Financial Services, Customer Experience, & the 7 Hallmarks of Growth Drivers

The best example of how companies need to change to drive growth, has to come from Financial Services. On top of the ever-present regulatory pressures, trust in financial services brands took a big hit in the financial crisis of 2008 and, as the latest Edelman trust barometer shows, it is the second least trusted sector behind electronic payments. However, it’s the relatively recent combination of increasingly complex customer journeys, disruptive technology and more discerning customers that we believe poses the largest threat to many of the industry’s established players. Every Financial Services company worth its salt is working on its customer experience. And when we work with clients on this, we find the 7C Hallmarks of Growth Drivers, a great source of inspiration.

Let’s bring the challenge to life. Take a look at this prank video. It makes the point, entertainingly, that the industry is still delivering a level of service customers wouldn’t accept anywhere else.


Whilst it was once true that consumers were more likely to switch their life-partner than their current account, there are signs that the tide is changing and the inertia we once saw within the market is starting to fade. Research amongst millennials suggests that they are far more willing to switch providers if the customer experience is not up to scratch and there’s no shortage of challengers waiting in the wings to offer faster, more convenient and more personal experiences by combining platforms, channels and technology.

But these challenges have given rise to a new breed of growth driving marketers across the industry embracing new capabilities, behaviours and ways of working that are helping them to turn these challenges into opportunities. A recent study by Brand Learning identified the 7C hallmarks of growth-ready organisations with customer-centricity being vital. We’ve highlighted these hallmarks below with practical examples of how they are being applied in the financial services sector.


In displaying several growth-driving hallmarks, Santander has managed to enter “the big 5” and attract the largest number of bank account switchers for the second year running. Its launch of the 123 current account, which pays cashback on bills and spending in return for a monthly fee, demonstrated a mix of Courage, Commitment and Curiosity in challenging the status quo. 5 years ago, the thought of a popular, mainstream current account carrying a monthly fee was unthinkable. However, between July and September last year, 51,000 new customers joined Santander and current account switching numbers are now at record highs. Santander also demonstrates Collaboration and Conscious Speed. For example, their partnership with Kabbage, an Atlanta-based data specialist means loans can be granted in a matter of hours. Kabbage speeds up lending decisions by using risk-scoring based on the fintech company’s own information and external sources of data, including social media.

This is a sector being invigorated and challenged by thousands of start-ups. Despite only soft-launching last month, the digital-only Atom Bank already has 26,000 people registering interest via its website with 5,500 of those having already downloaded the app to their smartphones. The customer experience aims to be personally insightful with a promise to “learn and adapt to you, celebrating your individuality in every way”.

And it’s not just retail banking. 

We’re seeing growth driving behaviours everywhere. Take insurance…

Developing mobile apps, investing in wearables, hiring game developers and analysing customer data are just some of the strategies being adopted by the likes of Metlife, AXA and Allianz in response to changing customer needs. Perhaps the biggest commitment in this area comes in the form of Aviva’s Digital Garage and their £100m investment in early stage tech businesses. Their collaboration and cultivation of entirely new talent around their vision of a digital future will help them take advantage of big data and offer consumers a level of personalisation they are now coming to expect across the board. We can expect to see far more innovations such as the Aviva Drive App as the big insurers explore new ways of driving growth in this fast-evolving space.

Fittingly for Financial Services, our optimism comes with a small-print caveat. While there are some exciting examples of growth-driving behaviour within the industry, many organisations are still operating with an outdated and siloed model which is not oriented towards, let alone built around, their customers’ needs.

We’re finding FS companies are increasingly asking us to look at how they design their operations to deliver customer experiences that count, how to involve employees in the changes required, and how to lead for customer-centred growth in this new era. It’s exciting work – overcoming in the challenges of legacy systems, behaviours and regulation that adds friction to customer experiences. But with the prize on offer of sustained growth, it’s work that can’t be avoided.

To find out more about the 7C hallmarks and The Growth Drivers Study, download your free copy of the report or get in touch.

You may also be interested in these articles showing how the Retail and Pharma sectors are successfully driving growth by applying the 7Cs.

BRAND LEARNING: Inspiring people. Lifting capabilities. Growing organisations.