CMO50 2022 #17: Suzana Ristevski

  • Name Suzana Ristevski
  • Title Executive, group marketing
  • Company National Australia Bank
  • Commenced role July 2018
  • Reporting Line Chief operating officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function More than 200 staff
  • Industry Sector Financial services
  • 2020 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Suzana Ristevski knew National Australia Bank’s ‘JAB campaign’ was going to attract naysayers.

    “But we did it anyway and made a stance on what we thought was important,” she says. “The best work generally happens when you feel uncomfortable about it.”

    Getting to this point as a marketing leader requires facing into the hard conversations with colleagues internally, “so you can make the bold moves externally”, she adds.

    Business smarts

    As Ristevski puts it, realising the JAB campaign required a clear mantra: “Don’t let haters get in the way of important work and hold the line.”

    In July 2021, vaccinations were announced as Australia’s path back to normal, and an 80 per cent target across the population set. As the country’s biggest business bank, NAB wanted to something to support businesses and help kickstart the economy.

    “At the time, a few brands had launched ads about ‘unprecedented times’, but none had taken a public pro-vax stance,” Ristevski recalls. “We changed our name from NAB to JAB. This rolled out across social, TV, our website and AFL finals signage, and was followed by an integrated campaign ‘How Close We Are’. Each day, assets were dynamically updated based on the vax rate percentage and contextualised in placements.”

    And it worked. “Our first objective was to nudge Australians to reach 80 per cent double jabbed by December 2021. Of course we know it wasn’t a bank ad that got Australia across the line. But it helped,” Ristevski says. “While we weren’t the first brand to take a stand, we were among a small handful that gave permission for many others to do the same.”

    NAB’s reputation score saw improvement from 60.6 to 62.1 by December 2021, reaching a high of 64.2, the highest recorded since March 2018 as well as among the big four banks, according to Reptrak data. The work lifted consideration among customers and non-customers by 8.8pp and 6.0pp respectively. NAB Jab reached 15 million Australians.

    “Post-campaign ad tracking saw one of our highest lifts to date, at 9.5pp for customers and 11.2pp for non-customers,” Ristevski says. “It was challenging getting an idea like this approved, and it was challenging to keep it on air. We pre-manage our stakeholders and reminded staff of our brand purpose. Most importantly, the marketing and corporate affairs team were among the first to take a stance, giving other internal stakeholders – and brands – permission to follow. The organisation is now more willing to push into other areas we they may not have previously.”

    Innovative marketing

    Pushing forward brand progression can also been seen in NAB’s most recent integrated brand campaign, underpinned by new brand guidelines.

    “Our brand promise remains ‘more than money’, but this year we’ve evolved this further to showcase not only our human care and understanding, but how this is underpinned by our banking expertise,” Ristevski explains. “The idea for ‘experts in more than money’ came from a simple truth: The more complicated the world becomes, the more our customers look to our expertise and support beyond just the money.”

    To tell this story, NAB has imagined an ‘alternate world’ where customers’ experiences and feelings are exaggerated beyond belief. For the first time, NAB aligned and connected brand, home loans, everyday banking and business messages in a unified way never before landed via its brand work.

    Underpinning this new brand platform was a fresh brand identity, the largest change since 2006. This was rolled this out across thousands of assets and physical and digital customer touchpoints.

    “Working with our new creative agency, not only were we tasked with increasing top-of-funnel consideration, we approached this campaign with a renewed focus on creating positive brand halo across the whole bank. We became bolder with our brand and unshackled the team, giving them freedom to work with our distinct brand codes including our iconic red star,” Ristevski says.  

    This consistent building of brand, along with a sense of energy and focus on colleagues and customers, delivered stellar results. All while maintaining an efficient share of voice almost half of NAB’s biggest competitor.

    NAB added another 335,000 prospects to the consideration funnel, while its closest competitor added 72,000 prospects over the same period, Hall & Partner Tracking July 2020 to June 2022 demonstrates. The largest increase in consideration for key segments including the bank for business and home lending was also recorded and NAB has moved from third to first for home loan consideration.

    In addition, the brand campaign lifted customer consideration by 15 per cent, while the home loans work saw a customer brand attribute uplift of +22 per cent (on average) and non-customer brand attribute uplift of +18 per cent (on average). On the business campaign front, NAB saw an increase in consideration of +29 per cent for customers and 18 per cent for non-customers versus a 10 per cent target.

    Data-driven maturity

    Data-driven activity, meanwhile, is delivering real-time customer data to improve customer experiences across the bank.

    “We want customers to choose NAB because we serve them well every time. To do this, we need to ensure our cross-functional teams are working closely with customer feedback in everything that they do,” Ristevski says.

    One way she’s helping make this a reality is by moving away from static call centre client surveys, with inconsistent and slow feedback cycles, to implementing market-leading technology to ensure NAB hears from customers when it matters.

    “We now collect almost 300,000 points of feedback across our customer groups, which is used to respond to issues and identify ways to improve how we serve them,” Ristevski says. “The migration to the new technology solution makes it easier to solicit, analyse and act on feedback.

