Is it crunch time for finance comms? An analysis of corporate websites in the finance sector

BY Clare Bennett

Over the last 10 years the banking sector has had a tough time in the arena of public opinion. This is in part due to its visibility and economic importance, as well as a perceived reluctance to accept more responsibility for the financial crisis. As a result, the sector is under constant scrutiny and pressure from customers, regulators, media and new entrants into the market.

Given that good communication is the cornerstone of any successful business, we recently completed a research project analysing how banks are using their corporate websites to attract and engage corporate stakeholders and customers alike. We selected a mix of challenger, traditional and mutual brands to gather a broad viewpoint across the sector.

Overall, we found that the finance sector could be doing a better job of telling their story effectively, by using their mission and values, business model and history to help create a more in-depth and immersive experience. As it stands, we found 58% of companies clearly present their mission and values and only 25% use business models or heritage hubs to better tell their story.

The look and feel of the websites tend towards an older looking design layout, with lots of content vying for attention on landing pages and calls to action easily overlooked due to font size or the sheer number of links provided. Whilst we found corporate video used across 75% of the sites, only 25% employ other interactive features such as timelines or flipbooks – otherwise static infographics are used to help illustrate content. As expected, it is the challenger brands that move away from the norm, with strong, visually bold design appealing to a younger, more diverse audience.

In terms of engaging key corporate stakeholder visitors on site, we found that investors are the best served audience, where a range of investor and shareholder tools are available. However, only 25% provide an investment case – a piece of content which is increasingly included across FTSE 100 corporate websites which will only grow in importance following the introduction of MiFID II regulations. An investment case not only serves investors and analysts, it also engages employees, government bodies and sustainability professionals alike.

The sustainability audience are the least well catered for, with 33% of the sites hiding useful content such as impact stories and links to charitable foundations. Only 25% link their impact on the environment to Sustainable Development Goals and 58% provide insufficient detail on the initiatives put in place to manage their sustainable footprint.

In summary, we found that only a few companies – a mix of heavyweight bank establishments and the new challenger brands – provide a good range of content and interaction for most stakeholders. However, across the board, there is room for improving the design to make their websites easier to navigate and consume; along with more tailoring and transparency of content in order to better serve their audiences.

In light of Brexit and the financial crisis that has brought about the new financial regulation MiFiD II, now seems a good time for the finance industry to explore how they can deliver more effective online communications that will support their business growth and ongoing brand reputation. As a FTSE 100 Finance Director said to me: “Show me a well organised website and I’ll show you a well organised company”.

For a presentation of the findings – and our recommendations – email Clare Bennett, Digital Strategy Director at clare@gather.london or call 020 7610 6140.