How Bank of the West Is Rewriting the Finserv Content Playbook With Sustainability Storytelling
Contently Case Stories gives a behind-the-scenes look at the amazing work Contently’s customers are creating.
When you first land on Means and Matters, it doesn’t seem like a publication run by a bank. There’s longform reporting on the dramatic rise of food insecurity in America. A guide to C02 told by cats, cars, and kegs. A story titled “Lisa Simpson Was the OG Greta Thunberg.”
Yet, Means and Matters—a new website filled with “Stories of Money and Sustainability”—is run by Bank of the West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas. But this isn’t another example of a financial services company co-opting a good cause to sell you things. Means and Matters just won two Webby Awards for a very good reason: because the incredible content on the site is backed up by the values and actions of Bank of the West.
Bank of the West is one of the most environmentally friendly banks on earth. The company doesn’t finance arctic drilling, coal-fired power plants, big tobacco, fracking, shale, or tar sands mining, among a long list of other environmental policies. It’s the only major U.S. bank to partner with 1% for the Planet, Protect Our Winters, and The Conservation Alliance. And over the next five years, it’s investing $1 billion to finance green technology.
In a world where roughly 90 percent of the money you put into your bank account is reinvested, that’s all really important.
Edelman 2020 Trust Barometer
And in a world where environmental impact is one of the most important brand attributes to consumers, it’s become a huge competitive differentiator for Bank of the West.
A different kind of financial services content
When Leslie Nuccio arrived as SVP of earned media at Bank of the West in 2018, she took note of the company’s content. “It was a very bank-y blog,” she explained. “It wasn’t differentiated. There was more to us than that.”
Nuccio and her team saw an opportunity to showcase what drew her away from the tech world to Bank of the West: the company’s commitment to sustainability and doing good in the world.
“We really are the only leading bank in the country that has these policies,” she said. “We don’t have to always be talking about banking and bank accounts. The intersection of money and sustainability is a really interesting place to explore.”
On occasion, there will be a mention of their 1% for the Planet account, or an embed of the fantastic video below, which quizzes consumers on what they think banks do with their money. But right now, the focus is to build awareness and relationships.
There was also a chance to explore other meaningful topics important to the company. Bank of the West’s CEO, Nandita Bakshi, is a woman of color and an Indian immigrant, which is wildly uncommon for CEOs in the finserv industry. (Just 3 percent of bank CEOs globally are women; women of color CEOs are so rare there’s not even a stat available.) That highlighted an opportunity to focus on how women and minorities access capital, and how the denial of access to capital is one of the most potent ways that women and minorities are oppressed.
“We really are the only leading bank in the country that has these policies,” Nuccio said. “We don’t have to always be talking about banking and bank accounts. The intersection of money and sustainability is a really interesting place to explore.”
That desire to tell a wide array of powerful stories is also what led Bank of the West to partner with Contently, which provides the technology to manage, measure, and optimize their content program, as well as the freelance talent to tell a wide array of engaging stories.
That’s allowed Bank of the West to tell both original reported longform stories, like this feature on the sustainable soul of hip-hop, and interactive stories, like this illustrated tribute to women in the pandemic.
The sleek, modern design of Means & Matters was also completed through Contently’s platform and freelance network in 2020, leading to the publication’s launch in September. While the publication is still young, the results are promising so far, and its two Webby Award wins are well deserved.
Driving results that matter
Means & Matters isn’t just about building an audience. It ladders up to higher business objectives: Inspiring conscious consumers to think about where they put their money, and why using Bank of the West would help align their finances with their values.
That requires building relationships with people who wouldn’t otherwise find themselves on Bank of the West’s website. The average reader spends 2 minutes and 30 seconds engaging with stories on Means & Matters, as measured by Contently’s Performance Analytics, which only counts active engagement. That’s 54 percent higher than the finance industry average across Contently’s Analytics.
Means & Matters is also earning loyalty. Thirty percent of its audience consists of returning visitors, even though the publication has only been around for six months. And thanks to a distribution strategy that spans paid, social, owned, and earned, their audience is growing.
“If somebody is taking the time to read your entire article, they’re probably way more likely to remember your brand than they are if they just clicked on an ad four times,” Nuccio said.
The average reader spends 2 minutes and 30 seconds engaging with stories on Means & Matters, as measured by Contently’s Performance Analytics, which only counts active engagement. That’s 54 percent higher than the finance industry average.
The other place Means & Matters is making an impact is sales enablement. For instance, Bank of the West has a large agriculture customer base. Stories like this magazine-quality exploration of food insecurity in America, which highlights BIPOC-owned businesses making a difference, gives advisors a great piece of content to share with customers. And it also allows Bank of the West to give the businesses they support some much-needed free press.
But while this content is helping sales, Nuccio and her team are deliberately avoiding the hard sell in their content.
“This needs to be of use to the end consumer,” Nuccio said. “It’s not about us.”Image by Rudzhan Nagiev