45 Years in Financial Services Marketing: A Journey of Fearless Change and Innovative Thinking

The Genesis of a Career:

Every remarkable journey begins with a single step, and for me it was joining the Unit Linked subsidiary of Manulife straight from A levels. Unit linking was the big thing and the business grew and grew until it dwarfed the traditional business. My role changed with it from administrator to a role as a Life Underwriter [underwriting not sales].

I learnt the technicalities of protection and investment and achieved a Chartered Insurer status before being lured by a long-running theme of my career – start ups and new initiatives. My first greenfield opportunity was an innovation by National Mutual Life, where they developed the first [and possibly last] female only direct sales team.

Many greenshoot initiatives followed, as they weaved their way through these pretty significant changes in the FS sector.

  • Financial Services Act 1986: The Financial Services Act of 1986, also known as the Big Bang, deregulated the financial services industry in the UK. It abolished fixed commission charges, allowed electronic trading, and opened up competition. This event led to increased innovation, market expansion, and the rise of electronic trading platforms, transforming the financial services landscape in the UK.
  • Financial Services and Markets Act 2000: The Financial Services and Markets Act of 2000 established the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which later became the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This regulatory shift aimed to enhance consumer protection, promote market integrity, and maintain financial stability. The act consolidated regulatory functions and introduced a principles-based approach, imposing stricter regulations on financial institutions and increasing transparency.
  • Global Financial Crisis (2008): The 2008 financial crisis challenged the industry, requiring marketers to rethink their approaches in an era of heightened scrutiny whilst consumers bore the brunt of investment loss, negative equity and a heightened scepticism of the sector.
  • Retail Distribution Review (RDR): Introduced by the FSA and implemented in 2013, the RDR aimed to enhance the professionalism and transparency of the retail investment market. It required financial advisers to charge fees for investment advice rather than relying on commissions, ensuring that advice was in the best interest of the clients. The RDR had a significant impact on financial services marketing, requiring firms to restructure their business models, enhance transparency, and emphasize the value of their services.
  • Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II): MiFID II, implemented in January 2018, introduced new regulations for investment services across the European Union, including the UK. It aimed to improve transparency, investor protection, and market efficiency. The directive impacted financial services marketing by introducing stricter rules on disclosure, reporting, and best execution practices. Firms had to adapt their marketing strategies to ensure compliance with the new requirements.
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Implemented in May 2018, the GDPR standardized data protection laws across the European Union, including the UK. It aimed to strengthen individuals’ rights and protect their personal data. The GDPR had a significant impact on financial services marketing, requiring firms to obtain explicit consent for data processing, implement stricter data protection measures, and provide greater transparency in data handling practices.
  • Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR): The SM&CR, implemented in December 2019, aimed to improve accountability and responsibility within financial services organisations. It introduced new requirements for senior managers and certification of key individuals. The regime impacted financial services marketing by highlighting the importance of responsible conduct and ethical practices, requiring firms to demonstrate a strong culture of accountability and customer-centricity.
  • Brexit: The UK’s decision to leave the European Union had a profound impact on the financial services industry, including regulation. As the UK established its own regulatory framework post-Brexit, it had the opportunity to tailor regulations to its specific needs. The impact of Brexit on financial services marketing includes potential changes in cross-border services, passporting rights, and the need for firms to navigate dual regulatory regimes when operating in the UK and the EU.
  • Fintech Revolution: The rise of fintech companies brought disruption and innovation to the UK financial services sector. It has been a time to integrate cutting-edge and cost reducing technologies into marketing thinking, deliver omni-channel strategies, experiment with artificial intelligence, chatbots, and personalized experiences to enhance customer engagement.
  • The Consumer Duty: Now upon us, marketing efforts will need to align with these principles, focusing on delivering value, building trust, and providing accurate and unbiased information to consumers. Overall, the Consumer Duty will reshape financial services marketing, emphasizing the importance of putting customers first and fostering a culture of fairness and accountability within the industry.

These key events in regulation have significantly shaped the UK financial services sector, influencing the way firms operate, market their services, and interact with customers. They have fostered greater transparency, consumer protection, and market efficiency while also introducing new challenges and compliance requirements for financial services marketing professionals.

The industry has been slow to change in some areas, preferring the stick of regulation rather than the carrot of opportunity and innovation. However, as we reflect on the past, I am excited about the future. Whilst I won’t be around in 45 years, I can confidently predict the pace of change will accelerate without recognition, and therefore look forward to sharing what happens over the next 5 years, as I anticipate my big 50 in the sector.

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