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Episode 47: “Communications and Canada: Emerging Trends” with Martha Moen, General Manager Canada, Investor Communications Solutions, Broadridge

Martha Moen, General Manager for Investor Communication Solutions in Canada at Broadridge, discusses the challenges and opportunities facing financial services firms and other industries in the Canadian market.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain, and you're listening to the "Reimagining Communications" podcast where we discuss the opportunities and challenges facing companies on the road to optimizing their communications for the future. Today, I'm joined by Martha Moen, general manager for investor communication solutions in Canada for Broadridge. Martha, thanks for joining today.

Martha: Thanks for inviting me, Matt. I'm really excited to be here.

Matt: I'm excited to have you because I really want to tap into your vast knowledge of the Canadian market today. But before we dive into that, can you share a little bit of your background? I know you spent time at EY, a lot of time at CIBC, and Concentra Bank just before joining Broadridge.

Martha: Great. So, Matt, I spent the last 25 years working in the financial services industry. Initially, it was a management consultant in Ernst & Young's international capital markets group. I joined CIBC in wealth management initially and transitioned over to retail. I was an executive at CIBC for over 16 years, across a number of strategy product channel portfolios. I amassed some great diverse experiences, really enjoyed my time there. And in my last two years, I led Canada's sixth largest Trust company, that services all the large independent wealth management firms, and the 5 million-plus Canadians who are in the credit union system.

Matt: I want to hit on also your not-for-profit work because that is always as important, if not more important than the rest of what comes on your resume. You have served as president of Women in Capital Markets and the Lambton Kingsway Before & After School Childcare Program. I was curious if there's some overlap in the missions of these two nonprofits as well.

Martha: That's a really neat question. You know, both organizations have a common purpose, to help enable their constituents, their members, get support, advice, and care. And this really helps women and families manage the ongoing challenges of living a great life from a career, family, and work-life balance perspective. As a mother of an 11-year-old and an eight-year-old girl, two girls, for me, I think it's really important to give back. And I wanted to personally give back to the governance and strategy of our school's Before & After Care Program, because prior to COVID, and lockdown, kids can spend up to 100 hours a month in their programs care. So, I wanted it to be meaningful, enriching, and really fun at the end of the day. So, it's great.

Matt: Well, thank you for doing that great work. And we are pleased to have you here at Broadridge now.  

Martha: I'm glad to be here. It's an amazing purpose-based organization. I'm fully aligned with our purpose, and I have to say, Matt, I really love our tagline "Ready for Next."

Matt: It is a great tagline. And I love that we can incorporate that into the theme of "Reimagining Communications" because truly that's what we try to do is we look ahead from a communications perspective.  So, Martha, you're leading the overall investor communication solutions functions in Canada. But for the benefit of our listeners, if you could share or explain what types of communications and services fall under that umbrella, I think that would be really helpful.

Martha: Okay. Great. In my current role, as general manager for investor communications solutions in Canada for Broadridge, I basically lead the overall business supporting the bank, broker, dealer, issuers, asset managers, healthcare, utilities, telecom, and even insurance clients to meet their regulatory marketing and sales communication requirements. A large portion of our investor communication solutions business involves the processing and distribution of proxy materials in either equity securities, mutual funds. And as well, we also do the facilitation of the related vote processing, a really important piece. And we've all seen the trends of the retail investors getting more engaged and involved, really exciting. My team also actively supports continuous disclosure regulations by providing the production, distribution of regulatory reports, and the corporate action or reorganization event information. And we also do some tax reporting solutions that help our clients meet their regulatory compliance needs.

Matt: So, in that context, talk to me about the Canadian market. What are some of the challenges and opportunities facing financial services firms and the other industries you called out in Canada?

Martha: First trend we're seeing, consistent with the U.S., is the acceleration of the digital transformation of client communications. Within the regulated transactional communications market in Canada, print delivery volumes have declined, over 50% in the past five years. We continue to see an overall decline at an average rate of 5% to 8% annually. And then with certain verticals, probably it's more than 15% annually. As consumers are transitioning to newer digital delivery channels, new consumers, they're signing up directly to digital delivery. As new product development comes along in banks and telcos, it's also shifting straight to digital, meaning no paper statements are even offered or available.

