HSBC’s soon-to-depart global head of marketing Chris Clark has argued that brands should look to Asia for the next generation of digital media channels, which will fundamentally change the relationship between banks and consumers.
Speaking on last night’s (11 August) edition of CNBC show Marketing|Media|Money – co-hosted by Charlie Crowe, chairman of M&M Global parent company C Squared – Clark envisaged a future scenario where consumers exclusively manage banking via platforms such as WeChat and Amazon.
Former Saatchi & Saatchi executive Clark, who is retiring after 15 years running the bank’s marketing, believes that traditional banking brands like HSBC will increasingly need to strike partnerships with technology platforms where consumers manage their lives.
“There might be a time in the future where I might turn to my two kids and say in 10 years’ time ‘Who are you banking with at the moment?’ And they say [that the] money’s with HSBC but I really like using the Amazon front end for this, that, and the other,” said Clark.
“Those are the kind of possibilities we might have to face into. But if we work with those guys, if we get alongside them and start to get them to help us understand better and partner with them, because we have to, because they’d need our risk, they’d need our ability to run the balance sheet, to take the deposits, to lend them to the right people, to make the business work.
“I think those are the kind of alliances in the future that you might see.”
And Clark believes those innovations are most likely to emerge from Asia, given the willingness of consumers in that region to engage with brands through platforms like Tencent’s WeChat: “When you look at some of the ways in which innovations are occurring across some of the other social media platforms, I think they should be looking to the East now for what happens next.
“Whether you’re Facebook, or whether you’re Twitter, or whether you’re Instagram. You know, what’s happening in the East I think will change the whole dialogue,” he said.
Clark was questioned about the controversial ANA report, which alleged that agencies have been receiving ‘kickbacks’ from media owners, and then not passing these back on to clients.
While admitting the furore “reflects poorly on the media marketplace”, he argued that the claims have not caused HSBC any “major issues”.
“We have some very tight audit processes we run […] and we are reasonably assured that our exposure to any of that is almost zero,” he said. “It might make us unpopular with some of those vendors, but actually at the end of the day I’m feeling like I can sleep at night knowing where [….] most of our money is and how it’s being spent.”
Clark also discussed the decision taken five years’ ago to drop HSBC’s famous tagline, ‘The World’s Local Bank’. He insisted that, in light of the bank’s changing geographical presence, it had become a statement the brand could no longer justify.
“[It] was an incredibly powerful positioning for us. But the reality of our business is that we have to simplify it […] We weren’t the world’s local bank. We didn’t have branches in places like Thailand anymore. And so it sort of is slightly disingenuous to sort of claim to be it,” said Clark.
And, despite the success of ‘The World’s Local Bank’, he claims there is no need to replace it with another strapline: “What is the role of a simple end line? If you look at marketing these days, there are many incredibly successful brands who don’t have a classical end line.
“The Googles and the Apples of this world, they’re not, you know, strapped to some set of words that they have to translate into multiple languages, because one of the things is that the world’s local bank translates quite well but not perfectly.”