Insights, Analytics and Personalization in Financial Marketing

In the Digital Age, personalization and context are more important than ever. That's where data analytics and business intelligence come in.

No matter what sector of the economy you look to, it’s all about personalized experiences. In today’s information-rich environment, you can access Netflix and find incredibly specific recommendations for movies and TV shows you might like based on your viewing history. When you shop on Amazon, you can browse books, clothing or household items that are unique to your shopping behaviors.

Beyond Amazon, the vast majority of retailers will use big data to identify whether you might be a recent college graduate, a mom, a global traveler, etc. and then push promotions, products and services that are designed to achieve high conversion rates on products you might want. Business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA) are tremendous resources for growing customer acquisition and retention in the retail industry. So why isn’t the financial services industry employing the same strategies?

A Banking Industry in Transition

The new reality is that having BI and BA is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in a world where fintech startups are starting to steal wallet share away from banks and credit unions. Millennials without deep-rooted loyalties to the traditional banking institution are flocking to the highly digitized and customized offerings of fintech companies. Instead of walking into your branch, they can get a loan from LendingClub, open a savings account with Digit or send money abroad via Facebook. Banking, as we know it, is undergoing a huge paradigm shift.

According to PwC’s report Retail Banking 2020: Evolution or Revolution? – 55% of bank executives view non-traditional players as a threat to traditional banks. Additionally, fewer than 20% of executives feel well-prepared for the future. The report states, “Powerful forces are transforming the retail banking industry. Growth remains elusive, costs are proving hard to contain and ROEs remain stubbornly low. Regulation is impacting business models and economics. Technology is rapidly evolving from an expensive challenge into a potent enabler of both customer experience and effective operations. Non-traditional players are challenging the established order, leading with customer-centric innovation.”

The Importance of Customer Centricity

Financial institutions are lagging behind with respect to fintech disruptors. According to the Digital Banking Report, The Power of Personalization in Banking, “Banks and credit unions are not keeping pace with consumer expectations and are ill-prepared to provide the level of customization and contextuality provided by other organizations such as Amazon, Uber, Apple, etc.”

The idea of customer centricity is crucial – if financial institutions focus exclusively on the customer and his/her specific needs, they can tap into their unrivaled scale and reach to not only stave off the competition, but experience tremendous success. PwC predicts that by 2020, “Banks will organize themselves around customers instead of products or channels” and they will recognize the uniqueness of each consumer and tailor their offerings so that “customers view banks as ‘meeting their needs’ not ‘pushing products.”

Customer Data and Advanced Analytics are Foundations for Success

Knowing that focusing on customer needs is the key to the survival of banks and credit unions, what can bank and credit union marketers do to truly understand their customers and members in order to optimize sales and marketing opportunities? In the same way fintech entrants have utilized technology to compete, so must financial marketers. And it’s important that we stop viewing technology as merely the domain of IT departments, but as a tool for marketing and overall strategic success.

Data is where all marketing efforts should begin, not end. Frank Koechlein, Managing Director, Velocity Marketing Analytics, noted, “BA/BI is a critical necessity. The sales of BA/BI software is expected to increase to approximately $17 billion in 2017. This means not only will financial institutions be expanding their current BA/BI capabilities – but many will be launching this capability for the first time. In either case, if you don’t have an analytics platform, your financial institution is at a significant disadvantage.”

BA/BI is rising to the top of banks’ and credit unions’ priority lists. According to the Digital Banking Report’s 2017 Financial Marketing Trends, “National and regional banks have the desire to improve analytics capabilities as one of their highest priority in 2017, continuing a trend from last year.”

Why BI and BA Matters

The reason why BI and BA matter for financial marketers is the sheer opportunity cost. Having a robust BI/BA culture, process and infrastructure directly translate into increased conversion and revenues.

Here’s a snapshot:

  • Using data to make better marketing decisions can increase marketing productivity by 15-20% – that’s as much as $200bi given the average annual global marketing spend of $1 trillion (McKinsey: Digitizing the Consumer Decision Journey)
  • Financial services organizations estimate that if they were able to successfully offer customers and employees a highly individualized experience, they would earn an additional 14% in annual revenue. For a $1 billion bank or credit union, that’s $140 million a year in additional revenue. (The Financial Brand: Individualized Experiences: Your Multi-Million Dollar Opportunity)
  • Banks that apply analytics to customer data have a four-percentage point lead in market share over banks that do not (Capgemini Consulting: Big Data Alchemy: How can Banks Maximize the Value of their Customer Data)

Data-fueled advanced analytics empower marketers with the power of customer insight. As consumers’ buying behaviors become increasingly complex and non-linear, financial marketers must be able to carefully understand their customers’ motivations and preferences. As a recent Financial Brand article noted, “To capitalize on opportunities, banks must leverage the wealth of informational assets at their disposal. They must analyze structured and unstructured customer data, and deliver real-time insights that result in unique and compelling opportunities for customer engagement. Most importantly, they must provide advice and solutions across multiple channels.”

