Strategic Treasury

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Beyond Facebook: Social Media for Professionals The growth of social media, which has been explosive in the last few years, looks set to continue. The Editor discusses the opportunities that such media already present to the treasury and finance community, and examines how this might develop in the future.

Beyond Facebook:
Social Media for professionals

by Helen Sanders, Editor

Social media is the communications revolution of the twenty-first century. And no, this is not a phrase purloined from a Facebook or Twitter advert. The growth speed of social media outstrips any communications phenomenon ever, including the use of the telephone, email or the internet. In early 2009, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying that if Facebook was a country, it would be the eighth largest country in the world. A year later, it would have been the third largest, topped only by China and India. Marketeers in the business community, particularly amongst small businesses, who rely on personal recommendation more than big-bucks advertising, are already taking advantage of the opportunities that social media presents. According to a recent study by Network Solutions, LLC and the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, use of social media by small business owners has doubled over the past year, with 75% of firms having a company page on a social media site, and 57% building networks through business social media sites such as LinkedIn. So with the growth of social media set to continue, what opportunities already exist for the treasury and finance community, and how could this develop in the future?

‘Bah humbug’ to social media?

Social media has received a bad press, with high profile cases of hacking and unsavoury characters using sites such as Facebook to approach vulnerable young people. At a less serious level, while employers are increasingly using LinkedIn to source potential talent, they are also checking potential employees’ social media presence to assess their suitability. Furthermore, many companies are blocking access to Facebook, Twitter etc. to maintain productivity and guard against security breaches. So bearing in mind some of the challenges, does social media have a place in the business community?

The answer from two proponents of social media amongst the financial community, SEB and Deutsche Bank, is undoubtedly ‘Yes’. In 2008, SEB launched the Benche (www.thebenche.com) as Hakan Aldrin, Sheriff, The Benche describes,

“While a selection of business networking tools exist, such as LinkedIn, in an otherwise increasingly crowded social media marketplace, there remain few opportunities for the financial community to meet, share and learn with like-minded professionals. Recognising this gap, and anticipating the growing importance of collaborative web tools for professional interaction in the future, SEB first launched an independent, online community forum for trade professionals in November 2008, named the Benche (www.thebenche.com) which has since been extended to Cash Management and Custody.”

Social media is the communication revolution of the twenty-first century. 

Deutsche Bank have also been early adopters of social media, and launched DriveDB! in autumn 2010. The bank has taken a different approach, however. Rather than creating an independent networking and collaboration forum, Deutsche Bank has focused instead on delivering an online forum in which its clients can directly influence the bank’s product direction and priority. As Daniel Marovitz, Head of Product Management, Global Transaction Banking at Deutsche Bank explains,

“There were two key factors that contributed to our decision to launch Drive DB! Firstly, we recognised that we needed a more inclusive way to budget and prioritise investment in client solutions. Secondly, we saw that our clients were becoming increasingly familiar with social media sites and we wanted to find ways to use these tools to engage in dialogue with our clients, in addition to the numerous ways of communication we already use.”

Even though both banks have made the decision to develop separate social media forums, as opposed to using closed groups within a larger site such as Facebook, personal social media remain useful for advertising, branding and ‘signposting’ users to other sites and services. As Hakan Aldrin, Sheriff, The Benche, SEB exemplifies,“Recognising that many people have connected to one or more online communities, we already extended the accessibility of the Benche by linking to Facebook and Twitter, and podcasts are now available through iTunes.”

The rationale for social media in finance

The rationale behind SEB’s and Deutsche Bank’s social media strategy is quite different. After all, the Benche is open to any bank or industry professional, while Deutsche Bank’s clients are invited to DriveDB! In the former case, opening the site to any bank or industry professional would appear to prevent SEB from gaining any competitive advantage to DB. Hakan explains, however,

“No bank can have expert individuals sitting alongside every customer with comprehensive knowledge of every market. We therefore wanted to engage not only our customers, but the wider financial community, in a way that was inclusive, convenient, easy to use and could quickly become part of financial professionals’ daily routine. Embracing, and indeed pioneering, the social media phenomenon to achieve this was a logical decision for SEB, leveraging our innovative approach to technology, and commitment to encouraging dialogue, collaboration and knowledge-sharing amongst the financial community. As new media becomes ubiquitous across the business community, we wanted to harness this new opportunity to deliver services to our customers in a convenient and innovative format.”

Both Hakan Aldrin, SEB and Daniel Marovitz, Deutsche Bank, emphasise that their social media outlets are complementary to existing ways in which they communicate with their clients, as opposed to replacing them. As Daniel Marovitz emphasises,

“Although we are continuing to invest substantially in numerous opportunities to meet our clients and engage in dialogue, such as customer events and forums, it is not always easy for treasurers to attend every event that they would like to. Social media is a useful way of gaining immediate feedback from across the customer base, and to ensure that customers are at the centre of the decision-making process."

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