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Social Detox, Financial Retox

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Wed, Feb 12, 2020

Sure, we all love the feels we get staying connected to family and friends, but if you want to feel really good in 2020, log off social media and invest with a financial services firm!

Hold the skepticism and allow me to give a little background. As part of our self-funded Consumer Pulse program, we asked over 20,000 people to evaluate 80 financial services, tech, and media brands on the four key psychological benefits that help people fulfill core motivations: Emotional, Identity, Social, and Functional. Each benefit plays an important role in driving brand consideration, trial, loyalty, and advocacy. Using our proprietary BrandFxSM solution, we can give our clients a complete picture of their brand’s performance versus competitors, the interrelationships between the benefits, and the best path to capturing their target audiences. 

So back to those financial services brands. Of course, we expected to see differences between brands within each industry. I was intrigued by an insight that emerged when comparing across industries. Many social media platforms performed far worse on maximizing positive and minimizing negative emotional benefits than financial services brands who, let’s face it, have traditionally been content to focus on functional benefits (e.g. low fees). But investors, competition, and the market are changing, and more, financial service brands are realizing the complex consumer psychology behind brand engagement. Take a look at the powerful consumer-centric messaging from Prudential. It’s important to note that benefits have varying levels of relative importance within different industries, but emotions indeed matter to financial brand customers. They matter a lot!

Importance of Emotional Benefits Financial Services Blog Feb 2020

The truth is, the financial services industry, and investment firms in particular, have done quite a bit in recent years to personalize offerings and humanize their brands through advertising and target-specific messaging, whether they are primarily DIY focused or advisor reliant.  At the same time, social media has been plagued by bad PR and concerns over the negative impact on users.

Blog Feb 2020 Emotional Benefits Financial Services Industry Comparison

In addition to feeling good, consumers want to enhance their self-image, pride, and self-esteem through the brands they choose. Financial services firms perform better in delivering benefits related to overall identity - personal identity, tribal appeal, relatability--where social media brands perform relatively poorly. Lastly, financial services brands significantly outperform social media on delivering important functional benefits: goals, expectations, time, and money.    

If you want to build your brand, keep your customers loyal, and achieve greatness within your industry, you can’t rely on potentially outdated measures like NPS (what is that score really telling you anyway?). Instead, measure the elements that truly drive the behaviors that matter.  And in 2020, stop watching cat videos and log onto your investment firm’s website.  Check your investments, try some tools, make a few trades and then bask in those positive emotions, feelings of belonging, and sense of accomplishment. It’s going to be a good year.


Lori VellucciLori Vellucci, VP, Financial Services Practice Leader.

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Topics: financial services research, emotional measurement, BrandFx

Robo-Advisors Aren't Your Father's Financial Advisor

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Tue, Dec 12, 2017

Back in the day, if you had a little money to invest, you called up the brokerage firm that your dad used, you talked to his“guy” and you asked him to invest your money for you. Those days aren’t totally gone, but over the last few years new technology has disrupted the traditional investor-client relationship—resulting in more ways than ever to invest your money yourself.

We all remember the iconic E*TRADE baby from way back in 2013. E*TRADE’s campaign brought the online discount stock brokerage firm for self-directed investors model into the mainstream. Since then, more DIY investment platforms have cropped up, each vying for the modern self-directed investor’s business. But one important learning from the DIY trend of the past decade is that even though this model lends itself to independent investing, DIY-investors still need some type of investment help.

Robo-advisors: The rise of AI in finance

The first robo-advisor was released in 2008 to help these new investors make smart money choices. For the most part, early DIY investors didn’t have a formal finance background, so robo-advisors offered them portfolio management services and insights that were once reserved for high-net-worth individuals—at a fraction of what a traditional human financial advisor might charge. It was a gamechanger.

Robo-advisor technology continues to shape the financial services industry with big players like Charles Schwab and Ameritrade each launching their own in the last few years. This growing interest and investment in robo-advisory technology is great for DIY investors and offers a ton of opportunity for traditional financial firms be on the cutting edge of FinTech.

Given the changing landscape, we wanted a better understanding of investor perceptions of robo-advisor clients.  Through our 2017 Consumer Pulse, we surveyed 2,000 US adults about FinTech, traditional financial services firms, and who they perceived as the technologies' typical user.

Who's using robo-advisors?

Typical Robo-Advisor User.png

CMB’s AffinID (a measure of social identity’s influence on consumers) score for this FinTech offering indicate that while all three components of AffinID (clarity, relatability, and social desirability) could stand improvement within the investor community. Relatively speaking, relatability is weakest--people have a clear image of what the typical robo-advisor user is like and that image is socially desirable, but they don't view the typical user as part of their "tribe".

