Isabelle Conner

Managing Director, Global Head of Marketing

Isabelle Conner ING

How do you see your consumer changing?

We see several trends. First, although customer needs are more and more universal (from Mumbai to Buenos Aires, consumers’ expectations of a bank and/or insurer are more or less the same), the way individuals deal with their finances continues to differ across customer segments (e.g., the older segment rely primarily on face-to-face versus the younger generation who prefer online). Therefore, it’s more critical than ever to get insights on consumers’ behavioral patterns via ongoing customer feedback.

"The company that can cut through the clutter and remove the complexity and package solutions in an easy-to-understand, customer-friendly language will win."

Second, we see the role and influence of communities, real and virtual, growing. Blogs and discussion forums are increasingly influencing consumers in their decision making. The better connected a company is to these virtual communities, the greater its potential impact.

Third, consumers’ mindsets and expectations are increasingly influenced by companies and industries outside of our own. For example, if Google can provide two million answers to consumers in 1.4 seconds or if an entire holiday (flights, hotel, car) can be booked online in 15 minutes, clients expect the same ease and speed from a financial services provider. In short, ease and speed are important drivers.

How do you see the marketing of brands changing in the next five to 10 years?

Customers will embrace brands that deliver an experience that exceeds their expectations. This also implies that the most important promoters of a brand will be existing customers, as they will share their positive experiences with friends, family, colleagues, and broader online communities.

With the recent crisis in financial services, there’s a high level of distrust and skepticism among consumers. The company that convinces customers that they are worth their trust will win, as these loyal clients will be the true promoters of the brand.

Also, corporate responsibility is increasingly critical; it’s no longer enough to do no harm. Consumers want to see firms give back to society and do good for the planet.

How do you expect the changing role of digital to influence your brand strategy?

Virtual communities will continue to emerge and influence consumer opinions. Consumers will continue to rely on and interact with their peers on a daily basis via blogs and discussion forums. This means brands will no longer be fully controlled by their legal owners, but owned by consumers.

Accessibility 24/7: Customers have access to their finances anytime, anywhere. That accessibility will lead to a further explosion of products, thereby increasing complexity for consumers. The company that can cut through the clutter and remove the complexity and package solutions in an easy-to-understand, customer-friendly language will win.

Email as a communication tool with clients will continue to increase, especially as a way of capturing instant feedback on recent client transactions. This will allow providers to adjust processes immediately and improve services.

Is there a single touchpoint you expect will be more influential to your consumers in the next five years?

There are, of course, many important touchpoints along the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase phases of a client’s experience with a financial service provider.

However, we are seeing important distinctions between customers who prefer to self-manage their finances online versus those who seek professional advice.

The challenge is to balance the needs of both customer segments and to delight each—whether it means using simpler products (savings, current account, cards) or more in-depth, face-to-face advice (mortgages, pensions, investments, etc.).

What has helped you build a successful brand?

Key ingredients for ING’s brand success

  • Having a clear vision of where we wanted to be in three years’ time
  • Spending six months researching all of the options for reaching the goal
  • Strong CEO support
  • Incessant communication to/engagement from ING’s 120,000 employees

The combination of a highly visible global sports platform, a global ad campaign (TV, press, billboards, online), a strong PR effort, and over 120 local business activations across 30-plus markets put ING on the map as a global and leading financial services company in just two years’ time.

What advice do you have for marketers at other companies who are facing similar challenges to yours?

Many companies are obsessed with converting prospects into clients. While this is a critical objective, it’s also important to balance your efforts between prospective customers and existing clients. It would be a shame to overlook those who have already given you business. Clients who are delighted during the purchase and post-purchase experience are likely to purchase a second, third, perhaps fourth product from you (which is always more profitable). Over time they deepen their loyalty and become your brand’s greatest promoters.


Isabelle Conner is responsible for ING’s brand globally, including marketing, strategy, research, and sponsorships. Isabelle joined ING in 2004 as Global Head of Marketing in Private Banking based in ING’s headquarters in Amsterdam. Prior to ING, Isabelle spent 18 years working in New York where she ran marketing departments at several leading global financial institutions including Deutsche Bank (1998), Weiss, Peck & Greer (1996), and Prudential Securities (1989). She began her career as a financial reporter, working for an online French financial information group based in Paris. Isabelle holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs. In addition to native English, Isabelle is fluent in French and Spanish.