Short answer: very.
At Money 20/20 Europe last month, I attended a panel session with Azimo and Railsbank that posed the question: does your brand need to exist? As a marketing and communications man this felt like an obvious question with an obvious answer. But if you look at the way financial services is heading the question becomes a lot more valid.
With many financial services companies acting more like aggregators and connectors, with platforms and one-stop-shop solutions, does it really matter if they have a strong brand? As embedded finance takes off and super apps capture the hearts and minds of consumers, will people still care about fintech brands? Will brand matter when their capabilities or accounts are aggregated into other apps?
Despite this theory, the consensus of the panel was that yes, brands do matter. Unsurprisingly, I agree. A fintech’s brand isn’t just about design, hot coral cards and the ability to communicate using emojis when splitting the bill. Your brand is your identity and values, it helps create promises and expectations. In short, your brand needs to exist.
To be reductive, when people like a brand, they trust a brand. In the financial industry, trust is a critical component of success. When a consumer is looking to transfer money abroad, they are more likely to choose a provider that they recognise. For those fintechs selling to consumers their brands need to be recognisable, attractive and aspirational. But can the same be said for B2B fintech brands?
Again, yes. If you are a payments provider offering acquirer services, your brand still needs to engender trust. You’re not just dealing with your own customer; you’re inadvertently dealing with their customer too and so trust is critical. However, B2B fintechs need to strike the balance between having enough brand equity for the market to know who they are, without intruding on their customer’s own brand. Big billboards with outlandish statements are not the way forward. But clear, concise, compelling messaging in relevant channels demonstrates you are a reliable and supportive partner.
Having a brand isn’t just important for the client side, it’s also important for your employees. As mentioned previously, your brand is your identity and values - two factors that drive people to join companies. A brand that encapsulates values can help create employee loyalty which helps your team become brand disciples, and it’s shared values in a team that makes you different from other fintechs. Given the incredible hiring crunch in fintech today, employee brand, as a subset of brand, has never been more important.
Of course, price matters when winning business. Of course, early stage B2B fintechs must focus on customer acquisition. But building a brand should be near the top of the priority list for every company. Your brand can empower employees, attract and support clients and help increase valuation – if you are a B2B fintech, your brand is very important indeed.