Happy Six-Month Anniversary to ‘The Benche’, SEB’s Online Community for Trade Finance Professionals! 1,500 Companies/Members – Visitors from 170 countries

This morning I was plaisantly surprised to receive a news letter fromMartin Björnström the new Content Manager at the Benche, the online community for trade finance professionals launched by SEB last year.

ThebenchePlease find below my initial comments to Martin:
* next time, please use whether “Christophe” or Mr Langlois” but not my username on the network, “christophelanglois”
* You have a lot of new ideas, why not asking your members to check your ideas and vote for the best 2 or 3. It would help you focus on the right things and make sure the community needs or wants your enhancements
* Could you please clarify the 1,500 ‘companies/members’? Does it means you have 1,500 registered members in total? Or many more members from a total of 1,500 different companies? At the end of the day, size matters but the amount of activity from your members is equally important.
* It is a clever move to provide some useful tools to your members such as ‘Cargo Track & Trace’, in addition to an aggregation of the relevant industry news (Benche News, Trade News and Market Alerts) that you have provided since the launch of the platform

VB Flash Comments
Please find below my Flash review of the Benche after 15mn spent on the plaftorm this afternoon.

+ the approach of the Benche is pretty unique in the banking industry
+ SEB market ‘the Benche’ on its own asset: they display a ‘the Benche’ banner at the top on their “Corporate and Institutions” category page. Please note I covered it already in my Smart Marketing post back in March 2009.
+ I love the ‘Ask SEB’ section to tap the company expertise in trade finance and give more visibility to its employees.
+ It is a good move to to have a dedicated content manager (I wonder though if Martin’s job also include managing the community, urging members to visit the site and contribute… That is critical)
+ I like the new tools you are providing
+ The activity on the Latest Discussion widget on the homepage gives a good impression of the community which seems fairly active and happy to share

Areas to Improve
 no or limited presence on the most popular social media sites
– the community hasn’t reached a critical mass of users yet
– the community needs more user-generated-content
 it looks like members don’t use the ‘Ask SEB’ feature: the latest question was asked back in January 2009
 it seems like members are not contributing to the blogs much: according to the stats displayed, there are currently 14 blogs with 50 entries
 the calendar of events looks empty

Unleashing the Full Potential of the Benche
I meant to be positive. In fact I am impressed. Given the current tough context, I was expecting SEB to potentially ditch the Benche, a bit like Fortis did four months ago with their visionnary, the first online community for European Entrepreneurs launched back in February 2007. It was a real shame.

To the contrary, it looks like SEB still values the potential offered by this ambitious and innovative initiative. They are really trying to make of ‘the Benche’ a one-stop-shop for Trade professionals. It is not perfect, but I identified quite a few quick wins which would in no time take this initiative to the next level in terms of both member base and activity.
Background of the Benche
The purpose of the site is to provide a resource for trade finance professionals that does not exist anywhere else, while also sending the message worldwide that SEB is serious about trade finance. Although it is managing the web site, SEB will take a hands-off approach to content to encourage trade finance professionals everywhere, regardless of who they work for, to contribute and take ‘ownership’.

I invite you to check the full interview with Lars Millberg, Global Head of Trade Finance at SEB and the creator of the Benche,

It proves again that the most visible customer facing social media initiatives in the banking industry come from the financial institutions who have at least one Senior Executive who understands social media, sees its full potential, and is keen to experiment.

The Key to Social Media Success
I always insist on the fact that the quality of the interface is not important in social media (as long as it provides all the expected basic features) so don’t blow all your budget on the interface. And don’t spend huge amounts of money promoting your platform. Instead, you must fully leverage the most popular social media sites. If you do it right and if you managed to convince your influencers, they will be delighted to market your initiative on your behalf and for free.

Your success lies in your ability to CONVINCE people of the VALUE of your platform. Your success lies in your ability to make it SIMPLE for people to register, visit, contribute and spread the word. Finally, your success lies in your ability to REWARD your members for the time they spend visiting or contributing. Be SMART with MARKETING, promote your initiative on your own assets such as your intranet, your public website, and your secured online banking.

List of Online Communities
I invite you to check my directory of social media initiatives in banking and financial services.


Interview with Catherine Ossemerct on Fortis’

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.

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