’s making sure we stay on track versus driving the direction,” she said.  

Her final learning was to have clear success measures continuously tracked. “You have to persist,” Mehra concluded, adding her motto is to “do a little, learn a lot”.

“It’s not easy, and a few people will come with you but there are always organisational changes. You have to keep proving it works, figuring out what doesn’t work as well as what does.”


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