The inability of investors to relate to their image of the typical robo-advisor user sheds light on a potential roadblock. Robo-service providers targeting traditional investors might consider messaging that conveys a typical user more closely aligned with the “traditional investor image”.

What emotions are driving use?

We found that robo-advisor users themselves are driven by feelings of being smart, wise, and savvyefficient, practical, productive.  Inspiration and motivation are also key emotional drivers for robo-advisor services.

Emotions that drive robo-advisor usage2.png

Why does this matter? It tells us what brands looking to differentiate themselves in a crowded FinTech market could be doing to attract more customers. These emotional drivers could be important messaging elements for those companies looking to court new money from traditional investors.

Are robo-advisors the next "big thing" in FinTech?

FinTech adoption curve2.png

Three quarters of robo-advisor users consider themselves early adopters, this is in contrast with users of mobile wallet and online-only banking--two technologies that have entered the mainstream. As traditional financial service providers make considerable investments in driving robo-advisor adoption, our findings show that to drive adoption it's critical to understand both how consumers want to feel, and how they perceive and relate to their image of the typical user.

Interested in learning more?

Our comprehensive FinTech study also looked at online-only investment apps, online-only banking, and mobile wallets. Download a sneak peek of our findings from all four in our Facing the FinTech Future series:

Topics: financial services research, Identity, AffinID, Artificial Intelligence, BrandFx

New Study: Busting Millennial Banking Myths

Posted by Megan McManaman

Thu, Mar 03, 2016

Why does MasterCard want to replace your password with a selfie? How did Venmo become a verb? Why did JPMorgan Chase's CEO fret about Silicon Valley's start-ups to investors last year? Part of the answer lies within the attitudes and needs of that much talked about generation. . .Millennials. As part of our self-funded Consumer Pulse research, CMB partnered with leading venture capital firm Foundation Capital to explore how and why Millennials are helping redefine the banking industry

In this new report, insights include:

  • Millennials are not a homogenous group. We conducted a segmentation of Millennials, revealing five distinct personas with varied brand preferences, attitudes, and behaviors 
  • Most Millennials still use traditional financial products and services. Just over a third of Ambitious Adopters and Financial Futurists—the most forward-looking of the segments—say they’re most open to non-traditional financial services. 
  • Millennials place considerable importance on finance apps and tools. Asked which apps and tools they could not live without, Millennials mention financial tools and apps at the same rate as apps used for texting and messaging.

image-068859-edited

 Download the full report here!

Topics: infographic, financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, market strategy and segmentation

Millennial Women and Planning for the Future

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Wed, Jan 27, 2016

Millennials_investing.jpgMy first real job came with an important-sounding title (Project Director) and all the things grown-ups look for in a position, such as health insurance and a 401K. I was 22 and didn’t know anything about retirement plans; retirement itself seemed to be in the infinite distance. My dad told me, “It’s free money. You can’t turn it down,” so I dutifully enrolled in the company’s program. When I left that job for a bigger title and a better salary, I promptly liquidated my 401K and took the cash. Retirement still seemed really far away and besides, even with my important sounding title, the salary hadn’t been nearly as impressive. Receiving a paycheck just once a month had left me with a lot of credit card debt, and I thought paying that down might be a better use for the money I had painfully put into a 401K each month over the previous several years. 

Since that first step on the career ladder, I’ve enrolled in other retirement plans with other employers, opened a SEP when I worked for myself, and acquired other investment vehicles over the years. Even so, based on many articles I have read, I will likely never make up for not contributing and staying invested in those first early years. 

CMB recently conducted a thought-provoking, nationally representative study on Millennials and money, and I wondered what young women today are doing and if they’re smarter about retirement and investing than I was at 22.

According to our study, overall, women ages 21-30 are driven, idealistic, and interested in furthering their education—more so than their male counterparts.

table1.jpg

Many are confident that if they budget and plan well enough, they will be shielded from financial setback. Further, a plurality feel they will reach their long-term financial goals and the majority plan to have more than just their employer-sponsored retirement plan when it comes time to retire. Most of these young women feel confident that they are saving enough for their future! So far, so good.

Millennials_Investing2.jpg

But wait—nearly twice as many young women don’t feel confident making their own investing decisions compared to men, and more than four in ten feel they would invest more if they understood it better.

table3.jpg

While young men and women participate in an employee sponsored retirement plan at about the same rate, women are significantly less likely to own mutual funds, individual stocks, and to have their own brokerage account.

table4.jpg

Certainly, there has been a great deal of reporting on women’s reluctance to discuss financing and investing. Women often indicate feeling less confident in their knowledge, even as they tend to have lower risk portfolios, which perform just as well as those of male investors.

