Alex Ford is the CMO and Co-founder of Claro Money, and has spent the majority of his career working in eCommerce, helping brands improve their digital buying experience eventually paving the way for a specialism in biometric user research technology.
In 2020, Alex co-founded Claro Money with three other tech peers to build a successful business model and spearhead essential changes in financial education. His ultimate goal is to provide better access to guidance, tools and other resources to empower people to make better decisions with their money, reach their financial goals and broaden their opportunities.
Upon Alex being included among our Top 30 Most Influential Fintech Marketers of 2023, he shared with us his insights and thoughts on the latest developments in the world of fintech marketing.
Read Alex's full Q&A below.
Can you define the term “fintech marketing” in a few words?
The process of building a trusted brand with a clear mission and strong focus in a transparent and compliant backdrop.
What will fintech marketing look like in 2023?
I think fintech marketing in 2023 will see some exciting yet challenging steps ahead of it. With the macro-economic situation globally of rising inflation, cost of living crisis and beyond not only will B2C fintechs struggle to capture & retain already stretched consumers but B2B brands will be likely impacted by a reduction in spend and most likely cuts in marketing budgets at a time when customer acquisition is getting harder.
The two biggest trends I see emerging in 2023 for fintech brands are video-first marketing and community building & engagement and if you can combine the two effectively I think you could be on to a winner. Product evangelists, superstar developers, finfluencers creating and sharing video content about your product or service will become more and more commonplace as it builds trust faster and demonstrates a transparent narrative. You only have to look at the deluge of AI video reviews and their engagement to see the potential fintech use case for this.
Outside of technical documentation and regulatory write-ups, most buyers either B2C or B2B want to see the tool, and technology they are considering but also the team behind it. I think we’re quickly leaving behind the "book a demo" to see a slide deck process or screenshots of your upcoming app. Buyers want to see the products before even considering handing over their information to continue a conversation and more than that they want to know who you are. Team walkthroughs, and streamed product hack-a-thons I think some of the most progressive fintech brands will embrace and will allow them to build grass route communities who grow to become their brand ambassadors.
"The two biggest trends I see emerging in 2023 for fintech brands are video-first marketing and community building & engagement and if you can combine the two effectively I think you could be on to a winner."
What challenges will fintech marketers face in 2023? And why do you believe so?
All marketers will continue to struggle with marketing attribution in 2023 but I believe this will be more of a pain point in the fintech space. Being able to attribute multi-soft-touch points, especially for smaller teams and budgets who can’t afford the latest tracking tech will become hard especially when trying to calculate and report on ROI/ROAS. With consumer trends and big tech moving towards a more privacy focussed ecosystem (rightfully!) 3rd party data, look-a-like audiences, 3rd party cookies will be harder and harder to rely on. Fintech marketers will need to invest in their own martech and 1st party data to help with attribution or build agreements with senior leaders on the level of focus on attribution vs getting campaigns out that sit across your whole marketing funnel.
Regulation will continue to be a challenge. I think marketers will have to spend time ensuring they are keeping up with the latest and effective marketing channels and trends whilst also being aware of “the spirit of the regulation” to ensure their funnels are not impacted when regulators finally come to review.
When Google rolled out their UK-compliant new ads approval process in June 2022 many fintech marketers had to spend many weeks battling with Google customer support to get their accounts live again as they were suspended and not familiar with UK forms of ID and Companies House documents. As the regulator works with the large tech platforms to roll out new processes and features fintech marketers will need to ensure they are aware and on top of these on top of everything else they are doing to ensure that there are no nasty surprises or hard stops in 2023.
What are some of your biggest professional highlights of 2022?
2022 was a challenging year for me personally and professionally. After 3 years of fully focussed on our B2C app delivering financial education, coaching, savings & investments we took the hard decision to fully commit to a pivot into the B2B space. This required us to restructure our team, letting some great people go, deregulating part of our product offering and offboarding over 35,000 users and £M’s of AUM funds. It was hard emotionally and professionally.
