CMO50 2021 #8: Sweta Mehra

  • Name Sweta Mehra
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company ANZ
  • Commenced role July 2017
  • Reporting Line Chief digital and transformation leader + group executive, Australia retail and commercial banking
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 320 staff, 9 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Financial services
  • 2020 ranking 6
  • Related

    Brand Post

    When Sweta Mehra joined ANZ as CMO four years ago, marketing was predominantly focused on brand and communications. As the company created products and services, her team was tasked with making sure customers and non-customers were aware of them.

    “Today, we are much more focused on driving brand strategy directly connected to the revenue numbers and we’re on our way to driving and owning the brand experience in a big way,” Mehra remarks. “My remit as marketing leader has changed as a result. It’s not just marketing but end-to-end for digital sales, ownership for driving personalisation, all tech and data stacks and product use cases. We are truly on our way to driving to what I can the ‘3Rs’ – reputation, revenue and relationships.”  

    As a result, where Mehra spends a lot of her time has changed. “Increasingly today, I find myself a student, learning everything about personalisation and how I achieve it, bringing that experience to bear and growing my team’s capability in that space,” she says.

    “I’m spending 40-50 per cent of time on personalisation, driving awareness and support for these programs of work.”

    Segmentation and personalisation have been vital capabilities helping Mehra’s team drive marketing and business effectiveness. The segmentation approach has three levels. The first is company-wide and category level and about understanding who ANZ wants to win with. That drives the mid to long-term innovation pipeline, she says.

    “Secondly, segmentation is from a product perspective. For example, with home loans, am I going for first-home buyers versus owner occupiers or investor loans? It’s about looking at trends, figuring out what will help drive growth in market and narrowing down our field so we tailor resources to win.  

    “Three is our go-to-market segmentation, which is more around life stages and channels. This is more micro-segmentation, and we have 1000s of segments for personalisation here. That’s what helps you actual get people through the door. Collectively, this has helped us most in being targeted and driving marketing effectiveness.”

    Data-driven approach

    As an example of personalisation in play, Mehra details work to consolidate more than 2500 data attributes into 800 customer segments in order to create 14 audience and 76 propensity models that better tailor product and article information on the Web.

    “We have considerably increased the number of customers receiving personalised content when they visit, driving an incremental uplift in ‘Application Starts’ on the site,” she says. “The majority of Internet banking site is now personalised, up from 10 per cent a year ago. This has translated to an uplift in application starts per product.

    “More importantly, we have learnt to do it at scale. New tests are being delivered every 2.5 days with more than 400 different experiences scaled across more than 20 products.”  

    The marketing function has championed and led development of personalisation capabilities more widely across the bank too. Beyond personalisation on website, the team zeroed in on end-to-end lead management as a solid use case to not only improve customer experiences, but drive commercial outcomes.

    “This was an important problem to solve as a regular customer makes key banking decisions less than 10 times in their lives and the customer journey for each of them is often long – extending over multiple months and touchpoints,” Mehra comments. “Every opportunity to engage with an interested non-customer is worth its weight in gold.”

    As ANZ offers many products and services with varying paths to purchase and non-linear journeys, Mehra’s team researched and developed detailed customer journey maps across journeys and product lines to keep customers engaged. It then identified and analysed 50 use cases to understand those with the greatest potential to improve customer experience outcomes and deliver revenue uplift and automated the most impactful ones using omnichannel interactions.

    New capabilities were also introduced such as automated channel capacity management, algorithmic lead scoring and integration of lead forms with branch and industry or product to make it easier for customers to locate services and request the action they need.

    “We have already delivered significant incremental revenue with ongoing investment in this capability in the last 12 months and are on track to our revenue target in next three years,” Mehra says. “In addition, frontline staff have been delighted to finally get ‘warm’, high quality leads and love seeing the difference their quick responses make to customer satisfaction and business outcomes.”  

    Hand-in-hand is connecting the dots on digital experiences. A recent example is through the ‘Zero Touch Sales’ program of work.

