ABA survey shows bank marketers are bank leaders

By Mark Gibson

Who leads the marketing function at banks? Where do they report and what are they responsible for? ABA’s recent survey of more than 200 institutions provides the answers to these critical questions.

ABA fielded a survey in March to explore the organizational and compensation trends of the marketing function within the banking industry. Several very interesting findings emerged. Marketing leaders hold relatively senior positions, and their responsibilities appear to be broadening from communications to other strategically important areas. Let’s first take a look at who leads the marketing function.

Bank marketing leaders: How senior are they?

Based on the survey, the marketing function is highly regarded at the majority of institutions, as indicated by the title of the leader. The survey asks what the position title is of the most senior marketing officer in the bank. While the most common response is vice president at 20 percent of respondents, perhaps surprisingly the second most common response is a combined EVP and c-suite (CMO, etc.) category at 18 percent. Close behind is SVP at 17 percent and marketing director at 16 percent.

Marketing officer (6 percent), AVP (4 percent), marketing manager (3 percent and first VP (2 percent) all trailed the other position designations.

Where does the marketing leader report?

Corroborating the fact that marketing leaders are at fairly high levels in their organizations is the finding that 83 percent of the time, they are reporting to c-suite members. In fact, the survey results indicate that the marketing leader reports directly to the CEO nearly 59 percent of the time, followed by the COO 14 percent of the time.

“I find it essential to report to our CEO,” says Janel Maysonet, CMO of Avidia Bank in Hudson, Massachusetts. “I’m at the table whenever any significant new initiative is coming together. And I can weigh in on marketing implications as well as the potential impact on our customer.”

How are marketing’s responsibilities evolving?

The survey results suggest that marketing’s responsibilities are broadening from traditional advertising and communications to areas such as analytics and revenue generation that are held in high esteem by executive management.

Not surprisingly, traditional areas such as advertising, public relations, communications and promotional campaigns are mentioned by more than 90 percent of respondents. As a sign of the times, “social media management” is also mentioned by 96 percent of participants.

Marketing appears to be taking the lead in providing analytical support and insight at the majority of institutions. “Market research” is mentioned by 60 percent of respondents, while “data and analytics” are cited by 55 percent. Most often, this involved customer analytics related to marketing programs, such as targeting for cross-sell programs, or performance measurement analytics following a campaign. In a few cases, a broader or even enterprise-wide analytics function is housed in marketing.

“Our business intelligence function resides in marketing but supports all areas of the bank,” says Michele Roberts, EVP, chief marketing and community relations officer of Bristol County Savings Bank in Massachusetts. “We have the data and the analysts, so it’s natural for other departments to come to us when they want to explore a specific question about our customers or performance.”

Just as importantly, marketing’s role in direct selling and revenue generation is being acknowledged. ”Social selling” is highlighted by nearly 52 percent of marketers, while ”revenue generation” is mentioned nearly 38 percent of the time. This may be due to the fact that, during the pandemic, selling through the digital channel became just as important as in-person selling, and marketing is often responsible for driving traffic to the website and on-line application.

“We are seeing effective digital selling rise to the top of the strategic priority list for many of our bank clients,” adds Mary Beth Sullivan, managing partner of Capital Performance Group. “More and more customers want a fast and easy process to open an account from home rather than driving to a branch. Marketing is in a pivotal role in designing the website, advertising, user experience, and digital onboarding to make digital sales a success.”

Finally, marketing is taking a leading role in customer experience and culture management. Nearly 64 percent of respondents say they play a role in ”customer experience,” while ”culture management” is mentioned by nearly 36 percent.

Marketing takes a seat at the table

Results from the 2022 Marketing Organization Survey suggest there is increasing recognition that the marketing function plays a critical role in carrying out an institution’s business strategy. The fact that marketing leaders are relatively high in stature and reporting level, as well as the evidence that they are assuming responsibility for analytics, customer experience and revenue generation, indicate that marketing is strategically important to the overall success of the organization.

Mark Gibson is senior consultant at Capital Performance Group, a strategic consulting firm that provides advisory, planning, analytic and project management services to the financial services industry. He can also be reached on LinkedIn.