However, in the first 5 months after the pivot, we had managed to land some huge brand name deals (Santander, Ogilvy, Bacardi, etc.) and the whole team but specifically, the marketing team had shown that they were adaptable and flexible to pivot their marketing knowledge and expertise from B2C to B2B quickly and deliver results which was a brilliant process to witness and be a part of. As a CMO and co-founder taking a small (6) team on a large pivot like that but coming out the other side with results were great to see (relief) but also to watch people develop their own expertise and skills and adapt to new challenges was really rewarding.
Ultimately in 2022, the commercial focus changed for Claro but the underlying mission and culture remained the same. It was great to see that mission progress in a new direction and get engagement and buy-in from brands in the B2B space.
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What’s unique about your role? How does it differ from any of your previous non-fintech roles?
Prior to starting Claro, I mainly operated in the FMCG eCommerce space with a focus on SEO & CRO. Whilst the fundamentals are the same in most marketing roles, the nuances of fintech were and continue to be a steep learning curve. First & foremost is the strict regulation around marketing advice and investment products. To the uninitiated getting to grips with the FCA’s financial promotions requirements can be beyond frustrating for marketers.
What has had the biggest impact on your career as a fintech marketer so far?
The biggest impact by far, (I know this will sound cheesy) is the people I have had the opportunity to work with. One of my takeaways from moving into the fintech space is the percentage of high-caliber and capable people.
Experience and access to a growth mindset or understanding in detail of paid media campaign funnels or content syndication frameworks or the value of PR is at times hard or takes longer to communicate. But the upside is that everyone I have worked with both in our organisation and in partner organisations has always been to the highest professional standards and this makes you want to up your game as well.
Having worked with more ex-banking professionals these last 4 years than I have previously I understand more now why the fintech space exists for innovation and creativity but also the value that the structure, regulation and formality of traditional finance can bring to teams and processes.
Outside of the teams and ways of working I think some of the biggest impacts on my career have been the research and data we have conducted that would otherwise not have been funded. For example, we commissioned the UK’s largest nationally representative research into the link between personal finance and mental health back in 2021 in partnership with MindUK & The Money Charity.
We also commissioned a nationally representative piece of research into the financial literacy and stability of the UK population that was used and referenced by multiple third parties to campaign for the re-introduction of financial education into the UK education system.
Being able to fund important research that can be used by multiple parties (& charities) for reference and campaigning combined with our own obvious use of the research (content, PR, backlinks, thought leadership, reports, etc) I think has been an effective commercially but also beyond that in delivering a valuable referenceable data point that now exists.
Two of the main spin-outs from these research pieces were the “Say Bye Now to Buy Now Pay Later” campaign which got national attention on Channel 5 and the press (Guardian, Independent, Times) along with a financial literacy report which has had similar press coverage and TV coverage on Channel 4 Documentaries. Following this type of coverage, I have had many people reach out to me from a wide variety of sectors looking for collaborations, investments, etc.
What are some of the key traits any successful fintech marketer should have?
Be good with numbers
Be able to communicate fundamental marketing principles in context (Analogies help here - I once explained Google Ads in relation to an FX market and it was surprisingly well received and understood.)
Be patient, especially with getting campaign buy-in and then through compliance teams.
What advice would you give to anyone considering joining the fintech industry?
Advice is 100% you should do it.
However, be prepared for a few things, firstly you most likely will get frustrated by regulation. But I would say lean into it, embrace the documentation from the regulator and play with the English language where you can.
Also, be prepared to work with some great people but also be prepared to up your own game. Be prepared to model & forecast things more than you may have done previously. Be prepared to know your numbers inside and out. CPA, LTV, CAC you will need to be able to know these on any call and also document how you are calculating these. Ex-finance loves a spreadsheet and a forecast model!