Nicole German is passionate about her role as Chief Marketing Officer for Tangerine, Canada’s leading digital bank, yet she never envisioned a career in fintech.
“If you had asked me a few years ago, I would not have said that today I’d be working for a bank, but I’m excited to continue my journey with an organization that is nimble and agile and really driven by the demand and the needs of our consumers,” says German. “It’s also exciting to be working with a challenger brand. We are a bank for sure, but we don’t feel so banky when it comes to brand.”
A customer experience champion focused on building high performance teams, German joined ITWC’s CMO Fawn Annan in March 2022 for an installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series designed by ITWC to showcase strategies for gaining a competitive edge through the intersection of marketing and technology. Their discussion centered around the way digital banks differ from their brick-and-mortar counterparts when it comes to marketing visions and approaches.
German’s new role allows her the opportunity to connect with customers, to see who they are, and learn what they love about Tangerine. “We need to be delivering for them when, where and how they choose, “ she says. “Listening to our customers to get feedback is key to innovation.”
On the subject of innovation, she says that inspiration comes from a leader and organization committed to forward thinking. It’s also important, she adds, to cultivate a ‘test and learn’ environment. “Not everything has to be scaled to market,” she says. “There’s learning involved whenever we try something new.”
Meeting Customer Needs
When considering the obstacles to consumer readiness for digital transformation in the financial services sector, German admits that some consumers still prefer having a face-to-face conversation, especially when they have complex financial needs. “Different segments are accustomed to spending time in branches,” she notes. “If you have ever spent time in smaller towns, the bank is like the lifeblood of the community.”
In reply to a question from Annan about how often she finds herself acting as an educator, German estimates that about 50% of her time is devoted to coaching and explaining. She says it all boils down to understanding what the consumer is looking for, being available, and having the technology to stay ahead of the curve and be ready for the next big thing. “It’s no longer a matter of implementing technology and expecting it to last for 10 years,” she says. “That’s just not the case.”
The Road to Great Marketing
German loves the concept of synchronicity and the way it relates to the coming together of channels to optimize the consumer experience. A firm believer in the importance of understanding the customer lifecycle, she recognizes that no two consumer journeys are the same. “I always say that great marketers are those who understand the path of the customer,” she says.
Commenting on the challenge in staying in touch with consumers over multiple touch points, German advocates understanding existing customers and building those relationships. “The starting point is ensuring that you are findable during the discovery stage,” she says, “so make sure you are there based on the information they are looking for.”
A Fine Balance
The medium is also a critical factor according to German, as different people like to receive information in different ways. Some prefer podcasts, such as CMO Talks, while others would rather read a traditional whitepaper or learn the basics by skimming an article. There is a fine balance in deciding how and when to offer each, but it’s what makes marketing exciting and challenging for German.
The podcast concludes with German’s reflections on the nature of teamwork and her role as leader – issues that are top of mind for many CMOs. She embraces the idea of reverse mentoring, citing the many benefits of learning from more junior team members who offer diverse perspectives. “I may have the full accountability on my shoulders, but I am part of the leadership team,” she says. “It’s not a hierarchical approach. I’m right there alongside them and we have something to learn from each other.”