Guest Post #3 – Finance 2.0 in Germany: Ready to take off? (by Boris Janek)

I launched the Visible Banking Blog back in February 2007, almost three years ago… Time really flies. Since my first post, I have always aimed to share with you my passion, my views, and some unique insights on social media in the Finance industry: not only Banking, but also Financial Services, Credit Cards, Asset Management, Investment Banking, Private Banking, Insurance… I should start considering to rebrand, don’t you think? 😉 Your views and suggestions are more than welcome.

In October 2009, I started to contact some of the passionate, and highly knowledgeable, people I met (online and/or offline) all over the world, during my speaking engagements, my business trips, on linkedin, on twitter or via my blog. I invited them to contribute on VB. I was delighted with the extremely positive and warm responses. Thank you all.

My key goal is to provide you with some second-to-none insights of social media and financial services all over the world, and to give this experts another plateform to share their knowledge and their views.
I have also started to schedule another type of contribution focused on specific topics such as reputation management or “anger management” (detractors involved): loads of highly exciting topics, stay tuned!

I have already confirmed 5 contributors from Israel, Russia, Germany, Australia, and Spain. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact me via phone, email, twitter or linkedin!

I am delighted to introduce the third guest blogger on Visible Banking:Boris Janek, Online Marketing Manager at VR- NetWorld GmbH. We have been following each other for quite a while. Boris was one of the three speakers I recommended for SOMESSO Zurich in November 2009.

Boris has one of the very best blogs in Germany focused on finance 2.0 / social media in Banking. I invite you to connect with Boris on linkedin, visit his blog, and follow him on twitter.

Please note the opinion of this post is Boris’ own and does not necessarily reflect the position of his employer.

Guest Post #3 – Finance 2.0 in Germany: Ready to take off?… The Social Wallflower will bloom in 2010

It´s still a small straightforwarded world. At the end of 2009 we count – compared to other countries especially the usa, uk and spain, just a few Social Media initiatives in the German Finance industry. And beside the small quantity there are some quality problems too . Most companies are still broadcasting in their antiquated marketing- and pr language and they are far away from engaging  effectively with the people.

There are also just a few new companies and start ups offering innovative financial products and services and thereby competing with banks without being a bank. Although banking isn´t the monopoly of banks any longer,  german people still prefer the classic and established players to request financial services. Even the financial crises haven´t changed that.

However, there are exceptions. On the one hand there is the Fidor Bank AG. The world’s first and only online community bank, which integrates all the basic principles of the Internet in their banking business model. In addition, the sustainable and socially responsible banks achieves an astonishing customer growth.

Sustainable banking is becoming a new sucess factor. In this area some new banks entered the market or were founded.

The social media plant prospers quite tenderly in the german finance industry at the moment .But I expect a fast increase of importance. A German newspaper have reported on twittering banks in early December. This was the first time a part of mainstream media realised the increasing adaption of social media by banks. I regard that as one good indication of an emerging trend

Social Media + Social Banking
For Banks the use of social media isn´t an easy step. Professional acting on the social media pitch requires, a 180-degree turn from a rather closed to an almost completely transparent corporate strategy. One problem for instance: The established questions and answers are no longer true.Therefore a recent study attests the financial services providers no high level of Social media activity.

If banks use Social Media they have the opportunity and the obligation to act and communicate on a par with the previous users. So they do their daily business practices – and that includes marketing and sales – with and for the consumer. The use of social media does not inevitably lead to a new and especially better or fairer way of banking. Who uses social media, yet does not engage automatically in “social banking”. Indeed a first step is done, because you submit your Company to the principle of honesty, transparency, and authenticity.  But Social Banking requires much more.

Social Banking places people and their needs at the center. In the most general definition Social Banking means, making people wiser, wealthier, happier, independent and more sucessful in financial affairs while acting responsible to the environment, society and culture.

