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Financial brands should be more transparent about using consumer data, says Leslie Marshall of Morningstar

In an interview with, Leslie Marshall and Rob Pinkerton of Morningstar discuss data privacy issues and the need for financial brands to increase transparency to gain trust of consumers

(L) Leslie Marshall and Rob Pinkerton (R)

There is a need for financial brands to be more transparent about the consumer data and how they offer to use improved services, said Leslie Marshall, Head - Experiential Marketing, Morningstar. Morningstar is a US based global investment research and investment management firm.

“Data privacy is an issue being raised across the globe. The consumers give away data to these brands which they don’t even consent to. There’s so much trust that they put in a brand and the brand needs to be transparent. Brands must tell the consumers how they are going to use this data and improve their services,” she said in an interaction with BestMediaInfo.

She said digital media had made it easy for financial brands to be more open and communicate more often with their investors.

“It is very complex to distill the information down for social media, but I do think that transparency around social media is a great thing for the financial services industry because it does require you to be open about your business practices. It requires you to record on your financial services and communicate with the investors openly. Social and digital are ultimately great communication channels for the industry. As the financial services industry evolves and adapts more transparent practices, especially when it comes to advertising, it will be good for the investors,” said Marshall.

To keep the communication piece interesting, informative, and engaging, financial brands have to constantly evolve and experiment. Rob Pinkerton, CMO, Morningstar, thinks Indian brands accept new technology very quickly vis-a-vis the global brands. However, they are over-confident sometimes.

“They are very technically fluent and confident, unlike other countries. Too confident maybe sometimes. Marketers around the world have had to adjust to the technical requirements that have emerged in the field over the five to eight years. I think marketers in India are adjusting well,” he said.

Consumers find personal finance services a hard thing to form a mental model of and financial literacy in India is still not a priority. 76% of adults do not understand basic concepts. While institutions like Morningstar are trying to break it down for the consumers, Marshall and Pinkerton, both agree that brands should also take initiatives to inform their consumers.

“Absolutely, brands should step in. That’s what Morningstar has largely been built on – for illuminating investors, help people understand what they really need to understand. What helps build brands in the financial service space is ‘trust’ so, communicating what they need to know is important,” said Pinkerton.

Marshall believes that finding the right motive can be helpful to connect with the consumers.

“I think financial literacy and financial practices can seem overwhelming to an investor or a layman, but you can break it down to their goals like – I want to go to college or I want to fund my retirement and live comfortably. So, when you start looking at them like your goals, it feels much more real. Consumers understand what that means and money can help them do that. When it is really goal-based, you are speaking the language of customers and that makes them understand how the financial practices can help them with their goals so it is much more tangible like that.”

While finding the right need or motive can help to easily communicate, can humour be also used in the financial sector?

“As you don’t expect your doctor to make fun when you are sick, you don’t expect financial services to sound funny. But you can use abstracted humour. Even in a funny way, you have to make a point quickly, because you have to communicate everything quickly now. But there’s a lot of risk in using humor. It is a new thing. We have creative, funny writers in our team, but we feel a lot of discomfort sharing it outside the wall, but if you can talk about your brand, what your brand is and what it does, you can pull it off with humor, it works really well,”

Pinkerton thinks that brands can use humour, but Marshall differs. She is of the view that only the people behind the brands can use humour.

“I think people behind the brand can be funny on social media accounts, whereas for the brands, that might come against them. We like to show the people behind our brand as it is easier for the audience to connect,” added Marshall. 

Morningstar raised the data issues and increasing demand for technology in the financial sector in an event organised at Sahara Star, Mumbai

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