    “We recognised that for many products, while we were completing the sales online, the customer needed to visit the branch to meet the ‘know your customer’ regulatory requirements before their card or account could be activated,” Mehra explains. “This was resulting in drop off after sales – almost as if we are shipping empty milk bottles. We identified the drop-off points for all products and rallied our partner teams to uplift the joining process across high-volume products behind the language of ‘Zero Touch’ sales. This convinced them about the cost benefit as well as the customer experience benefits. We also influenced the activation of authenticated sales in App.”  

    Already, this has enabled an uplift of 44 per cent of in digital sales that are ‘Zero Touch’, Mehra says.

    Such examples, coupled with work to connect the dots and create a common sales funnel understanding and approach, saw marketing drive 53.2 per cent of all sales for the bank in Australia for the latest financial year, up 10 per cent from one year ago. It’s also helped ANZ achieve its FY22 target of delivering 50 per cent of sales digitally a year ahead of the vision set in 2017.

    “Not only that, but we have also done it in a manner where teams and our customers are happier than ever before,” adds Mehra.    

    Business smarts

    Clearly the capability aspects of transformation Mehra has been enacting as CMO at ANZ are progressing. Then there’s her more holistic vision for customer-centric financial wellbeing. ANZ’s marketers have adopted a North Star of not only owning financial wellbeing as a concept, but also making sure ANZ’s customers feel the group is delivering on that promise.

    “Our customer-centric financial wellbeing strategy, led by marketing, not only achieves brand distinction in a non-differentiated market, but is deeply embedded in the business across propositions and experiences,” Mehra says.

    “We have defined the ‘where to play’ choices and the key customer segments, the measurement frameworks for financial well-being [FWB], new testing methodologies for our propositions and also what FWB led experiences look and feel like across all channels. Our team is also directly leading efforts to build a bank of the future customised for our customers by utilising data and digital to increase financial wellbeing and accelerate long term revenue growth.”  

    This is reflected in the growth of Mehra’s function, incorporating end-to-end digital sales and complete responsibility for personalisation including the tech and data stack. 

    “We have arrived at a place where financial wellbeing is deeply integrated in our brand strategy, exco measures, future innovation in Australia as well as NZ – we just launched a new campaign in NZ for example, ‘We do how’, on giving people practical know-how to start their wellbeing journey,” Mehra notes.

    “Ultimately, this is about driving customer centricity at scale. It’s making sure everyone has a broader understanding of what really winning with the customer looks like.”

    But while things have come a long way, Mehra knows there’s plenty of room for improvement. “We started breaking the silos in marketing, but we need to make sure the whole cross-product, brand and cross-channel experience becomes better and better. We are proud of what our collective teams have done, but we still have a way to go,” she says.  

    The next priority she’s taking on is how to ensure people, process and systems/technology are all in service of financial wellbeing.

    “We need to understand this so we can benchmark ourselves and what we are doing versus other orgs who have taken a particular strategy and embedded it,” she says. “We want Australians to talk more about financial wellbeing, then when they think about it, they think about joining ANZ. And when they do join ANZ, they believe we are proving it for them.”


    This customer-led approach came to the fore when Covid-19 struck. The first important pillar was to define and identify customer needs more broadly than ever before, Mehra says.  

    “We led workshops not only for customers but also with frontline channels such as branch, mobile lenders and contact centres as well as partners and influencers to understand how to support them in the post-Covid world,” she says. “Customers wanted clear step by step guidance to best address their unique financial needs while bankers, brokers and accountants needed tools to explore and narrow down options for their customer’s varying needs.”  

    A second critical pillar was cross-product and brand team collaboration behind a common program of financial wellbeing. In this vein, the team launched a marketing program in July 2021 encouraging customers to engage with ANZ digitally and in-person. ‘Check-In’ became the rallying cry through: ‘Financial Well Being check-in’ for younger retail customers in university or working in hospitality;  ‘Home Loans check-in’; and ‘Business check-in’ as the focus for SMEs.

