Brands we love – Handelsbanken
Strong values, a commitment to their customers, an agenda driven by localism; doesn’t sound like you’re describing a bank, does it?
Handelsbanken is used to bucking trends and the way they brand their bank is just one method.
Why we love: Handelsbanken…
Strong values, a commitment to their customers, an agenda driven by localism; doesn’t sound like you’re describing a bank, does it? Yet Handelsbanken is used to bucking trends and the way they brand their bank is just one method. It feels fresh and modern yet it’s a very traditional approach to banking. This bank is proof that you don’t have to work in the same way as your competitors and that you can achieve growth by sticking to your guns and committing yourself to an honest, value driven approach and philosophy that filters through every single thing you do.
The director of the Swedish bank, Anders Bouvin, started working for Handelsbanken in 1985 and it was the first company he applied for. It was, he discovered, a firm with similar values to his own. At its core is a commitment to focus on the long-term, to decentralise its structure and most importantly of all to focus on the customer.
The bank does not shout about all these values via a high profile and expensive marketing campaign. They simply don’t go for that. As Bouvin says, “our customer’s don’t feel better because they can read the bank’s name on a football shirt or on the side of a bus”.
Your values should always condense into one simple principle. At Handelsbanken it is this; it’s all about the customer. Customer service and customer experience is all important.
To facilitate this they have a flexible approach that is built on a localised agenda, decentralising the bank from the powerful centre and instead allowing regional branches to offer a more bespoke service.
Branches tailor products depending on what their customer on the ground are looking for. It is like a traditional banking relationship, where the local business has a close relationship with the local bank manager. Both understand each other’s business inside and out which ensures both sides benefit. It’s a practice built on trust.
The bank targets customers directly and to ensure they are delivering the right service it is vital they understand their audience as well. Their customers are proactive about their finances and they are authentic. The in-branch messages and online focus on wealth management so it’s clear we’re talking about independent and wealthy individuals.
There’s a consistent message both in their high street branches and online. From the homepage you enter your post-code and you’ll be taken to the local website. There you can meet the management team and read a post from the branch manager. This is personal and human. For a successful business owner this approach feels like a breath of fresh air, here is a bank that takes the time to truly understand me, my pressures and my business.
Yet this is only half of the strategy. To truly deliver on these brand values, Handelsbanken has to ensure that every member of staff is on-board and committed to sharing the message. It is vital that for every interaction the customer has that they get a consistent and engaged message. Brand does not simply equate to marketing material, instead it relates to every encounter with the brand and the business. For director Anders Bouvin to have learnt the ropes at Handelsbanken as a young man working in his first job and to be able to climb the ladder and end up running the UK part of the bank shows this is a firm that practices what it preaches. It’s easy to say you care about people. It’s much harder to do it day in and day out and to work with this as your prime motivator.
Handelsbanken is growing and it is because it bucks the trend and puts its customers at the heart of everything it does. For an industry that has taken a beating in terms of brand and public opinion as the banking sector has, Handelsbanken shows you don’t have the follow the crowd to make your mark.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- How clearly do you target your customers?
- Are you able to articulate your companies values?
- What ways could you strengthen your company culture to drive a sustained competitive advantage?