But let´s take a  look  at  the use of social media by German financial companies, particularly banks.

There were only 175,000 active twitter accounts in Germany in November 09.  2.5 million unique visitors were counted. The number of accounts has dropped even 5%, while  there was still a growth rate of 34%. in September. In principle, the potential of twitter is currently much lower than in the U.S. However, there are 93 twitter accounts of German financial institutions at the moment.

No social media platform has been used  as much as twitter by the German banks. Rated by the number of followers the Buergschaftsbank, is Germany’s largest bank, with 3602 Followers on Twitter. The GLS Bank, it nevertheless brings even to 1195 follower. The newly formedFidor Bank AG followed by 528  and the little Volksbank Bühl eG by 308 users. For comparison, the Deutsche Bank AG has just 616 follower and the largest of the German Savings Bank (Haspa) does have an account with some Followers, however, they didn´t post a tweet. By the way: In my opinion the number of followers isn´t a very relevant metric or benchmark.

Facebook is the fastest growing social network in Germany.  In terms of users Facebook is on it´s way becoming the number one Social Community in Germany. It already has the highest reach.  Approximately 9.7 million unique visitors were measured in october. This was about 3 million more than studi.vz and werkenntwen. Despite the far greater importance and reach of social networks, compared to twitter  almost 20 banks are on Facebook. So far  bank has found a promising approach to be sucessful on Facebook.

The Deutsche Bank is most active on Facebook. With different activities and a total of over 3,000 fans. The small GLS Bank brings it to 390 fans and the also very small and only regionally established Raiffeisebank Lustenau from Austria to over 200 fans. Only one bank offers its own Facebook App (Cortal Consors). The activities on the fan pages, and within the groups are generally very low. As a rule sending is prefered  or the dialogue offered by the banks are not accepted. And lets be honest: who would claim to be a fan of a bank. At least in Germany, this is not common.

Just a few german banks have corporate blogs. Most financial service companies avoid the effort and are reluctant to deal with users via the comments function. On the contrary the new players in the banking market recognize the opportunities and chances. They use blogs to report about their activities, demonstrate their positions and corporate philosophies and discuss with the consumers. But are the consumers ready to adopt these offers? It is doubtful, because there aren´t so much comments and discussions in these blogs.

Studies showed  a considerable loss of  trust in  german banks. Many  german consumers believes that banks tend to prioritize their own goals and  for this often acts against customer interests. So from the banks perspective Blogs are more seen as a risk than as an opportunity.

Moreover, it can not be denied that social media does not match structu the structures and cultures of the banks. Most banks were´nt  very transparent in recent years. The relationship between bank and customer was and still is far away from equality and service-orientation. A strong internal hierarchy is another problem. Not to mention the socialization and education of bank staff,  which currently counteracts nearly all principles of Social Media.

You tube 
The banks activities on you tube are very reticent so far . Although  there are some banks with youtube channels, these channels often have little to do with banking issues.Marketing Campaigns are more frequent. For instance the Sparkassen have a Brand Channel and the Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken recently opened a contest channel.  There, people can explain their life objectives and put these in a short thirty seconds film. A jury will rate the results and the displayed objective will be realized. With this campaign,  which have a custom landing page too,  the Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken intends to show, that the basic human objectives and needs are the real reason for the use of financial services and banks. Money is not seen as a value in itself. The channel was viewed more than 300,000 times to date. The campaign will run until mid-January 2010.

The You Tube channel of the Fidor Bank AG is particularly noteworthy. Here you can follow the Fidor Bank on their way to full-fledged bank. FounderMathias Kröner regularly posts videos and confronts himself and the companies ideas to the dialogue. So Fidor is not just a new bank, they have a vision of good or social banking too.

Part 1 – Part 2 (continue)

What do you think?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

Best Social Media & Banking Tweets: 11-17 January 2010

Guest Post #3 – Finance 2.0 in Germany: Ready to take off? (Part 2)