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April Rudin: Forward Focused Episode 10

Sep 12, 2019

Evan Kohn: Welcome back listeners to Forward Focused brought to you by Pypestream Digital Labs, a thought series on customer experience, artificial intelligence, and enterprise automation. I’m Evan Kohn from Pypestream and I’m talking with April Rudin. April is the founder and president of the Rudin Group where she’s widely acknowledged as a top marketing strategist for the financial services industry. April great to have you with us!

April Rudin: Thanks for having me here, Evan, it’s a pleasure.

EK: So, April let’s, let’s maybe start with branding. So, you encourage clients to embrace a bold vision for their brand, what are some ways they can do this?

AR: That’s a great question. I mean, typically financial services brands have really not been embracing sort of leadership or going out there and made some bold statements and really sort of stake their claim on any particular value prop. They tend to be a little bit more wishy-washy and I see more of, like, the herding effect in financial services where one brand will copy another brand and really look like – to the point where sometimes it’s very difficult to differentiate between brands. Often I say that you can switch out the logos and you’re not sure exactly who’s website collateral or app even that you might be looking at. So, I think one of the things that they can do is really dig down deep and figure out what their unique value props are and go with it, and that is one way of being bold. Another way of being bold that brands can embrace is really in terms of language, many financial services brands don’t use strong language and don’t come across as being very definite in their value props, as I was saying, so strong language supports that as well. And lastly, I would say, one thing that brands can do to be bold is have more of a look and feel in financial services that mimics that of technology firms so they can come more into the digital age rather than being, sort of, in the Stone Age.

EK: You talk about ways that brands can maintain relevance with the Millennial demographic – now in full disclosure I’m a Millennial I have to say it’s sometimes funny to feel like a studied creature by brands. From your perspective, how are brands doing in terms of serving Millennials today? Obviously, there’s a wide variety of marketing approaches. Which are some brands that you think are Millennial minded?

AR: So, another great question. What I think is, what I mean by a Millennially minded is that brands need to think more along the lines of Millennials. What feels wrong, to me, is the over segmentation where brands will force a look and feel that is directed to Millennials, so I see sometimes different firms and different brands coming up with campaigns that have pictures of younger people, for example, in them which, you know, can a alienate older people. They will have, you know, some really obvious branding to it where it has a really social feel which, again, might be a factor of over segmentating. It’s almost as if people have read a report and tried to pack everything that they read into one particular campaign, so I’m not sure that brands are really serving Millennials well because it feels to me like the best thing to do is to have more of not a one-size-fits-all mentality or over segment. The very same thing happens with women also, you might see brands that have a women’s campaign where some of the value props or products or services that they’re offering could be more widely applicable and certainly to men as well. So, to me brands are sort of disserving Millennials and other segments by focusing in too much, so my approach would be to have multiple entry points and let the people choose.

EK: And you keep a close eye on tech developments, what’s one digital trend that you think people should keep an eye on?

AR: So, I have to say that one of the digital trends I think people should keep an eye on is really over emphasizing digital. So, I think digital is a great channel and I am totally all-in on digital, but I think there are, you know, it’s very important in today’s busy world with a plethora of information and messages out there to make sure that people are really using omni-channel because there’s so much competition for attention and digital is a really busy highway. So, I would say that the digital trend that I would really think people should keep an eye on is over utilizing or only utilizing digital to the extent that they’re not using other channels as well. Some people are on digital, some people aren’t, some people are on different times, and particularly for brands that are global, different times of day so I think, you know, online and offline is the smartest digital trend.

EK: April you’ve traveled around the world speaking at conferences, I know you spend a lot of time with companies that serve high net-worth and ultra high-net-worth individuals. What would you say distinguishes the type of customer experience they expect compared to you some other demographics?

AR: So, that’s a great question, Evan. Many, you know, I think there are a lot of myths about high net worth and ultra high-net-worth individuals and they’ve been broken down to some extent by luxury brands but I think financial services has been laggard, you know? Ultra high-net-worth and high net worth individuals are very tech savvy which is something born out in the Capgemini World Wealth Report, which was recently released for 2019, and they are omni-channel themselves and they also expect a customized experience. So, when you think about the client and customer service experience offered by big tech companies like Amazon or Google or Facebook or Netflix you can see that that type of client experience, where you have a more customized approach, is really something that ultra high-net-worth and high-net-worthers prefer. Many high net-worth and ultra high-net-worth are global, right, and mobile and so digital experience and having access to information whether it be on their individual portfolios, performance, financial literacy, options, performance reporting, all different types of things that they would really want at their fingertips, really important to have, you know, that omni-channel and digital client experience. So, I think that’s one of the things that wealth management and financial services needs to get away from is thinking that what a relationship business means is strictly offline because it really needs to be the same experience, if not better, online as well.

EK: Well, on that global topic – the Capgemini World Wealth Report recently came out, curious what what did you find interesting about it, April? What do you think its findings suggest about, you know, potentially where we might see technology innovation in the years ahead?

AR: So, one of the interesting stats was that the top 25% of firms were rated by people in terms of the connection and people who felt, ultra high-net-worth and high net worth investors, who felt the connection with their wealth managers were likely to get 1.9 times more net new AUM, more inflows rate of money to manage, which is how they’re paid. So, I think that financial advisors, and really the world in general, needs to, sort of, think about what relationship means in this time of digital and how digital can really take away some of the routine and repetitive tasks but leave a lot of time and space for creating deeper and more customized client relationships. So, I think that’s probably the most important thing to me from the Capgemini World Wealth Report as it relates to high net worth and ultra-high net worth and you know there are a lot of takeaways for brands to figure out what that really means to them.

EK: From a marketing strategists point of view, what would you say brands should do today to earn consumer trust? Certainly hear a lot about how companies are working to maintain relevance get the attention of specific demographics but specifically on that topic of trust what can companies do to earn that?

AR: So, the issue of trust is really omnipotent in financial services there’s nothing more important than trust for financial services firms and after 2008, you know, there’s really been a decline in trust, particularly for Millennials with brands. They have developed more of a consumer trust with many of the large big tech companies that I mentioned before, so you’ll find, if you dig down into different reports, that Millennials actually have more trust in Facebook and Netflix and Google and Amazon and less trust in some of the big bank brands. So, I think that it’s really important for brands, particularly financial services brands, to be more authentic and transparent in their messaging and in their branding so that people can really get to know them better and understand more about their offerings, so that’s sort of ties back to having the bold vision. That’s what I think Millennials have done for us, Evan, is really scrape away the veneer on financial services, so it used to be that people had very cliched messaging, like, “we put clients interests first” where they would have offerings that were products that were produced by their firm where they would be making commission or products like derivatives that were artificially created and wrapped up with a bunch of other products and the fees were not clear. So, I think the most important thing to earning consumer trust that financial services brands can do is to be transparent with their fees and their offerings and authentic and in terms of their branding and that really extends down to personal brand too.

EK: April Rudin, thank you for joining us. Where can our listeners find you?

AR: So, listeners can find me on Twitter at TheRudinGroup or email me at and I would love to connect.

EK: Thank you again April. Listeners thank you for tuning in you can access more Pypestream Digital Labs content at, we hope you join us for the next Forward Focused podcast.