ME Bank new marketing boss takes on bland banking

By Rosie Baker | 6 February 2014
Taking on the homogeneity of the banking sector.

Customers can’t tell the difference between the products on offer from one bank to the next which is what gives ME Bank an opportunity to use its challenger positioning to steal customers from the bigger banks. That's what the new marketing boss thinks.

ME Bank, which positions itself as the fairer alternative to the big four banking players Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and ANZ and is ramping up its marketing this year after appointing Rebecca James, former Lavender managing director, as its first chief marketing officer.

She will oversee the final year of implementing a three year tech transformation strategy that she said will allow the bank to offer services it hasn’t been able to before and streamline processes like online account opening that are often complicated across the banking industry.

James told AdNews: “Within the product suite of banking it's quite homogeneous – apart from pricing there's a lot of similarities. It’s very difficult for the customer to tell the difference between a lot of those products. How we can challenge those big four is through the experience and services we offer to build differentiation.”

Former Commonwealth Bank CMO Andy Lark, though, believes that while products available from the bigger banks might lack differentiation. In part he said that is because consumers don't really want it. Banking, he reckoned, has a low level of switching because consumers develop a strong preference for their bank and are likely to switch for events and specific products like mortgages or loans, rather than switching their allegiance.

The key to whether ME Bank can tempt people to switch is if the development of those products and services has been with the customer focus from the start not just tacking on marketing.

ME Bank has brought the existing functions of product, brand and marketing under James's remit to make sure that every business decision is driven by a customer focus.

“It's an opportunity to look after end to end responsibility for the customer through product pricing, experience through to brand and marketing,” she said.

The bank currently has around 290,000 members and plans to grow its customer numbers significantly in the next 12 months. It is setting its sights on the 5 million members of industry super funds – the organisations which established the bank. It plans to roll out communications and marketing activity encourages them to switch from its main banking rivals Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and ANZ to get a fairer deal.

James says there is an untapped opportunity to leverage relationships with those funds and their members and cross promote services.

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