Banks have their work cut out to convince people that they understand what they want, and that they’re responsible enough to deliver it. People can be apprehensive when it comes to personal finance so being a friendly, approachable face with an identifiable personality is really important in creating trust and encouraging interaction.

The austere corporate façade needs to fall away, but an air of professionalism and trustworthiness must remain. Simple, right?

Here are five challenger banks trying to do just that.

1. TSB

TSB was formed in 2013 after divesting from Lloyds.

Its mission statement is: ‘We provide local banking for Britain to help local people, businesses and communities to thrive together.’

In practice, that involves deepening existing customer relationships and creating new ones. So how does it go about it?

For one, TSB is active on Twitter and jumps on hashtags. For example, its social media team showcased women working in the bank for International Women’s Day.

It’s interesting to note that TSB doesn’t have a separate account to deal with customer queries and complaints but does make use of its CEO’s Twitter account if many customers are experiencing the same type of problems.

There was an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review that we liked a lot in the office.

It’s about how we can sometimes forget about the point of social media in the first place.

It’s not about Facebook, or Twitter, or Beebo or whatever – it’s about crowd culture. The platform is secondary. A quote from the article sums it up:

The big platforms—the Facebooks and YouTubes and Instagrams—seem to call the shots, while the vast majority of brands are cultural mutes, despite investing billions. Companies need to shift their focus away from the platforms themselves and toward the real locus of digital power—crowdcultures.

TSB seems to get it. In a definitively ’embrace crowdculture’ type move, it’s also started working with Reevoo to provide reviews. Check them out here, here or here. It’s refreshing that a big bank is making feedback public on more of its day-to-day services. It also means that the bank doesn’t have to ‘manufacture’ a personality; it can simply showcase its customers’.

2. First Direct

First Direct gives you little snippets and quotes from its staff on Facebook. This sort of thing brings a smile to your face – and in a real sense it puts a human face to the bank and keeps things light and fresh.

First Direct jumps on social media trends and adapts them to its audience. It works; check out the tweet it posted on the 106-year-old woman, the number of retweets and think about how many people saw the bank’s brand with a positive association.

First Direct has a separate account for customer service, @firstdirecthelp. It puts individual staff at the centre of its social media policy and makes sure those staff sound like people you’d like to hang out with, rather than robots. As social media scientist Allan Blair Beaton said previously on our podcast:

“You can’t have a relationship with the brand, you have a relationship with the people who work there.”

3. Virgin

It’s important to keep things light, varied and positive. You can’t always be talking money, charity and hard facts. Virgin Money knows this. It uses click-bait style tweets like the below to keep things light and gather some good data on its customers.

Virgin has also been inspired by the @UberFacts feed and has started its own hashtag for financial factoids:

It’s not quite as entertaining as UberFacts however, and the branded content can leave the feed feeling more salesy than personable. Virgin Money does deal with individual complaints on another Twitter account and its tone is efficient and professional.

A bit like First Direct. Nice enough, but it seems a little generic to us. We’re reminded again of that Harvard Business Review article:

“Companies have sunk billions into producing content on social media, hoping to build audiences around their brands. But consumers haven’t shown up. Social media has transformed how culture works. Digital crowds have become powerful cultural innovators – a new phenomenon called crowdculture. They’re now so effective at producing creative entertainment that it’s impossible for companies to compete.”

Interesting – maybe the ones creating the content shouldn’t be Virgin. We did some of our own user research just this week – 61% of people would be more likely to engage with an advertisement if it contained user-generated content.

4. Metro Bank

Staff and novelty items find their way onto the Metro Bank Twitter feed and help create a more personable brand.

Metro Bank also has a specific Twitter account for customer service. Its tone is nice enough.

Most of these banks sounds suspiciously similar. Are we dealing with robots? Or is there one REALLY busy social media consultancy out there?

5. Halifax

It’s good to feel like a business or organisation cares enough to get back to you. Halifax is good at responding within good time to someone who received poor service in branch. It also has a separate Twitter profile @AskHalifaxBank to channel those complaints. This can save a problem from escalating.

Again, it’s efficient and professional. But samey.

So what do banks need to think about?

  • Is a separate account for feedback and queries necessary?
  • Does your bank need a specific social campaign to engage customers?
  • Do you want to showcase your staff on your social media feeds?
  • What kind of personality do you want to showcase?
  • Do you want to use the same social-media agency as everyone else?
  • Do you want to let your customers speak for you?
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The challenger banks fighting the personality wars