The UK’s largest building society Nationwide has
revamped its online channel and added new features, and transformed
its advertising strategy. Meghna Mukerjee speaks with Nationwide’s
marketing director, Andy McQueen, and head of channel integration,
Richard Searle, about the drive to become more


Photo from the new Nationwide adNationwide was the
first financial institution in the UK to roll out an online banking
service, launching its digital offering 14 years ago.

Now Nationwide is giving its online
channel a facelift and adding new features and technology to “make
life easy” for customers.

Head of channel integration Richard
Searle says that Nationwide’s online bank has always been very
popular with the building society’s members and the revamped
internet banking service fits in well with Nationwide’s overall
ongoing modernisation drive.

He told RBI: “We are in
the process of replacing our general ledger. The new internet bank
fits in with that because it creates for us a very agile platform
to deliver all the new products to our members in a way in which
they want them delivered.

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“More and more of our members want
their accounts online and research their products online as well.
So it all fits in as part of the bigger jigsaw puzzle.”

Nationwide’s online banking
refurbishment process started approximately 18 months ago. The
Nationwide customers have been put “very much at the heart of what
we have done”, says Searle.

“We have carried out extensive
research to see what exactly it is that they [customers] want from
a new internet bank from Nationwide, and one thing that they said
was make life easier and more convenient. We then designed the new
internet bank around their requirements.”

However, one of the key points of
feedback that Nationwide received from the customer research, says
Searle, is that the members already liked what Nationwide was doing

“They said please don’t change it
too much, so we are not changing the way people sign on to it
although it will be much more modern and have some great new
functionality in there,” says Searle.

Among the new functions is the
ability for Nationwide customers to see their account statement
details in the form of a calendar.

“What we are introducing is a new
calendar view of transactions,” says Searle.

“So instead of seeing it linearly
on a statement, you actually see it on a day to day basis.”

Nationwide is also introducing “a
very easy to understand graph” which tracks customers’ deposits
against their expenditure, and tracks customers’ account balance
over time to give them an idea of where their money is going.

Being able to keep a tab on how
customers are spending their money, with Nationwide internet
banking’s new graphing capabilities, is a key resource, feels
Searle. Rival Lloyds TSB has also added a money-manager feature to
its online banking offering.

Searle says Nationwide customers,
according to their research, also wanted to be able to search and
filter information and make things “easier to find” in their
database. So Nationwide has “introduced new ways in which you can
filter your things”, says Searle.

A recent Nationwide survey found
that online banking is 20% more popular than social media in the
UK. The survey, conducted by independent market research agency
Opinion Matters for Nationwide between 31 August and 14 September,
reveals that 77% of respondents log on to online banks whereas 58%
log on to Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Searle says he is “very surprised”
by these results.

“One automatically assumes that
everybody is Twittering or doing Facebook. But banking in the UK
comes up as the one thing that people go online for most,” he

Nationwide’s revamped internet
banking service also works on tablets, both on the iPad and Android

Nationwide is looking to launch a
separate mobile-banking channel as well.

Searle says: “Clearly we will react
to our members’ demand for mobile banking, and for them to be able
to manage their money over mobile.

“That is something we are working
through now as a future development.”

Nationwide will migrate its online
banking customers to the new internet banking platform between
October and the end of December.

“We will be migrating our 4m
registered online banking customers over to our new platform, and
not all of those customers are active users of their current

Nationwide is now “focusing on
ensuring” that the migration from the old internet bank to the new
one is smooth.

“It has been the largest
employee-customer pilot in the history of Nationwide and very soon
we will be migrating the first 50,000 customers on to the new
platform,” says Searle.

The transfer will be followed “very
quickly” by more batches of customers.

“There is not going to be a big
bang,” he adds. “But those customers that are being transferred
will start to receive messages about the transfer six weeks before
the transfer takes place. And they can then look at the new

“We have about 60% active users who
are regular online banking customers, and by regular I mean signing
on at least once a week. We have a number of customers who sign in
every day.”

Nationwide worked with IBM with the
aim of placing the needs of the customer at the heart of the
development of the new internet bank. This engagement started from
the earliest vision, testing ideas with customers to understand
what was most important for them in the new online bank.

David Terry, IBM Nationwide
programme director, IBM Global Business Services, UK & Ireland
says: “Digital channels are the battle grounds for retail banks and
IBM is committed to working with our clients to find new ways to
improve the customer experience whilst ensuring efficiency and

“Nationwide’s new online banking
system combines innovative technology and simplicity to create a
solution that meets the needs of customers in today’s competitive
market place.

