Sally's Blog

Why digital media will transform financial services

Digital media has had a major impact on the way businesses interact with each other and their clients. Some industries have been able to harness the power of digital more effectively than others, however.

The financial services sector is one that has often been labelled as slow to take advantage of the benefits of digital marketing. While this is perhaps true, it’s worth bearing in mind that ours is an industry that is more heavily regulated than others.

And when you take into account some of the scandals that have rocked certain segments of the industry, from the sub-prime crisis, to Libor rigging, to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance, it’s no surprise that many players have decided to err on the side of caution when it comes to the endless potential of digital marketing.

That may change substantially in the coming year.

A recent study conducted by Econsultancy, which provides research, data, analysis and training to the digital marketing industry, reveals that the financial services sector is heading towards a period of digital transformation.

Compiled from a global survey of more than 200 financial services and insurance executives based mainly in North America and Europe, these are three of the key insights from Econsultancy’s ‘Digital Trends in the Financial Services and Insurance Sector’ report.

63% of responding companies will be increasing their digital marketing budgets this year

Econsultancy’s research suggests that marketers will continue to invest heavily in digital marketing over the next 12 months and beyond. Almost two-thirds of responding companies said that they would be increasing their digital marketing budgets this year, compared with just 6% who said that they would be decreasing their budgets.

According to Econsultancy, those financial services companies that intend to increase their digital marketing budgets will do so by an average of 21% in 2015.

On average, Econsultancy found that financial services companies invest just over a third (35%) of their total marketing budgets on digital-related activities but this increases to 43% for European companies. The average for US respondents is 33%.

33% of respondents say that customer experience is their major focus

A third of Econsultancy’s respondents said that customer experience (known as CX and described by Forbes as “the cumulative impact of multiple touch points over the course of a customer’s interaction with an organisation”) represents the single best opportunity for their company to deliver on their priorities for 2015.

This compares to an average of 22% across all other sectors. With customers more willing to shop around for the best deal and change providers (particularly with bank accounts and credit cards) than they did even five years ago, it’s no surprise that this is a priority for financial services companies. What perhaps does come as a surprise, though, is that while customer experience was stated as a priority for financial services companies, customer retention wasn’t.

Only 40% identify and track mobile-specific key performance indicators

Mobile banking has been an innovation that has caught on extremely quickly, particularly when compared with the slow burn of internet banking. When it comes to tracking customers’ mobile interaction with an organisation, however, financial services are lagging.

According to Econsultancy, financial services companies are more than twice as likely as their counterparts across all sectors to say that they don’t know what proportion of their traffic comes from mobile (12% compared with 5% across all sectors).

Less than half (45%) claim that they understand the nuances of how customers use smartphones and tablets differently.

So while the industry is heading towards a period of digital transformation, it appears that, as a sector, there is still a lot to learn.



Five things that businesswomen can learn from Hillary Clinton

In mid April, I was privileged enough to attend a working group session in Brussels for EY’s Women3. The Power of Three forum. The forum’s objective is to help knock down the barriers that are preventing women across the world from reaching their full potential.

Fittingly, the working group came just days after Hillary Clinton had announced her intention to run for president of the United States.

Whatever you think of her politics, Hillary Clinton is undoubtedly an example of a woman who is determined to fulfil her own potential.

So what are the lessons that we can learn from her?

Lesson 1 – She’s not afraid to fail

A fear of failure has been identified as one of the major factors that hold women back in their careers. Yet Clinton isn’t letting it stop her. She failed spectacularly when she lost out to Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008. But, seven years later, she has jumped back into the saddle and she’s holding her head up high. Failure – what failure?

Lesson 2 – She’s not afraid to be visible

I know from editing a magazine that women tend to be less confident about being visible than men do. They are afraid that they might look pushy or make a fool of themselves. So they pass up opportunities to raise their profile within their profession and settle for the quiet life instead. But if you want to get ahead in life, you need to get noticed – as Hillary would no doubt be the first to say.

Lesson 3 – She’s a formidable networker

Does your contact book boast the likes of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff? No, mine doesn’t either. But Hillary’s impressive networking ability is a major part of the reason why she’s far more likely than us to become the world’s most powerful person. Remember the saying: ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’

Lesson 4 – She doesn’t see age as an obstacle

Hillary Clinton is 67. That’s no big deal in an age when many of us can expect to live until our 90s. But it is a big deal in a world that likes to airbrush women out of the picture once we hit our mid-40s. It’s as if the fact we’re beyond child-bearing age means that we have no right to exist. Women have plenty to offer in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. Hillary proves it.

Lesson 5 – She takes care of herself

Have you seen Hillary Clinton lately? She might be 67 years old, but she looks great. And she knows that what she looks like is a big deal. Back in 2001, she addressed Yale students, saying: “The most important thing I have to say to you today is that hair matters. Pay attention to your hair because everyone else will.”


Five reasons why it pays to outsource your financial copywriting

We all know that daunting feeling of staring at a blank page. There is so much to say and yet it seems impossible to know where to start. But if writers find this difficult, then it can be truly terrifying for finance professionals. Words have a way of baffling even the brightest financial minds.

Fortunately, a good financial copywriter could be the answer to all your writing woes. Here are five reasons why:

1. Finance is your forte

If you’re a finance professional, finance is what you live and breathe. You earn money because you are good with money. So why waste valuable fee-earning time labouring over words when you can get someone else to do that for you instead? A copywriter will do it quicker and better than you can, freeing you up to get back to your figures.

2. You can’t write

The statistics speak for themselves. According to research by automated proofreader Grammarly, finance and management professionals make around 19.2 errors for every 100 words that they write. Writing is a job for the experts, so leave it to them.