    “This enabled the business to understand with greater detail how customers are feeling across all interactions with NAB, from in-person, by phone, to digital acquisition and online servicing. Each banker at NAB has access to their own customer feedback dashboard with personalised insights.”

    At time of CMO50 judging, these changes had seen NAB bankers personally follow up with over 12,000 customers to discuss their feedback and better assist.

    Customer-led thinking

    Technology transformation to adapt NAB’s approach to integrated marketing communications is another priority in Ristevski’s sights. As CMO, she’s leading the digital transformation of NAB’s marketing communications and tasked with working with relevant CIOs across the enterprise to accelerate to future-state platforms, while reducing cost and inefficiencies attached to legacy tech.

    “We have made significant progress transforming our marketing data and technology from fragmented infrastructure to one cloud-based platform. We’re building the future capabilities we believe are critical for successful marketing and customer experience programs,” she says.  

    A milestone over the past year is launching NAB’s decision engine for next-best conversations. The business is also about to launch its customer data platform (CDP). The wider series of process improvements and technology changes and migration off legacy platforms has delivered at least $20m in incremental revenue.

    Further, teams have delivered over 50 per cent more personalised communications this past year. For example, almost half of all visits to and almost all Internet banking visits each month are personalised. As an indication of just how far digital acceleration has come, Ristevski notes visitors are 4.5 times more likely to engage through an application, calculator or appointment enquiry today. 

    Tech and data are also behind the goal of reducing external refinance out activity, in addition to successful acquisition programs. “To do this, we utilised a machine learning model using over 500 different features to identify customers most at risk of refinancing out,” Ristevski says.

    “We applied further advanced analytics to understand why each customer was likely to refinance out, building more advanced and addressable segments.”

    These segments were followed up with via customised personal experiences. Utilising NAB’s ‘customer brain’, the team could identify when the best time was to engage the customer and through which channel to speak to them.

    “This customer-centric approach removed the inefficiency of blasting out messages and served the customer better in the place and time they need, leading to retention of an incremental half a billion dollars of home loan footings,” Ristevski says.

    Exiting customers have equally benefitted from increasingly personalised customer communications across the board. “With approximately 70 per cent of NAB home loan customers ahead on their payments schedule, many customers remain well placed to manage the economic challenges currently presented by high inflation,” she comments.

    “This focus on the customer is significantly improving customers’ experiences with the bank. For our business customers with relationship managers, we consistently achieve NPS scores among the very highest of any industry at +54. We have seen strategic NPS for consumer now at -1 [ranked first of major banks] and business NPS to 0 [ranked second of major banks) up 3 points.”

    Commercial acumen

    The work couldn’t be achieved without reorganising marketing to deliver growth and customer focused outcomes. This involved embedding marketing execution teams into end-to-end delivery for customers.

    “This enables teams to be deeply engaged in what the business is delivering for customers and as a result, increases our agility at the bottom of the funnel,” Ristevski says.

    With a focus on ensuring efficient marketing investment, another project has been reviewing NAB’s agency panel and long-term partnerships. The outcomes were a new lead agency in TBWA, and a streamlined panel of creative and media agencies including Mindshare.

    “NAB’s extension of its 20-year AFL partnership and foundational AFLW sponsorship to 2028 will ensure the public gets more of what they want: The inspiring NAB AFL Mini Legends. The latest cohort is our most diverse and exciting yet,” Ristevski says.

    This is generating significant growth momentum for NAB, while creating supporting programs for customers. For example, having understood sophisticated cybercrime and scam activities are on the rise, NAB delivered an education program to over 3m customers this year highlighting important security awareness messages and features such as block and unblock designed to help keep them safe.

    “We scaled our in-app messaging channel this year. With incredibly high engagement rates and customer usage, this is a vital customer channel. This year we have been able to share new convenient and environmentally friendly features for our customers,” she says. “This has included launching smart receipts, a program that allows customers to receive their receipts from participating retailers direct to their app; increased opportunities for customers to switch to online statements; enabled appointment booking directly with bankers and digitally delivered end of financial year interest statements.”

    Leadership impact

    To lead and support the marketing community across NAB, Ristevski has concentrated on three key areas: Creating clarity; building capability; and unlocking motivation.

    To create clarity, she’s aligned the whole marketing community to five objectives, filtered down to individual objectives and expected key results. “We also spent a lot of time understanding the objectives across the value chain so we could identify dependencies and/or inconsistencies,” she says.

    To build capability, NAB partnered with ADMA and undertook end-to-end capability assessment. As an outcome, each member of marketing received personalised insights to drive their own development plan. For leaders, a blueprint on where to invest to improve team capabilities was drawn up.

    To unlock motivation, Ristevski is engaging through regular marketing huddles, CMO brown paper bag lunches, best-practice sharing sessions with external partners and speakers. She’s also pushed support for underrepresented communities through NAB’s commitment to indigenous media spend and adoption of the Inclusion Private Marketplace with Mindshare as well as the sustainability initiative. She sits on NAB’s Accessibility Steering Committee.

    “This ongoing effort has seen our team engagement levels rise by over 20 per cent in the last year and we now sit in the top quartile globally for financial services,” she adds.

    Share this article