Bar chart showing the UK's largest 10 building societies, ranked by assets, July 2011



In addition to Nationwide’s
channel investment, the society is ramping up its marketing
activity with a major rebrand and ad campaign.

The ad campaign kicked off on 18
September, the same day as rival Halifax launched its own
rebranding campaign on TV.

A 60-seconds long TV ad launched
Nationwide’s new advertising tagline ‘On your side’ – building upon
its previous ‘Proud to be Different’ campaign, which ran for
approximately 10 years.

The same launch date for both
Halifax and Nationwide is no coincidence, says Andy McQueen,
marketing director for Nationwide.

“Nationwide is one of the most
respected financial services in the UK and I think Halifax would
like to move to that position as well. So they are actively
targeting us,” says McQueen.

The new ‘On your side’ campaign
aims to highlight Nationwide’s “role as a challenger brand in UK
financial services” and embodies the building society’s “commitment
to putting customers first with good value products and excellent

The idea of the new campaign came
about as Nationwide realised it was time to move on from the old
message, as the last Nationwide ad campaign and strapline – ‘Proud
to be Different’ – highlighted Nationwide’s position as a building

“Customers were not always sure
about the difference between us and the banks” says McQueen. “They
were always asking ‘is Nationwide a building society?’ There was a
lot of confusion about it.

“So we had a strapline that would
really focus on our difference and that is what we focused on for
the last 10 years.”

With the credit crunch, consumers
became much more aware about who is a bank and who is a building
society, explains McQueen.

“We were left with an issue of
telling people we were different,” he says.

“What we then had to do was to tell
them what their benefits were. It wasn’t so much around ‘we were
different’, it was almost like ‘why should they care?’ That is how
the thinking behind On your side came about.”

McQueen says consumers are “not as
interested as one would like them to be” about financial

“When we talk about financial
services, we are all passionate about it and interested, but
[consumers] have a much smaller window,” he says. “We used to say
‘we are a building society, we have no shareholders, our focus is
on you’ – and we lost them at ‘we are a building society’.

“We are still a building society,
we have no shareholders, therefore our only focus is our customers
– there are no third parties in this relationship.

“They are just slightly different
messages. Previously we said we have a different corporate status
from the rest, and ‘On your side’ says we have a different
corporate status and this is why we are important to you.

“The message before was in many
ways trying to communicate a corporate identity. It was more a
statement of how we were put together, whereas this is much more a
statement of what we want consumers to take out.”

The new Nationwide campaign is
focused on TV and it will then move across print, radio, cinema and
digital platforms.

“The campaign will develop over
time so we have got different ads launching over the next weeks and
months going forwards. We will be adding more to the campaign as we
go through the year. At least four more TV ads are coming up,” says

The ‘On your side’ campaign has
been developed by a start-up advertising agency, 18 Feet &
Rising, based in London. The reasons why Nationwide chose the
agency, says McQueen, was because of their understanding of the
business and what Nationwide was trying to communicate to the
customers, as well as the ad creative.

Scoping out the competition,
McQueen says the three biggest spending retail bank brands in the
UK are currently Halifax, Santander and NatWest.

“You have got Halifax, which is
going back to its roots with a campaign that they have spent a lot
of money on and I feel it is a very well put together activity,”
McQueen adds.

“Then you have Santander – they are
much more focused on the product and the key selling points and I
think that works for them. And then you have NatWest.

“I think all three are fit for
purpose. They are all trying to do something slightly different. So
all three for me do what the marketing directors of those
organisations are trying to achieve.”

Nationwide’s ‘On your side’
campaign is also being promoted over the building society’s YouTube

“When you have got a TV ad – which
is what we have got here – the actual space for that is YouTube,”
McQueen says.

Though the campaign is not on
Facebook or Twitter, McQueen informs that “interestingly there were
comments about our advertising campaign on Twitter – people tweet
about pretty much everything”.

Though it is “too early to tell yet
whether or not customers have got the message” that the new
Nationwide campaign aims to give, the “support” Nationwide has
received so far from the advertising industry, employees, and
existing customers has been “very successful”, according to

He says that the ad campaign
complements the launch of the Nationwide’s new online banking

“That was one of the things that
determined the campaign design. When we visited our online platform
and thought we could rebuild it, we thought about what we could do
to say we are on the customer’s side,” he adds.

“And that is what we have built all the functionality upon. All
the ad campaign is trying to do is reinforce that.”