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Intesa Sanpaolo ISB unveils new communication strategy for changing times

Updated comms architecture will focus on the bank's core message: “We care about what you care about”

Hazel Davis


The Intesa Sanpaolo Group’s International Subsidiary Banks Division has developed a new strategy to harmonise communications at a local and international level.

Defining a communication strategy for a system as complex as the international subsidiary banks (ISB) of Intesa Sanpaolo Group was an ambitious undertaking. It required a great deal of cultural sensitivity, flexible thinking and open-mindedness. ISB comprises 11 banks in 12 countries, each with its own language, culture and market.

More than 70 professionals from these countries, each with different cultures, religions and languages, collaborated in several design sprint workshops (an intense process where user-centered teams tackle design problems). They helped define a single creative platform that is flexible and transferrable to the needs of the individual countries.

The new strategy – created in response to the dramatic changes of the past two years and the need for a new approach to communications – has been in development since December 2020. It was worked on by 11 countries and the bank’s headquarters.

The pandemic has impacted the behaviours, feelings and expectations of banking clients, and this has informed the need for new technologies and services to provide for a new way of living.

""In order to carry out the project, we chose the path that was perhaps the most challenging but definitely the richest in potential"


Danilo Guenza, head of external communication, ISB

The four design sprint workshops covered retail, digitalisation, SME and corporate, and ESG (environmental, social and governance). Participants answered crucial business questions via problems, solutions and testing exercises. They then came up with communication ideas which included multimedia campaigns, commercial TV and other initiatives.

“To carry out the project we chose the path that was perhaps the most challenging but definitely the richest in potential,” says Danilo Guenza, ISB’s head of external communication. “All the banks’ communication teams, together with their creative agencies, were involved. It was basically a huge exercise in teamwork, organised remotely with dozens of hours of meeting and discussion.”

One of the key challenges for the communications team took into account was that in the past two years the percentage of people trusting banks dramatically decreased from 43% to 29%. A new message was needed to change this negative perception.

To do this, the team focused on what people really care about to develop its core values: “We care about what you care about.” These values have been addressed in three key pillars:

We care about people
We care about the future
We care about society
A new pay-off – “For all that counts" – was devised to describe the bank's mission to be always at people’s sides, helping them attain every goal, big or small, and to protect and preserve what really counts.

""The outcome of all this work is a common strategy, a common payoff to define our distinctive market positioning"


Renato Vichi, head of institutional affairs and external communication, ISB

Another reason for ALEXBANK’s success in this area is that it has created a solid network of relationship managers. “We’ve also done a lot to simplify the required documentation and automate the lending processes,” says Campioni. In this, digitisation and automation are key to the bank’s transformation. In a few weeks, the bank will release the first of a series of fully automated end-to-end workflows which, says Campioni, “will dramatically cut the time to cash for our customers”.

When SMEs go to a bank, he says, “they need a quick answer. In Egypt until recently this could be measured in months.” The new workflow means that response time will decrease from about four weeks to 48 hours.

This credit is essential for economic growth, says Campioni. “One of my former customers in Italy – a producer of food machinery – told me he had a company willing to buy his products, but they told him they couldn’t buy for another eight months until they had saved the money.”

“This is a clear example of how SMEs are sometimes far away from banks, and how good credit can speed up economic growth. As soon as the company completes its investments, starts hiring workers and producing food, it will increase its contribution to GDP.”

We have some great opportunities to get close to customers and offer what they really expect from a bank – Dante Campioni, CEO, Alexbank

The messaging also focuses on life’s dilemmas – and how, if the difficult ones are solved, all that remains are “joyful dilemmas” such as which colour to paint the walls of the newly purchased home or where to go for next year’s holiday. The intention is that customers will feel reassured their bank will be there through all their life’s events and the moments that really matter.

The joyful dilemma concept has been realised in videos with music from composer and musical consultant Philip Abussi. Each bank can adapt the concept to its own branding and voiceovers.

The bank hopes adopting the new communication model in every country will strengthen the brand and help it become the bank of choice for all clients.

This work has also helped to create a more valuable and common professional culture at the service of the company. Renato Vichi, head of institutional affairs and external communication at ISB, says: “The outcome of all this work is a common strategy, a common payoff to define our distinctive market positioning, a new creative concept for campaigns’ development and a common graphic format to increase our brand recognition.”

Guenza adds: “The outcome is a great treasury of ideas, thoughts and proposals to be implemented in the coming months and years.”

Italy and Egypt are quite similar in that they’re both dominated by SMEs rather than big corporates – Dante Campioni, CEO, Alexbank

There are transport initiatives for urban areas, and new smart cities – including a new smart capital – are being built.

The average age of Egypt’s population is low – approximately 60% are younger than 30, and 80% are under 45 – so smartphone penetration is high. This makes the country favourable to the development of digital services.

“Not everything is perfect and of course there are obstacles,” says Campioni of the Egyptian marketplace, “but big improvements have been achieved and are planned. This market can be interesting and attractive for many foreign corporations.”

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