Matt, you might phone in and try to make a change to one of your plans or solutions, and they may automatically just switch you to digital. As a result of COVID, we've seen an industry decline in print production. We thought it might have taken maybe up to 10 years, but now with COVID, that's all accelerating. And it may happen in five years or less.

Matt: So, Martha, that's the first trend, you noted there are a few. What else are you seeing happening in the market?

Martha: Great question, Matt. Yes, there is more. The second trend, clients want to be more informed, and they want the experience to be personalized, customized, and frictionless. No surprise there. At Broadridge, we recently completed some Canadian investor research, we found that 95% of mutual fund investors, and 94% of stock investors, they want to be notified when updated documents on their investments, such as reporting summaries, financial statements, etc., when they're available. The majority also say that they would prefer to receive these documents automatically without having to request them.

In proxy, we can also confirm that 90% of stock investors want to receive proxy materials. And as more work is done in establishing the governance models, the assurance and accountability, sustainability standards for ESG, we can expect retail investor's interest to continue to be informed and engaged in these communications. This interest will continue to be strong, and the demand for ESG disclosure info will continue to grow. An example of some of the work underway within my team is how we're helping clients to capture, track and update investor preferences on how they want to receive that information, and through which channel.

Some of this capability, Matt, you know, we can apply it to very serious things like regulatory communications. But banks and other clients could also use it for fun things, too, what kind of interest do their clients have? What are the things they'd like to know more about?

Matt: And Martha, trends come best in threes. Do you have a third trend for us?

Martha: Yes, Matt. You're right. Things do come in threes. As my team knows, I love communicating in threes. The third trend across all the industries we serve, our clients are very focused on reducing cost. For example, Canadian banks are very focused on improving their efficiency ratios or their non-interest expense to revenue, the NIX ratio. As you can imagine, the shift to digital is also driven by the opportunity to remove the expense of postage and printing.

There is also a movement to in-house self-serve models when it comes to changes to client communications and having things more real-time and more dynamic. One area we're also helping clients is to partner with their business and technology architecture leads to ensure that they have an appropriate enterprise solution for composition that is scalable, customized, and efficient. Having multiple business silos on different non-aligned platforms is very expensive. And this is just a great area where Broadridge can help provide more modern, scalable solutions.

Matt: Martha, you've thrown a lot at me. I always love the trends and I love that you fed them back to me.

A couple of things jumped out to me from what you just said, certainly the acceleration of digital and this shift where you said you're seeing an acceleration noted, things that maybe were going to take 10 years will take five years, the role of ESG and the importance of ESG and sustainable investing, as well as your comments around cost reduction. Because we hear that from clients constantly, that they're always looking to reduce costs, often through reduction of print and mail. And one of the things that I thought was interesting from our research in the last year on communications and customer experience trends was that we saw that Canadians were significantly more likely than Americans to be completely paperless with the companies they did business with.

And when I looked at preferences, I saw that 60% said that they would prefer to be paperless versus 43% for Americans. And that's not to say they didn't want to be digital, because there were those what we call double-dippers, that certainly liked to have digital access, but haven't been ready to give up print. But I'm just curious, when we talk about North American results or data, inclusive of the U.S. and Canada, do you actually see a more aggressive customer base, in terms of their desire for paperless in Canada, as our research was showing?

Martha: You know, it's an interesting stat you share, where it's sort of 60% Canadian 43% interest on the American side. While the numbers have a slight gap, I believe in reality that Canadians and Americans are very similar on this front. Omnichannel usage has been tracked for a long time within financial institutions, as well as tracking digital engagement through mobile online channels. And I expect that number's probably easily on average for every FIA in Canada, probably over 80%. With COVID, again, you see the banks, the telcos, other various entities becoming bolder. They're moving to turn off paper production, opt-in clients for only digital delivery on legacy products and services and solutions.

I think they're also exploring enterprise account level consent initiatives, they want to make it easier to move all their clients to digital for all their accounts, and not have it as a sort of one-off opt-in. So, I think this is going to be an interesting area. Naturally, of course, Matt, there's certain regulatory statements that have to continue regardless. I think Canadians are extremely loyal to their financial institutions. There may also be a tendency in certain areas such as wealth, where this is their nest egg, so they want to stay close to the numbers. But I definitely think this trend is just going to continue and as people make the experiences richer, it could be great too.

