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‘User experience is the heart and soul of everything’: FIS’ Ellyn Raftery on the evolution of financial services marketing

  • Over the past six and a half years at FIS, Ellyn Raftery has evolved marketing's role.
  • Her team leads the move towards customer journeys, UI/UX and leveraging the voice of the customer.
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‘User experience is the heart and soul of everything’: FIS’ Ellyn Raftery on the evolution of financial services marketing

Steering the marketing and strategy for one of the largest brands in financial technology is no small feat. Today’s guest is Ellyn Raftery, chief marketing and strategy officer for FIS. She’s spent a big part of her career running professional services marketing and we talk about the special attention and skillsets financial services marketing requires.

We also talk about her vision for a 50 year old brand and what attributes and messaging she uses. Lastly, FIS has been doing a lot of work around UI/UX, and in our discussion of that, we tackle the evolution of financial services marketing as a whole.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

The uniqueness of financial services marketing

FIS is very much a white label brand. That means that a lot of the products and services we sell get rebranded and reskinned when we sell them to our clients. Our clients go to market with their own brands on our products. It’s been a very different type of marketing. Our brand is very important with our clients but it isn’t necessarily a brand that end users know.

In the six and a half years I’ve been with the company, we’ve expanded our footprint beyond banking and community banking into adjacent markets like commercial banking and retail and merchants on the payments side of the house.

Building the brand has been an interesting aspect of the company because on the financial services side, we’re very much white-labeled. As we move into adjacent markets, our brand is less well known and we’ve had to build up our reputation in these new markets.

Changing UI/UX in finance

The user experience is the heart and soul of where everything is moving. Product development has been market-in and company-out and we can get stuck in old paradigms by doing that. By customer journey mapping, we can change the front end of the process through the eyes of different customer personas and journeys. Building our solution and value propositions from that standpoint has been a new and different approach for our organization.

To do this, we’ve partnered initially with organizations like The Frog and Digitas to help us build up and get our new modern user experience moving. They bring research, journey mapping and digital development. Working with these partners, we’ve built up our own in-house capabilities. It’s been a fun aspect of the marketing organization to build up our skillsets in this area and bring in new digital-first talent.

Focus on customer journeys leads to new products and services

We’re about to bring to market several new value offers that take advantage of this new user experience focus. One is a tool rooted in artificial intelligence and bot intelligence — it’s a voice-activated personal assistant that will help our clients navigate our company and products and provide some service. That’s a new value proposition that marketing is rolling out in the next few months.

We’re also rolling out a new client app with some voice features and is connected into our client portal. Ticketing and service levels are now being pushed to them through a client app that’s also voice activated. We’re working on innovative and fun things with our user experience team.

Staying close to clients

Every quarter we run a client loyalty study. Within a year, our clients have been touched at least once this way giving us voice of the customer. We also run user group meetings relatively frequently. We also have user group meetings to showcase new things to our customers and get the voice of our clients on new products and go to market initiatives.

When we have special initiatives that are on a fairly fast roadmap and timetable, we’ll tap into some of our clients with relationships that will provide us the good, bad and ugly insights as to how valuable our offerings will be to them. We’ll handpick clients with this type of input and put them into a mini user group that focuses on our next gen offers as we’re developing our ideas.

Branding for a 50 year old financial technology company

In the few years I’ve been at FIS, we’ve shifted to become more of a purpose-driven brand. That’s not just the social aspect of it but also moving away from product feature function to lean in on the value we offer to our clients. We’re in the process of closing on a major acquisition where we’ll continue to expand our brand into new ecommerce and payments territory. Creating customer journey stories has been a very helpful way for us to describe our purpose-driven brand.

For brand investments, we’re very tied to the three Rs: reputation, relationship and revenue. We don’t broadcast branding for branding’s sake. For any dollar we spend in any area, we have to translate it to driving a value or revenue stream. It’s a very integrated go to market and different from how we did things a few years ago.

Marketing channel mix

Buyers are much more educated today and do that research and planning on the front end of the journey, instead of waiting for sales to show up at their doorstep. We’ve created some of our own channels to help us leverage the traditional channels and get in front of our prospects in new ways.

Some of the new channels we created were thought leadership oriented. These broadcast publishing channels are a way for us to reach subscribers and other really targeted social channels. We’ve also created a merchant store — the FIS Store — so that our customers can access content to go through the journey before they hit sales. They get solution explainers, demos and trials and in some cases, they can download contracts and go. We’re doing a number of things to create our own owned channels as well as leveraging traditional paid and earned channels.

Impact on marketing team structure

In the time I’ve been at FIS, we’ve built out a full marketing organization and treat ourselves as a business. I manage the group to solid metrics and review with our accomplishments with the CEO every quarter. We’ve organized our activities into three categories: what are we doing to run, what are we doing to grow, and what are we doing to connect our business? In the grow category, there’s lots of metrics for demand generation, social media reach, and thought leadership development.

When I started, our marketing group was primarily an events and communications team. We’ve built it out into two groups: solutions strategy/product management and our in-house agency/Center of Excellence. Our solutions strategy and product marketing team interfaces with our divisional presidents. They report into marketing but sit on the leadership teams of the divisions and drive strategic plans around reputation development, relationship and revenue building. They leverage the COE, our in-house agency for services — where they can tap corporate communications, brand and digital customer experience, campaign management, content marketing, corporate events and data intelligence.

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