In the wake of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, all eyes are on how the banks will respond, and what changes they will implement moving forward.
The scathing report, conducted by the commissioner Kenneth Hayne, addressed a myriad of issues behind the scenes of the big banks, chiefly among them, 24 cases of civil and potentially criminal breaches of the law.
Hayne takes note of compromises taken in self-interest, stating that: “A ‘good enough’ outcome was pursued instead of the best interests of the relevant clients or members”.
Many expect widespread damage control moving forward, but according to Michelle Ryan, head of corporate communications at WE Buchan, the solution lies in actual tangible change, as opposed to lip service.
“I think rather than navel-gazing on that part, it’s now about moving forward and making sure that they’re considering what they can do and the steps to take to ensure they’re still addressing that.
“I’m sure they would know firsthand how their reputation is tracking,” Ryan told B&T.
Ryan feels as though this is an opportunity for genuine improvement, if handled correctly.
“We need to acknowledge that businesses are dealing in an increasingly complex environment.
“Resilience considers anticipating challenges and obstacles that might impact their license to operate and actually then ensuring that they can quickly and effectively address those issues and get back on their feet.
“That means ensuring that they’re aware of issues, they’re anticipating issues, they’re using the right technology to track around customer sentiment and building that then back into their business strategy — so rather than looking at issues management as an off the shelf plan if something goes wrong, that this actually gets built much more into their ongoing governance and business strategy,” Ryan said.
On the marketing front, Ryan suggests that the emphasis will be on the customers: “Everything from the Royal Commission pointing to instances where practices, cultures, led to outcomes that were not acceptable.
“And that’s at a community expectation level, so I think definitely customer first will be what we start to see, and that will be in terms of action taken, but also in the way that institutions are communicating.
“The customer first strategy needs to be demonstrable. It can’t just be all talk, we need to actually see the change,” she noted.
The overarching factor of trust has perhaps never been more paramount than it is in today’s modern era of ‘fake news’ and media scepticism, particularly at the highest level.
WE Buchan’s Brands in Motion study, focusing on consumer expectation and sentiment, showed that in 2018, 57 per cent of people said that the behaviour of an executive of a finance or banking company can influence their decision to support that business, an increase from 43 per cent the year before.
Ryan stresses that legitimacy and consistency in the approach plays a major factor: “In terms of an approach in best practice, I mentioned this idea of resilience, which speaks to this ongoing process.
“As part of that, the understanding that comms and PR play a really important strategic role and need to be involved up front, rather than seen as the tactical execution or the teams that you bring in at the end to deal with the problem once all the decisions have been made. I think that’s really critical.
“You could say that the communications teams need to have a seat essentially at the executive table — they need to be able to capture information from customers, from staff, feed that in a real-time way.”
Whatever route the banks go down and whether they can save face moving forward, both from a marketing standpoint and the bottom line, may ultimately come down to the perception of the Australian consumer.
When queried on whether the average Australian is likely to care about the findings, Ryan quipped, without missing a beat: “Do you care?”
She went on to say: “I think it depends on the individual. People who work within financial services; they’ve been dealing with it firsthand for over a year.
“That’s very different to someone on the street who’s hearing about it potentially for the first time only through media reports, and then if you’re someone who has been impacted by some wrongdoing, this is actually going to be extremely important — and the change that then comes out of this, even more important,” Ryan concluded.