Banks are very much in the spotlight in Romania. The Government aimed for a rapid convergence with standards of living in other EU countries, and while the policy was highly popular at the time, it was founded on easily accessible consumer credit, and has led to many problems.
Many people got new homes, washing machines, PCs, televisions, and so on all on credit. When the credit dried up it went sour, and for the past four years Romanians have been enduring a very bitter dose of financial reality.
The issue for us, as Romania's largest bank, is that many consumers blame us for their financial problems. It presents us with a communications challenge: what should we be to the consumers and the economy?
Our strategy is that we should not speak of ourselves as a bank, but as a supporter of values; we're seeking a community of values and leveraging that for our positioning in the social ecosystem.
Central to that is the topic of financial education. Only 60% of Romanians have any form of financial services, and as we have seen, many of them are not well educated on how to manage their own credit. We believe one way we can build that community of values is by helping our fellow Romanians become better educated on finances.
Some Romanian banks attempt to do this is through their products. They have invested significant effort in designing simple products which people find easy to understand, easy to use, and easy to connect with financial objectives. Others are offering financial education programmes aimed at familiarising young users with basic banking notions like current accounts, loans, and so on.
We believe these approaches have merit, but we have developed a different tactic which is producing good results.
is a paid summer internship for high school pupils. As far as we are aware, it is the only paid internship for high school pupils in Romania. They work part-time for the bank, for the most part helping us to devise ways to approach their fellow young people.This gives them practical experience of managing the money they earn over the summer. It familiarises them with the bank and the bank's products. Through the projects we set them, such as polls and product testing, they involve their peers in the programme. It makes our existing staff aware of this new breed of dynamic and demanding customer. It has generated many excellent ideas for ways we can reach other young people.
Finally, it has generated some superb content on financial education topics. For example, we publicised several polls on topics like: who young people see as their role model for financial success, what they think drives success; and their salary expectations. Much of this has been delivered via multimedia content - video, songs, slideshows, and newsletters - which the interns themselves have created.
Costs were low - the interns’ pay, prizes for some contests, and basic social media development - while the value of the earned media has been substantial. In fact, the greatest challenge we faced was the internal co-ordination. We needed several departments to work together to ensure the project was successful.
So, our Community Affairs & External Communication department designed the scope of the programme. HR & Client Segments Management designed the content of the internship, set the weekly tasks, and arranged for staff to mentor the interns.
Marketing & External Communications then executed the social media campaign, managed the online interaction and finally publicised the results
As in many other parts of the world, in Romania fast consumption of content from a million of sources is making rich, well-documented, substantiated content unattractive. For banks this means ‘demonising' messages travel fast, figures get easily misinterpreted, and fundamentals get ignored. We're trying to adapt to that by redefining our language and by seeking good old third party advocates such as these young people.
These kids are making banking really human. They are imagining their own
futures and involving financial services in those futures. This is legitimising
concepts and is nurturing a group of high potential stakeholders for the future