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Interview: Peter Markey, marketing director, TSB Bank

TSB marketing director talks about innovating for the customer and using digital to drive both online and offline business

Peter Markey is the poster executive for a new breed of digitally engaged marketing chief. The former CMO of insurance specialist Aviva, who has spent his career melding business data with customer requirements to help create innovative services, was recently appointed marketing director at finance firm TSB Bank.  

TSB was formed through a divestment from Lloyds Banking Group in September 2013 and operates a nationwide network of 550 branches. Markey, who started his new role at the beginning of June, will use his many years’ experience to develop marketing campaigns, and to use data and digital to change the business for the better. 

“I’m really excited because it’s a brilliant challenger brand,” he says. “TSB already has a very strong focus on fairer banking and doing the right thing by customers. A lot of financial institutions are trying to retro-fit purpose and change. TSB was re-birthed five years ago with those values at its heart. It will be great to work for a business that is absolutely committed to its core purpose.” 

Markey spoke with Computer Weekly at the recent Data IQ Summit 2017 in London about the importance of data to marketing, the benefits of cross-business partnerships and his long-term aims for transformation at TSB. 

Markey began his marketing career in the mid-1990s with British Gas.  During six years with the company, he assumed a series of roles and found that the marketing team – like other departments, including IT – was often self-contained. He did, however, discover a love of information, something that developed during subsequent management roles with high-profile businesses such as AA and More Than.  

“With each new role, there were more and more opportunities than ever before to do great things with data,” he says. Digital sales began to increase, multi-channel testing became important and speed became key, he adds. But not every business was able to make the most of the opportunity. “Crazy decisions were often made,” says Markey. 

“In a world where more of our everyday banking transactions are done via digital channels, it’s only going to continue becoming more important”
Peter Markey, TSB Bank

Markey says his move into senior executive roles has involved taking a firm grip on business data, demonstrating to people at board level how information can be used to help improve the marketing mix. He says simple optimisation can make a huge difference, particularly when data is used to help create more effective direct marketing campaigns. 

“I’ve been lucky to work for some big brands,” he says. “It’s great if you can develop a composite range of skills because that awareness helps you argue the value of data at the c-suite level.”

Before working at Aviva, Markey held CMO positions at the Post Office and RSA Insurance, where he set up a marketing centre of excellence and delivered £5m of value in its first year by sharing best practice in data use across the business. 

Innovating on behalf of the customer 

Markey is now set to use his cross-sector experience of data and marketing at TSB. He says his focus will be on promoting the firm through “great products, great services and great experiences”. Digital will be crucial to the firm’s marketing efforts, he says. 

“The financial services sector is now more competitive than it’s ever been,” says Markey. “New entrants – like Metro Bank, a few years ago, and Atom bank, more recently – have joined the market. Other established players, like Co-op and Nationwide, are also talking about their community values. 

“In a world where more of our everyday banking transactions are done via digital channels, it’s only going to continue becoming more important. It will be a key element of my job to keep in step with our customers, and to work out what they want, what they need, and to try to anticipate those requirements. It’s actually one of the most exciting parts of the job.” 

Not all executives take a similar view, however. Markey believes many modern managers across all lines of business fail to focus on the customer. Organisations are great at coming up with new ideas for products and services, but many fail to match these ideas to client demands, he says.

Markey says executives should use data to ensure that innovative concepts produce great customer experiences. “Don’t just do stuff because you think it’s cool,” he says. 

Cross-business partnerships 

Markey draws on his experiences from his time as CMO at the Post Office. As at RSA Insurance, he created a centre of excellence, this time focused on the role of data in the business. His interest in information even led him to the local level, where he took the decision to run branches to see how data could be used to improve on-the-ground operations. 

“That was certainly interesting,” he says, referring to his hands-on approach, which would be anathema for most senior executives. Markey says he found challenges around key elements of the shop floorspace, such as store signposting and point-of-sale areas. He also used data to help improve customer service in other parts of the Post Office business, such as across its financial services products. 

“It’s really important to break down barriers – be brave, take risks, and do stuff outside your comfort zone,” says Markey. “The danger for any marketeer is getting stuck in one team or area. Rather than simply being a good campaign manager or brand marketer, you’ve got to rip up your job specification and get your hands dirty. Get into the business and get to know the IT community. You’ve got to build a network across company disciplines, find like-minded colleagues and then go on a journey together.” 

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Markey’s commitment to cross-department partnerships at the Post Office included running profit-and-loss lines for retail, lottery and photo booths. He also spent six months at the Post Office running digital projects. His broad experience leaves him to conclude that more effort is required from other senior executives. 

“There is a lost opportunity with data in many big businesses – they simply don’t do enough with the information they hold,” he says. Markey suggests the key lesson for other marketeers looking to make the most of technology is to embrace curiosity. “Don’t be afraid – understand the business you’re in and think about the way technology can help deliver results,” he says. 

Digitally engaged marketing executive 

Markey says the focus on business partnerships strengthens as marketeers move up the career ladder. He says his chief marketing positions have involved a mix of elements, some commercial and some technical. “My job has always been part artist, part scientist, part statesman – you have to be all those things,” he says.

“As a digitally engaged marketing chief, you must be creative and you must understand data, but you also have to be able to sell your great ideas to the rest of the business. Marketing carries a responsibility for the customer, so you’ve got to be successful in all three areas. You can’t focus on two at the expense of another element.” 

Markey believes successful marketeers get the balance right. He also thinks most CMOs he speaks with are interested in the potential power of digital technology. But he also believes more work on both sides – marketing teams and IT departments – could strengthen some of those bonds. 

“There’s an issue of translation,” says Markey. “Both areas of the business could benefit from working closer together. You need to find a common currency that helps the business grow. The CMOs that are thriving are those that are always challenging their own thinking and pushing the boundaries to ensure their knowledge stays refresh and up to date.” 

Agile working methods 

Markey pushed his knowledge into new areas during his stint as CMO at Aviva. Agile working methods played a key role and he set up a team from people across the business. These individuals used the “Scrum” framework to make the most of data in key business projects. Pulling individuals together from various business lines works well, he says.

“It breaks the walls down and helped improve performance levels,” says Markey. “When you co-locate, you get a commitment from staff across the business to get stuff done – and people start to think and act differently.” 

The Scrum structure is still being used at Aviva. Markey says the move towards agility is part of the shift in marketing during the digital age. “The world is moving faster than ever before and marketing teams need to be more fluid,” he says. “Traditional roles, such as running campaigns, are on the wane. Businesses need thinkers – they need people who can interpret data. 

“Yet while data science is key, we also need to be careful about not going too far the other way. There’s still magic in marketing and you ignore that at your peril. That’s why new formations, like Scrum, are crucial. Let’s take the walls off and work together. The special sauce comes from finding golden nuggets quickly before someone else gets there.” 

Looking to the future 

Markey intends to bring the benefits of this joined-up approach to TSB. “Marketing can help bring data to the c-suite, but it’s a fast-changing world and we have to be prepared to keep up with that pace of change,” he says, before outlining the scope of the challenge ahead. 

“The excitement comes from taking a really great workforce, who are committed behind the brand, and using digital to help the business grow both offline and online. In the future, my long-term aim has to be that TSB stays true to its aims while also challenging the market harder than it does today.” 

Markey believes this vision will help him and his colleagues to deliver a modern financial services firm. “I want to help the organisation develop a mix of strong branch experiences and personalised digital experiences,” he says. “I want to help create a bank in a way that doesn’t feel like a bank and feels more like a customer service-led brand.”

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