Matt: Yeah. I think that focus on making the preference centralized and inclusive of all communications is a really good one, where maybe historically those have been siloed requests. I'd be curious, Martha, on your thoughts on the role of QR codes. We've talked about QR codes as a print-to-digital bridge. And we have seen a significant uptick in desire from consumers to have businesses using QR codes to drive digital engagement. Are you seeing that trend also playing out in Canada?

Martha: QR codes were slower to be picked up in Canada, relative to other areas in the world. But another impact of COVID is the wider adoption and usage now. Now, that Canadians are more comfortable leveraging them to get information, services, and access to content they need. In our family, we love it when we go to a restaurant and we can just get the menu online. That's kind of cool, right? And it's introducing kids to this kind of technology, that they might not have access to. Technology certainly supported the transition to this adoption of QR codes. Newer phones have the capability to read them.

It's no longer necessary to try to download a specific app, and less clicks means just a better consumer experience. We also see it frictionless too, and that was an important piece that Broadridge adopted. So, we introduced QR codes back in 2013, for proxy, and then on 2015 for continuous disclosure solutions for mutual funds. So, in that way, you didn't have to send the paper, you could actually just get the code and it would pass you through to the information. I personally expect to see them deployed more often in the future, through client communications, regardless, be it on proxy, on disclosures, or on just simple client statements.

Matt: I think about this theme of creating better or more engaging digital experiences, and that being the driver to getting customers to be on board with increasing paperless adoption. We actually had 77% of total respondents from our research saying that they would be more likely to go paperless if their providers improved digital experiences by making them more engaging. And this is where we think we can achieve those cost savings objectives that you talked about at the beginning, but also providing value and stickiness to the customer relationship.

Martha: From our client's perspective, Canadians want more self-service capability, they want more integrated experience. After spending all day online, clients and consumers may be less likely to want to do banking or bill payments, again, on a desktop, laptop. We always talk about designing digital-first, but I also think it's one step further where it's designing solutions for transacting or banking or doing whatever you need to on a phone. Are the communications digitally optimized for mobile devices? And you'd be surprised sometimes the famous brands that we all know and love, occasionally trip across one, where the mobile experience is terrible, and it's absolutely frustrating. Clients are also evaluating the quality of the digital experience, relative to their favorite brands. Digital client experience, understanding your digital touchpoints, and how they affect consumer perception and loyalty is critical.

I was reading a Qualtrics study where they said over 65% of customers said that their experience on a website or the app would be a very important factor in their willingness to recommend a brand. And the one cautionary note, Matt, I also want to throw out there is really, think through the diversified portfolio of communications on a more strategic level. We know from our research, clients value regulatory reporting, and they want to have access to financial updates on their investment holdings.

If I was musing and I was a CEO or leader of a mutual fund company or publicly traded institution, I have a challenge. There's a lot of noise in the market today. I'm always interested in reaching out to my clients, getting my messages out there to the clients, employees, shareholders. Why not tap into this great value channel and make the content that you're providing even richer to engage your shareholders. But it's got to be wrapped into this realistic digital experience that really drives strong engagement. I think that's the way of the future for a lot of this.

Matt: Well, it's not just about print or digital, it's about that omnichannel experience. And for businesses that push specifically to reduce costs by moving everybody to digital channels, they're missing an opportunity to communicate with customers that prefer paper, and are more likely to open the paper-based communication and spend time with it and share it. And there are opportunities to create a better experience there as well because that's your monthly, your quarterly, or semi-annual chance to interact and engage with that customer.

So, you take these more engaging experiences and think about what consumers are saying relative to the companies that provide the best overall experience. Across the U.S. and Canada, respondents agreed that what makes these experiences better is that the businesses communicate clearly, they make it easy to navigate online experiences, and all consumers can select their communication preferences.

Martha: I think sometimes as much as things are automated, sometimes people also need a little bit of handholding through it too, right? Like, just make it easy, right? In a prior channel strategy role when I was working for a bank, we focused a lot on walkout working. And this seems a little quaint now when you look back but making sure that the frontline client-facing employees, if they are interacting with people, ensure that when the clients, new clients, left the branches, they were able, and they were already set to go on the bank's mobile app.