The bottom line? BI/BA isn’t just about getting more helpful information. It’s about using data to drive marketing performance, and transforming marketing campaigns into high-performing, revenue generating customer acquisition strategies.

Three Steps to Leveraging BI and BA in Marketing Strategy

If you’re ready, there are three primary areas you should consider when embarking on the journey towards putting BI and BI at the core of your marketing strategy.

  1. Talent – Ensure that you have the right people and teams in place to utilize any BI/BA platforms.
  2. Transformation – Instill a culture of BI/BA utilization.
  3. Technology – Choose and implement the right BI/BA technology solution.

“The biggest challenge is that although FIs need to establish an effective analytics platform, they might lack the internal expertise, budget/personnel resources, and an organizational culture to support the effort,” comments Koechlein of Velocity Marketing Analytics, who helps FIs through the process. “The first common misconception is that many financial marketers believe a BA/BI solution can be adopted as a ‘plug and play’ to be successful. Nothing is further from the truth.”

While the journey might not occur overnight, there are a host of resources and firms available to help guide financial institutions and their marketers along the way.


Most importantly, it is important to identify if you have the right teams and talent in place to leverage BI and BA effectively. Having a rocket ship won’t matter if you don’t have an expert pilot to drive it. In many organizations, this is the largest gap between desire and capability.

  • Ensure you have individuals in place with strong analytics expertise who can successfully use and make decisions using newly available BA/BI tools.
  • Set up specialized training programs for both existing and new staff.

Capgemini Consulting notes, “As a first step towards building expertise in customer data analytics, banks will need to establish a well-defined recruitment process to attract analytics talent. Further, disparate analytics teams should be consolidated into an ‘Analytics Center of Excellence’ that promotes the sharing of best practices and supports skills development.”

Marketing teams will no longer be solely reliant on good instincts and creative prowess. In fact, data analytics may not just be a nice-to-have, but one of the predominant skills financial institutions seek out. According to LinkedIn, business intelligence was one of the 25 hottest skills that could get you hired in 2016. A recent Tableau report even went so far as to say that in 2017, “data analytics will become a mandatory core competency for professionals of all types.” Data may very well be the required language of the future.

Given this, bank and credit union marketers must recruit and onboard talent well-versed in the language of data and business intelligence. These expert professionals will not only be able to properly use BI and BA solutions, but understand how to action findings to transform the business.


Bringing BI and BA into the heart of a marketing strategy is not simply about finding a tech solution – it’s a complete cultural shift of an organization towards customer-centric and away from product-centric marketing. This culture must be instilled from the top-down.

As Steve Simpson, SVP with Saggezza, noted in a BAI article, “Creating team alignment may be easier said than done, but it is critical.” He cited that one chief data officer, “believes setting a strategy for employee training and development will be the key component to include data and analytics as part of the bank’s core business processes. This cultural change will naturally remove department silos and allow buy-in from employees to see the big picture behind a big data initiative.”

Zhongcai Zhang, Chief Analytics Officer at New York Community Bank noted: “Ultimately, when we talk about data, we’re talking about culture. It’s a process to get there, but you’re not just aiming at an individual project. You’re building up a whole infrastructure that’s analytical enterprise wide.”

Without a culture of analytics, strategies and their execution will be fragmented and never reach peak ROI. But similarly, a data-driven culture is tremendously empowering and motivating for marketing teams who can more directly see the financial impact of targeted campaigns and promotions.

Financial marketers have an opportunity to demonstrate bottom-line value by connecting data and insight into marketing decisions. Ewan McIntyre, Research Director, Gartner states, “Yesterday’s gut feeling can now be replaced with data-driven marketing cultures where decisions are made based on fact and insight.” But to shift a culture, firms must identify any potential barriers – such as data illiteracy or the lack of the right technologies or tools.


Choosing the right BI and BA platform for your financial institution’s needs is critical to short-term and long-term success. Not every solution is created equally and you’ll need to evaluate what type of platform will best meet your team’s needs.

Following is a list of questions you should review when evaluating a potential solution:

  1. Is it comprehensive? – Your BA/BI platform should provide a single, comprehensive view into consumer demographics and behavior. It should allow you to quickly understand customers’ channel preferences and identify opportunities for organic growth while preventing attrition.
  2. Is it easy-to-use? – Because creating an analytics-driven culture is not easy, your BI/BA platform should be. Carefully review any platform to ensure that it is easily navigated and intuitive.
  3. Is it secure and reliable? – Ensure that the platform has state-of-the-art security and 100% reliability to ensure all customer data is safely housed.

Take Action Now

Bank marketers cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as disruption and digital demands are reshaping how financial institutions attract and retain customers. Now is the time to build a roadmap to bring BI/BA into your institution. Data can fuel marketing success in ways that will be transformative to an organization’s bottom lines.

Nigel Prince, Head, Enterprise Solutions, Product Management at D+H states, “We recognize that pursuing a BI/BA-driven marketing infrastructure can seem like a challenge or a luxury you might not want to tackle right now. This is why it is important to find a partner who will work with financial organizations to help them architect a strategy, a timeline, and a clear process for ensuring that BA and BI are implemented successfully.”

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