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CMO of UBS: we don’t just compete with banks around innovation

driving innovation driving innovation
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Martin Abegglen

Johan Jervoe explains how the Swiss bank drives innovation within its marketing strategy.

Robert Noyce, one of the founders of Intel was famously quoted as saying: “Innovation is everything” and it’s truer for marketing than many other disciplines.

You have to look at some of the more traditional tasks and ask yourself how you can be driving innovation and bringing new thoughts into them; not only by doing different things, but also by doing things differently.

It boils down to talent and having some of the best people on your team driving innovation and drive new territory thinking.

That means having some of the best talent in the agency world on your team as well.

Once you start fostering that kind of spirit in thinking, you will slowly but surely see a fresh approach created within your digital arena.

In terms of staying abreast of the innovation that is possible through the use of technology, we have three distinct groups allocated to this within the business.

The first is a client-centric organization that studies the major trends and gains customer feedback around what they would prefer to have as a usage case.

There is also a team sitting within the broader technology division who are looking at it from a different perspective, but the crossover is where the interest lies.

Lastly there’s a group that considers driving innovation from a brand building, advertising and marketing perspective. When you get those 3 cornerstones lined up, you see some really interesting conversations starting.

After that, it is about doing a few things really well. It isn’t about creating 200 different apps or products.

My mantra is to think big, start small, and scale rapidly.

By starting small you can have multiple pilots in place, rather than putting your whole weight on one.

You can then learn as you go with the philosophy being that done is better than perfect.

What big data means to UBS

With big data and more importantly, behavioral data, I’m less interested in knowing how often you use your credit card and more interested in knowing what that credit card means to you from a motivational standpoint.

It’s the same with a bank account.

I’m not overly concerned about the big data focused on what people are doing with their money. It is more relevant to figure out and understand what motivates you to choose one thing and not another. It is the insights that are relevant, regardless of where the data comes from.

Interpreting what influences behavioral decisions is what we primarily use data for. If you can extract those insights, you can then create products that are very attractive for your customers and clients.

However, it is often the case that the offer that results from a technological innovation, whether it is an app or something else, is too broad and has too many bells and whistles. In that case, it often becomes unfocused.

There is a beauty in the focus of today’s world that means if you get that right you get picked up really well.

Innovating within the financial industry

The sheer size of big corporations means that trying to adjust your strategy can be challenging.

What makes the financial industry slightly harder than many other industries is the amount of regulatory demands that exist within it.

Often that regulation prevents you from innovating and trying to create great stuff for the future, and it attempts to lock you into the ecosystem of the past and put barriers in to keep you there.

However, there’s good reason for that. You have to be careful about what driving innovation means in this area.

At the end of that day, as a customer, I want my money and my payments to be safe. Whether I’m receiving or sending a payment, I want my investments to be safe.

In the finance space there is perhaps less appetite from clients for their financial institution to be at the forefront in terms of what else can be done.

Having said that, the marketplace is moving very, very fast, and it’s being influenced by the success of applications from all sectors.

Our clients and customers will use apps like Uber and love the offer and how easy it makes ordering a taxi. That’s now our benchmark for all other apps we have, including banking apps. That’s the level of service that you want to have.

You’re not comparing your banking app to just other banking apps.

Our competition in the advertising world isn’t the other people in the banking industry; it’s the best advertisers out there. My competition in terms of agency talent isn’t judged in comparison to other banks’ access to talent. I want the best creative director in that team.

Essentially, I don’t look too much at our competition in banking, and that is true for our technical innovation as well.

I look a lot at what is trending and what is moving in the entire ecosystem: where is the agency model going? What is happening on mobile? How are you booking behavioral advertising?

You always have to look at this through the lens of regulatory compliance, but it’s still interesting for me to see something outside of the banking industry that I may never be able to apply to the industry.

It allows you dwell on what is possible now.