    As well as build campaigns under a common financial wellbeing umbrella, marketing consolidated reams of data and content across the bank into usable digital planning tools and calculators.

    “Our content, all consolidated on for ease of access for both ANZ customers and prospects, became the single source of truth both externally and internally, ensuring marketing was playing a critical role not just in ‘sales’ but also in ‘service’.” Mehra says.  

    Results included a 7 per cent uplift in brand consideration and 83 per cent brand recognition, up from 67 per cent in the previous year.

    “This shift from delivering strong marketing campaigns to delivering ‘marketing programs’ delivered strong results and has been much appreciated within the business and by our various partners,” Mehra says. “It’s brought new skills to marketing across the organisation and has brought us closer to our business and key stakeholders.”  

    Innovative marketing

    None of the big agenda ambitions have stopped ANZ marketers from launching cracking creative. One of Mehra’s proudest moments over the past year stems from her team’s efforts to arrest home loan application decline.

    As an initial enticement, ANZ debuted an attention-grabbing campaign, ‘An offer so good you don’t need a celebrity campaign with the inimitable Hoff and Australia’s favourite Qantas flyer points in August 19’. It was a big success. In the first four weeks of the campaign period, daily ANZ home loan applications value increased by 45 per cent. This increased to 103 per cent in the final four weeks of the promotion. Application volumes remained substantially higher than prior period with an increase of 39 per cent.

    Since then, the team has continued testing further on home loans with a variety of promotional messages in recognition that different customer segments have different drivers.

    In the words of ANZ CEO, Shayne Elliot, in an AFR interview around the group’s annual results: “We would normally do $200 million worth of applications a day and through that campaign, we would do 300, 400, 500, 600, 800, $1 billion on a few days. It was just extraordinary.”

    Equally importantly, ANZ home loans consideration hit their highest scores as campaigns aired.

    “For marketing to get credit was driving a massive shift in momentum was a moment of pride for me,” says Mehra.

    “The campaign has transformed our entire organisation’s approach to driving growth and arresting declining share through a fun and effective solution which balances short-term promotional tactics with long-term brand building. The format of ‘an offer so good…’ has since been applied to other products like personal loans with equally strong results proving that we have a unique promotional campaign platform for ANZ.”

    Another purpose-led marketing win was in the New Zealand market and focused on arresting home loan market share decline of 1 per cent by mid-2019. With New Zealand suffering the highest rate of respiratory illness in the developed world, ANZ took the lead on solving a societal problem by addressing unhealthy, cold and damp housing that often led to respiratory illness.

    Mr Humfreez, a loveable ram, was brought to life as an educational tool to help Kiwis take notice of and understand the issue of healthy homes by alerting them when homes are too cold or damp. The character was created in partnership with the University of Waterloo in Canada and uses natural hygroscopic materials that react to moisture in the air. His horns uncurled in response to humidity, while his nose turned blue when cold, according to World Health Organisation standards of 65 per cent humidity and 18°C.

    Mr Humfreez was promoted to Kiwi families across paid, earned and owned channels. Educational content explained who he was and how he worked and was added this to ANZ’s Healthy Homes hub. He was also connected to specific ANZ products to drive consideration and conversion.

    About 47,000 Mr Humfreezs were distributed across New Zealand but as Mehra points out, the distinctive ram “helped us drive awareness and conversation well beyond that”.

    “We didn’t just reduce decline, we grew it. From October 2019 to May 2020, our mortgage market share increased by 0.1 per cent. Our mortgage book grew in the same period, which delivered significant additional revenue to the bank. Nearly one in three New Zealanders now link ANZ with the statement ‘ANZ helps me live in warmer, more efficient homes.’ In addition, it earned $30.80 in revenue for every dollar spent and helped drive a complete turnaround in reputation and consideration with ANZ getting back to number one consideration.”


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