This allowed us to move very quickly into new client onboarding communications, strong engagement with the brand from the get-go. With new online account opening, this process is even more accelerated. Lots of people don't even walk into a branch or a store to make a purchase. Our client research still shows, if you weren't successfully communicating and engaging new clients at the key early milestones you're not going to be successful in having them adopt the product, start the usage you want, and become an active client.

Strong effective communications can also reinforce, hey, Matt, you've made a great decision today. That's just going to boost your client connectivity, your confidence to the brand. I love this positivity .Matt, who doesn't want to be informed that, wow, you made a great decision today?

Matt: From a consumer's lens you're always being compared to the last best experience that that customer received. So, I think it helps companies focus on clearer communications, on easy-to-navigate accounts, on frictionless, as we've been talking about, on strong experiences overall. So, that leads me, Martha, to my last question. And you might have been expecting this because of how I run the podcast, but how do you expect the communications market in Canada to continue to evolve in the coming years?

Martha: Two comments here, Matt. We've discussed a lot on the macro digital transformation trends. So, I'm going to turn my attention and pivot to something else for a moment, to look at two other interesting aspects, in the ways that we're helping clients manage change for the future. First observation is on, in Canada, we talked about Canadians have very strong loyalty to their financial institutions, want great service, looking for value-added advice. One interesting research statistic is that women are statistically predicted to outlive men. Sorry, Matt. And if the female partner doesn't have a great relationship with the current financial advisor, she will leave with all her assets within 12 to 18 months of the death of the first spouse.

And this is really important because we're just coming up onto the greatest intergenerational wealth transfer. But again, a lot of times the money is going to go to the second surviving spouse first. Huge implications for relationship building in a digital age, the need to stay connected with client communications. How do you drive strong client engagement with women in wealth management? People who figure out that are going to be doing really well.

The second observation, as it relates to Canada, is on privacy. Canadians are concerned about their privacy rights in an increasingly digital world. There's a new Bill C-11 and the impending Digital Charter Implementation Act, it's going to create a new consumer Privacy Protection Act. This is going to balance protecting customers with the need to collect, use, or disclose personal information for business purposes. Canada's privacy laws are changing, and they're targeting to be in line with the most stringent international privacy laws out there, including the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR, and the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Currently, Canada's privacy laws do not address the rapid growth in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and how personal data is shared around the internet. A new digital charter is being developed that entails 10 principles and aims to address the current privacy gaps and put every Canadian in full control of their personal information. While there's significant work remaining before Bill C-11 can be passed. Right now there's lively debates about how to ensure confidence in today's digital economy. And how do you protect personal information? That's going to be key to earning and maintaining trust.

Digital technologies may face impediments for responsible innovation, based on the new digital charter principles, entailing key legal changes within a rights-based framework. Now, the pandemic has certainly driven digital technology usage, which creates additional complexities, some risks for privacy. And some of this is exacerbated by changing legislation. But you can be sure Broadridge and our team in Canada, we're going to be at the forefront of enshrining privacy by design, privacy impact assessments, and being proactive with audits and other risk tools to ensure that we meet the privacy needs of our clients.

Matt: Martha, I think this was probably the most complete and detailed response to this question that I've received. To your point, the changing regulatory landscape, the wealth transfer, there are a lot of interesting things happening right now that we have to be planning for now, to best be positioned for tomorrow.

Martha: I totally agree. I think you summarized it really well. And, you know, when we think about back to the Broadridge tagline, "Ready for Next," to me, I'm always like, "What is next? Let's do it." So, I think we will be on our toes and looking forward towards the horizon to be creating those new interesting solutions that are going to be out there in advance of the changing needs of our clients.

Matt: Well, Martha, thank you for your leadership, your insights today, and your overall perspective on the Canadian market.

Martha: Great. It's been a pleasure being here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain. And you've been listening to the "Reimagining Communications" podcast. If you liked this episode, and you think someone else would too, please share it, leave a review, and don't forget to subscribe. If you're ready to reimagine your customer experiences, consider the Broadridge communications cloud, an end-to-end platform for creating, delivering, and managing omnichannel communications and customer engagement. And to learn more about Broadridge, our insights and our innovations, visit broadridge.com or find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.