With the pandemic affecting the entirety of the commercial world, it is vital for businesses to adapt and learn how to continue to service their customers. According to eMarketer, even amid the pandemic, display ad spending is projected to rise 5.5% in annual growth, mainly because of investments in video ads, mobile ads, CTV and programmatic transactions. Programmatic advertising is not slowing down, as now more than ever, more people are at home and in front of screens for work and entertainment. 

With each industry and brand having their own marketing strategies, we find that it’s important to understand the landscape of how marketing is evolving as we head into the fall and winter seasons. This week, we are excited to speak with Yogesh Mehra, Vice President, Eagle Marketing at First Republic Bank, about how COVID-19 has reshaped the financial world, as well as what needs to be done in order to adapt to this economic shift.

Yogesh Mehra
Vice President, Head of Eagle Marketing at First Republic Bank

Yogesh Mehra is responsible for a major chunk of client acquisition at First Republic Bank. Now that he’s working from home, he’s working significantly more because the lines between work and home have been blurred. While most of his time is spent working, he has been spending a lot more quality time with his family, especially during the evenings since he saves an hour of commute time. He’s been helping his kids with their academics and has been playing ball with them in the backyard. Yogesh also just wrapped up Star Wars with his older son.

OpenX: How has COVID impacted financial services? Have any areas of your business been more impacted than others?

Yogesh Mehra: COVID has impacted financial services in ways we have not seen before. Inspiringly, banks and other lending institutions have been a huge part of the solution this time around and have provided meaningful financial relief in the form of waivers and deferments to clients adversely impacted by COVID.

This article talks about some of the short-term impacts that banks will be dealing with. In sum: specific to consumer lending, I think there will be a lot of focus on managing credit risk and developing a COVID-proof customer service model for the future that includes changes in critical aspects of branch and back office operations. Before COVID-19, the banking industry did a great deal of talking about ‘becoming digital’, but less than 15% of organizations (source: financialbrand.com) considered themselves digital transformation leaders. All of that changed overnight with COVID. The digitization of banking that was already in progress has been supercharged.

From a business banking standpoint, the Payroll Protection Program created by the treasury in response to COVID has created some great lending opportunities for the banks to acquire and retain clients.  

If you are interested in a more detailed context, check out this fascinating CNBC article explaining how trillions of dollars have flowed into banks during COVID and the future outlook.

OpenX: How are you navigating Acquisition Marketing through the current economic climate?

Yogesh Mehra: 3 things.

  • Approach marketing with a servicing mindset: Marketing is the new Servicing. Growth Marketing is especially complex right now with some of the privacy changes (CCPA, cookies being phased out, etc.). COVID has taken complexity to the next level. Based on what I have seen working, the need of the hour is for marketers to evaluate all marketing initiatives with a service mindset and heightened empathy for users, clients and employees. Simple examples can include focusing on bumping up the value exchange for the customer or prospect while still staying true to delivering results for the business. Bumping up can mean several things – high-value content, higher bonuses, free consultations, etc., but it is critical to stay clear of any gimmicks. Ask for referrals but do it in a way that is not tone deaf.
  • Don’t run ads (just kidding…): Run ads customized for COVID and social justice themes. According to multiple surveys Ipsos conducted between April and June, 72% of customers want ads that are COVID-appropriate and have a message related to the themes of positivity and security. Consumers are simply not interested in pushiness at the moment. To the credit of marketers, 90% have pivoted quite well by making appropriate changes to the messaging, mostly driven by in-house creative teams.
  • Heavy focus on people leadership: The need to retain top talent is even greater than ever before and all effective people leaders need to make some tactical communication changes to create high performing teams. This starts with having a culture of higher empathy, accountability and transparency. I find it hard to imagine us getting back to pre-COVID working norms even when we have a vaccine. Some version of working remotely is here to stay and therefore, it is important to create a work culture that fits the new normal. I also think that leaders need to be more comfortable than ever with experimenting and creating that safe space for teams.

OpenX: What do you predict to be the new normal for companies and when will you get there?

Yogesh Mehra:

  • Extreme digitization on the cloud: Extreme digitization will start with evolving the customer experience – creating more cohesive and personal digital journeys by combining and integrating every aspect into a single platform and tooling. Moving beyond the customer interface, digitization includes middle- and back-office operations and support functions where processes are automated into workflows.
  • Health and safety first approach: Companies will continue to take the stance of prioritizing employee well-being and will need to invest in campaigns around physical and mental health at an intensity that very few have before. This includes, for example, wellness check-ins and virtual mental-health gatherings with experts or even expanded healthcare coverage.
  • Distributed workforce model: Several companies are already actively developing and implementing a distributed workforce model that is here to stay for the long term.
  • Radical candor: COVID has forced companies to find innovative ways for team members to communicate directly with their leaders on complex and uncomfortable topics. Besides the typical town halls, one of the informal forums that has sprung up is AMA (ask me anything). I have found AMA to be helpful with more casual interaction in a relaxed setting that helps people open up.

OpenX: What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown is over?

Yogesh Mehra: Seeing movies in the theater with my two little boys, going to our favorite restaurant and having friends over for a get-together.

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