Sullivan is thrilled to have been named one of Financial’s Top 12 Agencies of 2020 by the Gramercy Institute. Last week, we convened with our friends from Gramercy and thought leaders across the financial marketing industry to discuss what’s next for the year ahead.

From increased attention on employer branding and company culture, to a heightened focus on the needs of women investors and diverse client segments, there’s no shortage of priorities for financial institutions to tackle this year.

Of course, you can’t boil the ocean. We’ve observed a few unifying themes:

Winning over the skeptics requires taking some risk.

Audiences continue to be cautious about putting their trust in financial firms. More than ever, consumers and B2B audiences are expecting financial brands to use their platforms to say something worth listening to, rather than just churning out the same old content. That can mean sharing unique predictions for the markets, communicating in a more human and approachable voice, or taking a stand on a social or political issue. Two standouts come to mind. State Street’s commissioning of the Fearless Girl statue continues to generate respect and good will three years later. And just a couple of weeks ago, BlackRock’s bold declaration that “Climate Risk is Investment Risk,” along with a commitment that sustainability principles would drive its business going forward, completely changed the conversation.

Fostering meaningful connections can happen with these game-changing moves, but more frequently they happen on an incremental basis. With almost every financial company deluging advisors and investors with content marketing, there’s an increased need to be authentic and credible. While it can be risky to take a stand, it can be even riskier to produce content just for the sake of it, which may cause readers to lose interest in your brand altogether.

The total experience is much greater than its parts.

Content of course is becoming the lifeblood for every financial brand. But for that content to have a real impact, it needs to be part of a thoughtful, integrated experience with relevant takeaways and a clear call-to-action. B2B and B2C audiences, accustomed to the seamless customer experiences they encounter with tech and lifestyle companies, expect this level of brand sophistication everywhere in their lives.

It’s no small feat to integrate a sweeping brand, whose divisions and teams have vastly different priorities and clients. And of course in financial, varying product compliance regulations can also be a barrier. But the benefits of doing so are many. For one, it will unify and clarify messaging — so you avoid disseminating muddled or inconsistent messages from different parts of the firm. The right agency partner can play a critical role, providing an independent voice to help break down silos and bring all of the pieces together.

Sales and marketing, unite!

Beyond high-level brand integration, a growing emphasis on aligning internal teams will set firms up for success. It’s crucial to have everyone working from the same playbook, particularly as both sales and marketing functions deal with increased pressure for performance. And as marketing focuses more on measurement and ROI, there is more opportunity for collaboration around these teams’ shared goals of promoting and growing the business.

Sales teams can act as real-time testers and optimizers of marketing work, constantly reporting back on what messaging and communications are most effective in the day-to-day. All in all, there’s untold potential for what can happen when these teams and functions become more integrated and strategic — which we’ve seen firsthand with our clients across sectors for years — so we’re excited to see what unfolds.