Traditional financial services investment firms have made efforts to tailor content and offerings to younger women, and websites like GoGirlFinance have also sprung up to fill a real void. But are these new sites reaching young women in a compelling and meaningful way? 

As co-author of our Millennials and Money study and partner at Foundation Capital, Rodolfo Gonzalez notes: “The financial services industry is at a critical juncture. We are seeing a lot of companies emerge to address the financial needs and expectations of the Millennial audience. The Millennial consumer expects a mobile, on-demand, simple, and useful user experience as they are the first digital natives. In the future, we can expect to see start-ups emerge to focus specifically on women and financial services.”

Even so, are they reaching young women in a compelling and meaningful way? A very good question.  Not wanting to rely just on our statistically meaningful, nationally representative study, I conducted an office poll...

They feel unprepared to invest on their own:

 “Not confident in my knowledge about investments; seems like a risk.”

“I have thought about trying it, but I feel uneducated on what would be a good investment. I would like to try to dive into investing on my own and experimenting with a small amount of money in the next few years.”

 “I am not at all confident in investing on my own. It is very foreign to me, so (although I feel like I probably should be) I just don’t do it.”

Further, closer-in priorities tended to over-shadow investing and saving for retirement:

“I am most focused on saving for my wedding and a house down the line.”

 “College debt is a huge one, I graduated with over $80,000 in debt, so that’s a huge hindrance to reaching some of my financial goals.”

“In addition to college debt, there’s my car payments, saving to buy a house/condo, and getting married in the next few years.”

 “My college debt is a concern, but mostly I just focus on my day to day expenses (rent, activities, and food). In my mind, any savings I have are designated for travel.”

Many of the young women in the office combine traditional banks with online tools like Mint or Personal Capital to manage their finances:

 “Currently I mainly manage my finances on a pen and paper ledger #oldchool but I check my accounts daily – Bank of America, Citizens, Capital One—and I log on to all loan platforms multiple times a month. I have used Mint before.”

“I use the app Mint to keep track of my finances. I also use apps for each savings/checking account I have (Bank of America, Charles Schwab, USAA) that I monitor.”

“Mint.com is great for monitoring all my accounts at once since it all pipes in, but not for budgeting. I just use Excel to actually manage my finances.”

While these women certainly have dreams of retirement in the abstract, for many it still feels very far away:

“Retirement is so far away for me right now—I just let my contributions go into my account automatically and hope that what I’m doing now will be enough and will be worth it when retirement time comes.”

 “What I’m contributing right now feels like it should be enough, but how can I know what will happen in the next ~50 years?”

“I wish I was more involved with my retirement and could a higher percentage of my paycheck, but I know I’ll have that chance down the line, so I’m not worried right now.”

It’s clear financial service providers, both traditional banks and start-ups, have a lot of work to do to educate, motivate, and inspire young women investors. 

Want to learn more about Millennials’ financial needs and expectations as well as what that means for your industry?

Watch here!

Lori Vellucci is an Account Director at CMB.  She spends her free time purchasing ill-fated penny stocks and learning about mobile payment solutions from her Gen Z daughters.

Topics: financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, webinar

Busting Millennial Money Myths at Money 20/20

Posted by Megan McManaman

Thu, Oct 22, 2015

money2020.pngEvery day there’s a new report about Millennials—they’re in debt/they’re saving for retirement, they’re mobile/they’re going off the grid, they’re hard workers/they’re too entitled to succeed—the list goes on. Brands are desperate to learn what makes this generation tick, but the current research lacks actionable insights for the marketers trying to serve them.

To dig deeper, we partnered with venture capital firm Foundation Capital to clear through the clutter and to learn what Millennials are doing and thinking about when it comes to their money. Through our Consumer Pulse research program, we surveyed 1,055 Millennials about their tech use and financial habits, and we included three “deep-dive” sections covering attitudes and preferences towards banking, investments, and insurance.

On October 26thCMB’s Lori Vellucci will join Foundation Capital’s Charles Moldow at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas to unveil new insights into the needs, perceptions, attitudes, and actions of Millennials. They’ll take a look at the very different needs within this most talked about generation, the coming disruption, and the wave of innovation required to address their financial needs.

If you can’t make it to the conference, don’t worry! We’ll be sharing takeaways from our research in November.

For the latest Consumer Pulse reports, case studies, and conference news, subscribe to our monthly eZine.

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Topics: financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, conference recap