Relationship marketing is an increasingly important field of specialisation within a bank. Transactional marketing tends to focus on completing transactions and trying to extract maximum profit from those transactions through pure volume– but relationship marketing is primarily concerned with establishing strong relationships with clients with the aim of being there for them at every stage of their financial life cycle, thereby driving both volume and value.The relationship manager (RM), as the main driver of a relationship marketing approach through the trusted advisor role, is of enormous value to a bank – but it is important to know that the RM can be of even greater value to the bank’s clients. In fact, the RM has to keep his or client top of mind at all times, so vital is the client to the RM’s role. The RM who wishes to become a trusted advisor in the bank has to understand that he or she has a far greater purpose than just meeting targets. In order to become the trusted advisor that clients need, the RM will have to go about building a personal brand of excellence.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CLIENT
Banks that prioritise the RM role are keen to manage and nurture interactions with clients. RMs should therefore approach building a personal brand by first understanding the mindset, characteristics, and life goals of their clients. Their business dealings should be client-centric, not product-centric.
Clients do not care about bank products – they care about achieving their goals. Products are merely tools that make it easier to achieve these goals. By providing the right advice to clients, RMs can still meet their targets without pushing products, and they can position themselves as trusted advisors in the first place.
It goes without saying that how relationship managers think of themselves is vital, because this determines how they think about their clients. It is the RM who ensures that clients receive the best possible advice based on a sound understanding of the full range of options available to them, which includes looking at products outside the bank. This would seem strange to a transactional banker, but the RM knows that, to build a compelling brand, one must not merely commoditise the RM role. The emphasis has to be on the client, and the manner in which the RM can facilitate value exchange for the client and bank.
THE RM AS AMBASSADOR FOR THE BANK
The RM has an enormous amount of influence in terms of how clients perceive a bank. RMs are responsible for building relationships and networks as well as exercising leadership within their roles – as such, they are essentially ambassadors for their bank. They need to be competent, knowledgeable, and sufficiently empowered to really get to know their clients. They must offer efficient, effective service at all times, which includes giving prompt feedback and regular updates on requests and applications.
In essence, RMs are multidisciplinary experts with strong experience in relationship management, able to coordinate activities and interactions with other specialist areas. They control and monitor client relationships with a view to improving customer experience wherever possible.
Once they have fully understood their role, they will be able to see themselves as trusted advisors who have real personal significance within the bank. This will allow them to build a personal brand that will further their career success, and become the ambassadors the bank needs at the same time.
BUILDING A PERSONAL BRAND
How, then, do relationship managers build their own personal brand?
It may not be immediately obvious, but a better personal brand equates to a more fulfilling career, so RMs should take the time to explore what success means to them. As a kick-off, RMs should:
Be part of the shift away from commoditised products towards advice. This is a global trend – top-performing banks around the world are tailoring their services across all channels to adapt to client preferences. Banking is personal and the core skills of being a good banker are relationship-based, which means working with customers in order to solve any problems they may have.
Understand that the most important role they play is mentor to their clients, the ‘heroes’ who are out there chasing financial success. In this supportive role, they can position themselves as absolutely indispensable to their clients, who will turn to them with any problems they may have. That’s a great way to develop a client value proposition, isn’t it?
Know that the foundation of a great brand is a thorough understanding of the target audience. It is one thing to understand economic drivers, financial instruments, bank pricing and profitability; it is quite another to be able to apply your knowledge to your clients’ particular problems. Fluid conversations around client needs will go a long way towards helping you to identify solutions.
Cornerstone Performance Solutions offers a programme to assist relationship managers in becoming trusted advisors and creating their own personal brands. To find out more about what we have to offer, contact Indira Bhagaloo, Head: Retail and Relationship Banking Academy, +27 (011 789 1957) or email email@example.com.