This year will go down in history. After three months of lockdown, the world we re-enter will be very different from the world we left behind. There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the experience. Not just about handwashing, but also about how to handle a crisis. We’re aware (if we didn’t know before) that communication – from the government, from health bodies, from the businesses we rely upon – becomes critical in a crisis. It is how trust is built and maintained. No business has been untouched by Covid-19. But some sectors – like fintech – have responded brilliantly during this pandemic. While it is easy to get carried away, that ascent is certainly not guaranteed. UK fintech must continue to build trust if it is going to maintain that momentum.
It is tempting, during turbulent times, to close down comms until the storm passes. But, as demonstrated by the last few months, the organisations that came out well from Coronavirus are those that pitched-in, supported people, and continued to communicate.
My view is that trust is the most important factor at play. While supermarkets and the NHS understandably receive the most praise amongst consumers, Telecommunications and Banks / Financial organisations who have supported people and businesses follow closely behind. Fintech organisations played a role in that success. Whether you are a consumer wanting to check your account or make a payment, or a business in need of a loan, fintech players have stepped up.
There are some great examples of both trust-building and great comms from the fintech world. Facing their financial difficulties internally, the then CEO of Monzo Tom Blomfield waved his annual salary for 2020. Meanwhile, Oaknorth has shown its support for small businesses, lending earlier than other neobanks and approving more than £60 million in new loans to UK businesses, in addition to £36 million of its initial £50 million allocation through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
They helped a creaking world keep turning and have, as a result, earned significant levels of confidence. For fintech firms, it is crucial to continue this trend and maintain their image as a force for good. Successful comms isn’t just about telling proactive stories of course; it’s also how you handle yourself under pressure. Tide recently received a, well…a tide, of complaints from anxious customers waiting on Bounce Back Loans. However, by being honest, empathetic and fast to respond, Tide was able to manage the story effectively.
As the world changes from week-to-week, brands need to adapt to the outside world. So much has been made of dramatic and exciting pivots by businesses (i.e. GIN COMPANY MAKES HANDWASH AND SAVES THE WORLD!). But if you look beyond the headlines, you’ll see that business strength comes from being able to respond quickly.
That is just as true for comms. The media landscape has shifted massively in recent months. Many nationals have made significant staff furloughs, pushed back editorial meetings to allow for childcare, and placed a greater focus on online news. In the fintech trades, editorial teams are short on numbers and working flat out. You are going to have to adjust your stories and tactics. What would’ve worked six months ago won’t work today. You need to watch and listen and adapt. And, where possible, comms should help to shape business strategy.
The UK went into 2020 as the world leader in fintech. More innovation. Greater investment. A higher amount of talent. Then the pandemic hit and everything stalled. In a destabilised world, customers want financial brands that they can trust. Building trust isn’t just about doing good things; you need to communicate them. To trust a brand, your customers have to hear your voice, and that voice has to be authentic, honest and transparent.
Fintech brands have an opportunity to take centre-stage and lead the UK’s recovery. But to do that they need effective, agile and bold comms that can establish a brand voice which customers, partners and investors can trust. Do it well and the trust that you build in a crisis can carry a brand’s reputation for years to come.
Written by Tim Lines, Director at Nelson Bostock Unlimited