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Crisis communications in financial services: who got it right?

The right way to react

When COVID-19 hit, the marketing and comms teams tasked with navigating the crisis were dictated by external events as they unfolded, with crisis communications needing to be rolled out at volume and pace. With the playbook for COVID-19 crisis communications being written in real-time nobody could expect every finance brand to get it right, but the reality remains – how finance brands react in a crisis has a lasting impression. To protect and prepare your finance brand from future crises, take learnings from those that got it right.

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Crisis communications: who got it right?

When the world went into rolling lockdowns financial institutions changed their comms messaging from business continuity to guidance, instruction and advice. Core values shifted from a brand/product focus to customer needs in the blink of an eye.

GAM Investments, an independent global asset management firm headquartered in Zurich, successfully grasped the concept of reactive crisis comms with an open letter from their group chief executive officer.

GAM’s letter was purposeful and empathetic, striking the ideal balance between their pandemic vulnerabilities and their customer focus. It positively framed the “GAM family” and their response to the challenges that were thrust upon them. As a result, customers took comfort in the reassurance that GAM had been proactive in bringing forward strategic enhancements to further support customers and their investments.

GAM’s letter was purposeful and empathetic, striking the ideal balance between their pandemic vulnerabilities and their customer focus.

In another example, Starling Bank, a UK neobank, chose to use their pandemic crisis communications as an opportunity to direct attention towards their growing product portfolio.

Punchy comms were issued promoting their sleek and secure app, capitalising on the accessibility of remote set up without face-to-face contact. They spoke to their existing customer base with understanding and appreciation, communicating their new product developments as solutions to everyday banking issues that had arisen from the virus. The messaging was customer-led; the hybrid comms maintained a COVID-19 perspective but focused on the positives that had come from it.

The learnings for future crisis communications

With the pandemic reshaping the nature of financial marketing, communications surrounding COVID-19 are no longer crisis comms, they are the new normal. The coronavirus has proved that we can’t predict what will happen, but what we can be certain of is that we will face crises again. How a brand responds in times of difficulty will have a lasting impact.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing and if you look back and think you may have gotten it wrong, then a spoonful of brand recovery could go a long way. But rather than lingering too long on opportunities lost, take stock… think… and focus on adapting your narrative.

Communicate with purpose

Your customers will be receiving an overwhelming amount of communications across all aspects of their life. Like GAM and Starling Bank, cut through the noise, be informative and communicate solutions to solve customer pain points. Do this by striking a balance between being open about the potential risks, but also managing the customer fear factor. It’s important not to downplay the risks – helping people to maintain perspective in times of difficulty will likely be received well.

Share success stories

Times of crisis are uncertain and unpredictable, making them the perfect environment to bolster stakeholder relationships with communications that demonstrate expertise, valuable insight, and importantly, positivity. Humanise your messaging by relating to customer vulnerabilities and describe the successes that might inspire hope. With your share of voice, help lift the mood and provide perspective in difficult times.

Although the playbook for financial services crisis communications isn’t set in ink, every global event is an opportunity to review, reflect and rewrite your approach in preparation for the future.

As the content marketing agency for the financial services sector we specialise in content and communications strategies for finance brands. Get in touch.

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Ale MIddleton
A traditionally trained journalist, Ale has spent the bulk of her career designing and executing content marketing strategies for organisations in the financial services, HR, and health and fitness industries. As well as driving strategies that deliver on business objectives, Ale can produce stand out print, digital and video content. A content marketer by day, Ale lives a decadent life as a bar and restaurant reviewer by night.