3. You’re too busy

It takes time to master the art of writing. Professional writers have honed their craft by churning out thousands of words of copy over years, if not decades. Do you have that amount of time to invest in becoming a writer? Probably not, so why bother trying?

4. You’re susceptible to jargon

The financial sector loves jargon. Unfortunately readers don’t. But when you live and breathe a subject, it’s easy to assume that your readers share your knowledge and passion. They don’t and you will lose their attention if you believe that they do. A professional writer can help you to avoid falling into the jargon trap.

5. You need some new ideas

A fresh perspective is a powerful force. You might be surprised by how a financial copywriter can unlock the gems of knowledge that are lurking in the depths of your mind. They can help to bring out the insight that will impress your clients and may result in new business leads.


Why finance professionals need the services of a good writer

The thing about writing is that pretty much anyone can do it. Or, at least, anyone in the developed world can. But can they do it well? That, surely, is the question.

While most of us can write, comparatively few of us can write well. But the good news is that those of us who do write for a living tend to make fewer mistakes when we write than those who work in other professions.

According to research by automated proofreader Grammarly (, writers make around 10.1 errors for every 100 words that they write. In contrast, finance and management professionals make 19.2 errors per 100 words on average.

The research was based on a review of 448 freelance professionals’ profiles in eight categories on online staffing platform Elance.

Unsurprisingly, the very best writers (those who make the fewest errors, according to Grammarly) tend to earn the most, particularly in the fields of engineering and manufacturing, finance and management, legal, and sales and marketing.

Well, who would have guessed?

Click on the infographic (below right) for more…


The UK’s next economic shock could be just around the corner

On Friday 7 November, new business radio station Share Radio interviewed me on the topics of interest rates, the problems in the eurozone and the broader business environment.

Presenter Sandra Kilhof asked lots of challenging questions about the economic outlook for both the UK and the wider global economy.

I explained that while the UK economy has performed strongly in 2014, there are signs that the economy is slowing as we reach the end of the year. This is particularly evident in the services and construction sectors. Wages have also been growing slowly and there are  concerns that the UK’s employment situation is not quite as healthy as the figures suggest. Furthermore, inflation is falling, which is good in one way because it makes our goods and services cheaper, but potentially hazardous because we don’t want to be on the verge of deflation in the way that the eurozone is.

In addition, the wider global outlook is very uncertain. The eurozone, which is our main trading partner, appears to be on the edge of a triple-dip recession. Growth is slowing in China and attempts to stimulate the Japanese economy don’t seem to have come to much. There is also a lot of political uncertainty, for example, in the Middle East and Ukraine.

The fact that the Bank of England is so reluctant to lift interest rates, despite predicting that our growth rate will be around 3.5% this year, shows that it is not confident that our economic recovery is on a sustained footing.

And it is right to think this – there is too much uncertainty within the world’s major markets and there are also clear indicators of asset bubbles within the housing markets and stock markets.

So it is very important that we are not fooled into thinking that the UK economy is home and dry right now. We need to be very cautious about the recovery and make sure that we don’t take it for granted. Who knows, the next economic shock could be just around the corner.


Five reasons why treasury is a great career

It’s that time of year when school students, university graduates and newly qualified accountants will be thinking about their futures. Many will already have a clear idea about what they want to do. For others, the options will seem limitless and bewildering.

But if you want to work in finance, and you don’t know which niche to specialise in, why not think about a career in treasury?

Here are five reasons why treasury is a great career (as a treasury journalist, I think I am well placed to comment!):

1. Treasury is fun. 

Don’t snigger – it’s certainly the most fun that you’re going to get in finance in any case. You will play a crucial role in any mergers or acquisitions that your company undertakes and you may get to carry out eye-wateringly large foreign exchange deals. Not only that, but you’ll get the indescribable joy of being able to log in to your company’s online bank accounts every day and (hopefully) see a long row of numbers staring back at you. What more could you ask for in a job?

2. Treasury has a great sense of community.

Corporate treasurers are a close-knit community, numbering a few thousand in the UK. As a result, they are very well networked and keen to share best practice with each other. They are also a pretty personable bunch of people who like to get out and about. You can find out more about the treasury community from the Association of Corporate Treasurers at:

3. Your banker will love you.

We all know what it’s like to be the customer of a retail bank. You never hear from them unless you’ve exceeded your overdraft limit or they want to sell you home insurance. But if you’re a corporate treasurer, you will find out what it is truly like to bask in a banker’s adoration (providing your company is in a healthy financial state, of course). Expect to be wined and dined and to be a name, not just a number. It’s treatment that the rest of us can only dream of, so enjoy it on our behalves…

4. Treasury has a certain mystique.

A lot of people don’t know what corporate treasurers do. A lot of people who work in finance don’t even know what corporate treasurers do. So you will be able to exude a satisfying air of mystery to all your friends, acquaintances and the hot guy or girl who lives down the road when they ask you what you do for a living. Just lift your eyebrow like James Bond and say: “I’m in treasury, corporate treasury.” You will have them swooning, I promise.

5. Treasury is well paid.

I left this point to last since money should not be the only reason that you embark on a certain career. But if you are looking for interesting work, which is also well paid, then treasury is just the ticket. According to Hays’ Accountancy & Finance Market Overview & Salary Guide 2014, treasury analysts in Greater London start at £35,000 with group treasurers of large listed companies potentially earning up to £200,000.

Thus concludes my five reasons as to why treasury is a great career. So what are you waiting for?


To contact Sally or to request further examples of her work:

Tel: +44 (0) 7917 063752


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