The financial services industry is facing change from all directions. Firms need to adapt more quickly than ever to meet changing customer demands and demographics, navigate complex regulations, and keep pace with new technologies and the upstart competitors they spawn. These changes also mean that there has rarely been a more exciting place for brand to play a role.

People may not immediately think of financial services as a cutting-edge industry for brand engagement. Products are sophisticated and nuanced, marketing is decentralized, and terminology can feel overly complex. But now more than ever, the industry is approaching a watershed moment—to maintain revenue and clients and drive growth, financial services companies are increasingly focusing on the client experience. And they’re realizing that the key to a memorable and valuable client experience requires more than modernizing processes, features, and functions; it demands a differentiated brand experience at key moments in the customer journey.

Brand is serving as a critical guide and filter for building the financial services experience clients require. And we don’t just mean brand in the traditional positioning and identity sense, but in the way it influences specific interactions, from hiring the right people to introducing a new way to invest. Here are a couple of ways we see clients using brand to chart new industry territory:

Fighting Silicon Valley for top talent

The battle for top talent has grown fiercer than ever, as everyone is desperate to hire the same top grads that can write code, mine data sets, and build models. Financial firms no longer just compete with each other for talent: the Googles and Facebooks of the world now all go after key hires. The challenge for financial institutions is: with tech firms showcasing innovation and disruption and pushing benefits like foosball and free meals, how do we get young grads interested and excited to work in the financial services industry?

The answer, in some cases, is using the cutting-edge technologies created by those same tech firms to showcase the scale and impact of a career in finance.

For example, Sullivan helped a growing investment management firm tell their cultural story in a way that’s enticing to prospective employees. Engineers at the firm had opportunities to work on impactful and collaborative projects that had global implications, but you’d never know it based on the way they communicated. We helped them use virtual reality to create a memorable and one-of-a-kind narrative about the company culture that demonstrated the impact of sorting through millions of gigabytes of data to find patterns that drive the business and industry. By helping them take advantage of new mediums like VR and extending that thinking to other aspects of the recruiting experience from events to the website, we have helped some of the best and brightest see the potential in finance.

Getting on board with robo-advisors

You can’t look at the future of finance without reading about the rise of robo-advisors, digital advice platforms, and the influence of technology on the investment process.

Change almost always breeds a fear of becoming obsolete, and understandably there’s concern that robo-advisors will take the place of people in helping customers make investment decisions. In reality, most advisors offer significant value above the type of transactional investing automated by robo-advisors, and some even use them to create efficiencies for clients and refocus their attention to more important services.

But broadly, the question remains: how do firms showcase innovation and attract clients without alienating advisors and devaluing advice?

We’ve helped multiple firms strike that balance and keep humanity in the investment relationship in a way that’s right for what they promise, often with a two-pronged strategy that involves getting advisors on board early with these technologies and helping them engage clients who are more tech-forward and self-directed.

Ultimately, the same things that pose a challenge to the modernization of the financial services industry—legacy systems, legacy brands, and fragmented client experiences—make it fertile ground for creative ideas to make real strides in moving these businesses forward. And brand offers a powerful framework for new thinking that can change interactions while still feeling true to who these companies are.