The end of discretion for private banks?

The dilemma is known not only by banks. Many enterprises of other industry segments or personalities ask themselves: how do we exploit the power of the rapid, direct and far-reaching social-media channels without exposing ourselves to communication risks and dangers? How do we offer good social-media experiences for the multi-faceted stakeholder in the distinguished and discrete banking environment?

The fact is: communication is an important driver of the much-invoked digital transformation. Even banks recognise that and develop their web activities further.

It is the innate characteristics of social networks which appear to contradict their deployment in the world of finance. They are open and permeable, lightning-fast, widely distributed and, thus, hardly controllable. But they are also successful and powerful: Facebook, YouTube or Twitter are constantly winning ground over conventional media in the battle for attention and user minutes. Facebook alone counted some 1.8 billion regular users world-wide at the end of 2016.

Not only the wide distribution and awareness of the channels brings relevance to communication, including for banks. A skilful combination of text, pictures and video – the latter increasingly live and three-dimensional – renders the profile more emotional and authentic. And finally, it is also user involvement, digital dialogue, which makes the brand noticeable and allows it to position itself: as provider of financial services, as an economic actor from various perspectives and above all, as an employer brand. Last but not least, it is the involvement through dialogue of all dialoguing partners which give recognition and credibility to banks as originators.

New distribution of roles needs a clear stance

The power and strength of the no longer quite so new platforms is accompanied by risks and dangers. It is precisely the positive features which challenge companies – not only in the finance sector – in many ways: traditional structures, division of roles and processes are being questioned or are simply obsolete. The widely-cited shift of power of communication from the sender to the recipient or from the offeror to the consumer brings about a totally new baseline.

The messages are becoming increasingly difficult to steer, one-way communication has long since developed into a polyphony of messages, voices and ways through dialogue. In this process, the varying interests within a company also come apart: from the management over the personnel department right through to product development, to customer advisory services or the analysts – interest, motivation und stakeholders differ, in part, diametrically. A clear stance at the core is, therefore, all the more important. If the strategic foundation and with the same common set of basic values, also the tonality and mix on the various channels is right, a consistent picture with character arises.

Being communicative has limits

The lively and loquacious world of social media stands in apparent contrast to the discretion and secrecy of a private bank. And indeed, the financial sector is simply not as free in its expression as, for example, a brand in the consumer goods industry. It remains not only a question of discretion, but rather of the regulations. Multi-directional communication across geographic frontiers is legally restricted and even one-way communication is subject to guidelines.

«The target groups are heterogeneous and have equally diverse as well as high expectations. To listen to and understand them and prioritise their needs is one of the most pressing tasks.»
macro-economic view, general information as to business or market views are, on the other hand, hardly problematic. In this respect, social-media managers such as all active bank employees act in the social web on uncertain terrain – which conceals additional challenges in view of the speed and the high expectations of the users. However, it is not only any possible reluctance and regulations on the part of the banks which hinder rapid development. The target groups are heterogeneous and have equally diverse as well as high expectations. To listen to and understand them and prioritise their needs is one of the most pressing tasks. Despite all these hurdles, many banks have already made the first steps or have developed even exemplary presences. In this respect, often issues centring around corporate social responsibility (CSR), recruitment or expertise are particular drivers.

Who ever is not part of it, does not happen

In the field of tension between openness, accessibility and transparency on the one hand, and regulation, reserve and discretion, on the other, it is necessary to establish clear strategies and guidelines on how to proceed. For to be absent from the web is no issue. And the generations Y and Z are quick in the choice of channel and less squeamish. An appreciable development of the segment is already noticeable. Global technology groups or agile start-ups are indeed somewhat fresher and quicker as regards their market profiling and are much further ahead in their management of issues and dialogue management. But numerous examples in the banking world show: digital transformation in the finance sector is understood in an increasingly broad manner. And in this longer-term process, communication – in addition to the development of services – is attributed a key role.

New forms of cooperation

Demands relating to organisation and content will further preoccupy us. What is at stake is to derive new thematic areas for the whole company and establish new forms of cooperation of New forms of cooperationall communication disciplines. Here, the Corporate Newsroom is propagated nowadays as the possible solution. The bringing together of all actors in the same local and conceptual room is already being lived in large media houses and certain large enterprises. It is the long-overdue implementation of integrated communication, of the concise linking of internal and external channels.

Communication between organisations, brands and individuals becomes more immediate, more direct, more rapid. And it is a significant driver in coming to grips with the transformation of the financial sector through to a new identity and digital business concepts.

This article has been published in the Annual Report of Liechtensteins private bank VP Bank in April 2017

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