Personalisation in Financial Services

Personalisation and Transformation in Financial Services

Financial Services organisations can be ‘blessed’ with more data on their customers than the average consumer-facing business. However, turning this data into sound, effective and actionable marketing insight is often not straightforward.

CrowdCat’s expertise with Mass Consumer Psychology means we look at your audiences independently and in a different way. We capture proven intelligence that explains how each person makes decisions, how audiences can be grouped from common themes that appear in these decision-making processes, and what approaches will definitely not work, as well as what will work when communicating with these audience groups.

The data we accumulate gives us clear patterns on what the major issues are in the minds of consumers making choices and decisions over financial services and products.

Most of this work is bespoke to each brand and the context of the particular decision relating to that brand, but some of the general principles are invaluable to any FS business looking to positively influence its customers.

Executive Summary

This study uncovers some key industry insights and potential strategies for Financial Services brands, gained from research with one of our clients – a leading insurance brand, with 1.5 million customers.

The need to grow average-revenue-per-customer (ARPU) with each individual from their loyal customer base was the challenge targeted at CrowdCat.

Our analysis of completed research highlighted some important misconceptions about how customers felt about their proposition, and affected how it was communicated to them.

The traditional importance in financial services of reassuring customers of the competence, financial security and longevity of the institution are in danger of missing entirely the core problems experienced by the consumer. Indeed more often than not, when they raise the issue of trust, they are not reassured by messages of financial stability. It seems the ‘trust’ issues experienced by consumers are not trust of the organisation, but of the consumers in themselves.

Business Opportunity

The insurers unique position grants them a higher degree of trust from their potential customers than is typical in other consumer relationships.

Despite this fact, conversion levels – from free and introductory products to paid-for products – are no better than the industry norms. Customers do not engage even where the benefit to the customer is quite apparent, and the decision fairly clear cut.

CrowdCat’s Brief

They tasked CrowdCat with discovering how to increase their conversion rates and Average Revenue Per User by building a psychological model that their internal marketing team could use to redefine their approach across their marketing channels.

CrowdCat’s work took the form of a discovery project where we began engaging with their customers at a small and then increasing scale to uncover a 360 degree psychological model for customer communications.

Research Summary: The Psychology of Financial Decisions

The psychology of consumer choice within the finance industry has particular complexities. There is a unique structure of information complexity (often impenetrable to the consumer) combined with extremely high consumer anxiety/volatility.

This combination leads to consumers being highly decision avoidant, maintaining their relationship with products that may not be optimal and in turn leading to incredibly infrequent and irrational decision making.

The messaging also requires the consumer to believe that any decision they make is logical and based on an understanding of the product, even though differences between products are often beyond the consumer’s understanding.

CrowdCat’s research led to the understanding of the necessity of a three-step approach to consumer messaging:

  • Initial stage messaging needs to be geared towards reducing consumer anxiety in the presence of the brand.
  • When the consumer moves into engagement with the provider but before they show purchase intent, the messaging needs to tailor to their primary positive driver for choice.
  • After the consumer shows decision intent, the messaging needs to shift to allow the consumer to form simple post-rationalisation of their decision

Dive down

Let’s explore in depth that key first element – how to reduce anxiety – and its uncovering of some highly interesting strategies for the wider business and financial services community.

How to Reduce Anxiety

Although some marketers may believe that irrationality is related to emotional decision-making and therefore may increase opportunities to use influence, the truth is that irrational decision-making is very unstable.

This is because the responses to influencers are unpredictable, and most influencers will be situational and outside the control of marketers.

Creating rationality (all be it emotionally based) with the consumer’s decision-making is critical for any provider that wants to increase their effectiveness.

CrowdCats initial challenge therefore was to map out the driving force for this layer of irrationality.

Using specialist interview techniques, we studied the cognitive processes of a significant number of consumers. These interviews showed that there were two key groups in the audience with different anxiety drivers.

  1. The first group locates their anxiety in terms of being pushed into purchasing unnecessary insurance either by their fears of doing the right thing or by their fears of saying no to the insurance provider’s representative. This group avoids communication with the provider to prevent the purchase of unnecessary insurance.
  1. The second group locates their anxiety in the potential events that the insurance covered. They manage this anxiety by deflating the probability of those events to near zero and therefore evaluate the products as being worthless and the providers therefore as being profiteers. This group avoids communication with the provider as their see them as a pusher of useless products.

Although these two groups locate their anxiety differently, the concept at the centre of this psychological structure is the same – trust.

Trust is a very common concept to arise when looking at financial providers, however its interpretation is commonly that the issue is the lack of trust consumers have for providers. Although this too may be a barrier, the decision avoidance and irrationality is not centred on this issue, but on the fact that the consumer does not trust themselves.

Several other groups were uncovered of interest to the client which are not covered here.

Changing Your Approach

This finding dramatically changes your primary communications strategy. Typically, providers are trying to develop the consumer’s trust in them. They focus on concepts like security through their scale, friendliness through professional and confident staff and integrity through adhering to best practice and compliance. These concepts tend to inflate the perception of power imbalance between the consumer and the institution which further increase the levels of anxiety.

To communicate and influence people who don’t trust themselves you need to elevate them rather than yourself. The key is to identify the typical, core fears within that audience and to arm them with the knowledge to master those fears and to gain confidence.


You replace messages like

“Our expert staff can identify the best product for you. Our brand is proud to provide the best products for our customers”


“Evaluating products can seem daunting, but there are some good sources of impartial and simple advice. The Money Advice Service, a government funded independent source advice has several good articles on…”

Our interviews discovered 4-5 key fears within each group and tested information and information sources that could effectively combat each fear.


These insights, plus the detailed data in the context of their brand, enable the formulation of key primary marketing messages that will associate lower anxiety with the Insurance brand and consequently to minimise any decision avoidance in their communications with consumers.

With the strategy and the key themes for communication uncovered, the brand are moving forward to employ these techniques by addressing the right message to the right person, based on our work at increasing scale with greater and greater proportions of their customer base.

Final Note – Mass Profiling of Potential Customers

It is important to understand that even if the target audience isn’t known, the same techniques work with anonymous consumers – for example via an ad or digital survey – to determine their psychological profile and so which message to send.

Which means new markets and customers can be profiled and evaluated, ahead of having to invest any advertising and marketing spend in a new area. We are excited to be involved in ongoing initiatives in the whole financial services marketplace as its quiet revolution takes place.

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