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CMO50 2022 #26-50: Maria Loyez

  • Name Maria Loyez
  • Title Chief customer officer
  • Company Australian Ethical Investment
  • Commenced role July 2020
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 37 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Financial services
  • 2021 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    With a Masters degree in mechanical engineering, CCO of Australian Ethical Investment, Maria Loyez, was sponsored by Ford Motor Company and worked for 18 months before and during her degree. So marketing is not necessarily where she was headed.

    “As part of the program, in addition to engineering placements, I also worked in marketing and finance divisions at Ford, and realised I was more interested in the commercial world,” she explains.

    “So I turned down the graduate engineer job in favour of a role in a strategy consulting firm. After a few years I followed a director to the corporate development department at the head office of the Virgin Group and launched new businesses in France, Canada, and South Africa.

    “I came to Australia on secondment with Virgin to work in the marketing team at Virgin Mobile, which was when I fell in love with Australia and started my journey to becoming a marketer.”

    Innovative marketing

    Whilst interest in responsible investing was growing, Australian Ethical Investment (AEI) needed to focus on converting interest to investment. It used research to refocus on a new wave of ethical investors who were as interested in investment performance as impact.

    In May 2021 the brand unveiled a new brand look and feel, with new website, creative, and campaigns designed to look professional, whilst keeping to its eco heritage.

    “We created an ATL campaign: ‘Open your Eyes’, to educate and create awareness,” Loyez explains.

    “As November approached, with the UN climate change conference (COP26) being hosted in Glasgow, our theory of change became even more relevant. What difference were Australian politicians going to make there? How could we influence ScoMo to turn up and the world to know Australians do care about climate change? 

    “We gave people the chance to have their name on the front cover of the Financial Times being distributed throughout Glasgow during COP26. We used the power of social, and the passion of our existing customers, to spread the word.” 

    Within five days 7500 motivated Australians signed up. As a boon, AEI saw brand awareness grow by 36 per cent during the year. The half year financial results (June ’21 to December ’21) showed a 40 per cent uplift in revenue and customer growth of 22 per cent.

    Facebook brand study results showed a campaign awareness of 6.1pt uplift versus finance norm of 1.8pts.

    “We had a 251 per cent increase in brand mentions on social media, as a result of the COP26 campaign activity. Twitter delivered 15 million impressions, this was up 982 per cent from September, and was purely organic with an estimated media value of  $300,000!  

    “Russell Crowe, retweeted our post and engaged with the campaign as well as Mike Cannon-Brookes, Dan Ilic and Simon Holmes a Court. And the radio campaign we developed with SCA won a Siren Award for Audio Innovation.”

    Business smarts

    In her first year in the role, Loyez worked closely with the CEO and other members of the executive team to develop a new business strategy to take advantage of the emerging market opportunity, identifying the investment required to create a scalable business platform, as well as fund the marketing strategy required to drive customer growth.

    A core platform was a robust data and technology capability. Loyez says AEI has been one of the first wealth management businesses to successfully create a direct digital acquisition channel. However, the business had previously outsourced all its data to an administrator and had little understanding or ability to use data for segmentation, attribution, or deep customer insight.

    “We worked with the ops team to import all the data into a data warehouse, and used the data to develop a data-based segmentation model to identify higher value customer cohorts and their attributes, we created a media mix model to understand the role of media and how to proceed with our brand spend, and a digital attribution model to use the cookie data we had to establish what has been working.

    “We also need to shift from an incumbent mindset to a challenger mindset, and we used customer insights from this data as well as primary human centred research to understand the drivers of higher value customers, which led to a behavioural-based segmentation model as well as new product development and communication ideas.

    “We have subsequently announced an equity stake in an impact fund with product soon to be launched, a renewed focus on our ethical investment content, and a shift in digital marketing strategy to attract higher value customers in both super and managed funds.

    As a result we have seen a large shift in average customer balance, and significant customer growth of 20 per cent in each subsequent year.”

    Customer-led value

    As part of the data segmentation work, AEI saw the geographic distribution of its customers versus market opportunity and where in Australia there was stronger propensity for its offering.

    Loyez adds while it’s not rocket science, with the superannuation funds advertising at unprecedented levels, it needed to focus to make the brand spend work harder than ever.

    As part of the brand’s overall brand creative platform, Invest with Heart, it used the geographic data to target local areas with a campaign designed to build emotional connection and make AEI memorable.

    “We focused on selected inner city Sydney and Melbourne suburbs and created bespoke advertising,” she says.

    The organisation previously didn’t have the customer at the centre of its decision-making. Loyez developed a customer experience role and built out a customer experience strategy which encompasses the whole business. 

    “So we now have personas for our customers, have mapped journeys for different personas and working on differentiated journeys, and we’re also using a human-centred design approach to better understand the needs of the advisors who sell and don’t sell our products so we can focus our sales and marketing efforts.

    “However, truly bringing customer experience to life also required a cultural shift. We are now building products based on insight, testing them before we take to market and taking an agile ‘test and learn’ approach.

    “We’ve launched an app based on customer demand, and several new products based on customer demand. Whilst we believe that we still have a long way to go, our customers noticed the differences and in May our NPS research showed we were number one across the industry for NPS and advocacy for superannuation, and high net worth customers.”

    As at June 2022, after the first year of its growth strategy, and despite challenging market conditions, AEI grew direct business by 22 per cent, and its advised business by 46 per cent. Amazing results when many competitors shrank in market share. It also recorded record superannuation net flows as up 22 per cent year-on-year.

    Leadership impact

    The team is highly engaged with an engagement score of 76 per cent, but the last few years haven’t been easy with so many people out of the office for such long periods of time, and such a large cultural shift required.

    “With a changeout at the start of my tenure, the team is also relatively new, and I noticed we were suffering from a lack of collaboration and feedback-giving, exacerbated by Covid lockdowns,” she says.

    “I developed a program with a business coach for every individual to have a personality profiling (Hogan) and have a 1:1 explanation with a business coach. We then ran three workshops with this coach for us to understand the skews and where our strengths and blindspots might be.

    “After this, I also ran feedback training sessions with this coach, and have worked hard to develop a safe space where mistakes are shared and we all learn from them.

    “Previously there was also no workflow management so it was hard to know what everyone was working on, how to prioritise, and what capacity people were working at.

    “Finally, we have introduced as a workflow management tool to drive further transparency and collaboration across the teams, and I will be recommending we roll it out across the organisation, so as we grow we can remain focused with introducing bureaucracy.”

    Loyez explains bravery as a leader is taking calculated risks, and understanding and planning for the worst case and being prepared to make bold moves. The critical component is accepting the inevitable failures and learning from them, making it a safe space for others in the team to do the same.

    “I think this can be evidenced in the way the team turned around the typo on a billboard in Leichhardt. They got on with it and presented their learnings at a team meeting.”

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