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Deep Dive 14 Feb 2022 - 6 min read

ANZ the next P&G? Why the bank has gone in-house to build 300 next gen marketers ready for AI, creativity, storytelling, tech, personalisation…and spotting AI bias in the machines

By Paul McIntyre and Sam Buckingham-Jones
ANZ's Kate Young

"We're thinking about people that will be responsible for ethical management, people that will be master storytellers, people that will be responsible for auditing, for bias, and ensuring that the algorithms are not biased," ANZ's Kate Young says.

It used to be that P&G and Unilever would almost guarantee a long and possibly illustrious marketing career as the gold standard for applied marketing after university. P&G, in particular, was currency on any CV. So perhaps no surprise ANZ CMO Sweta Mehra – who joined the bank from P&G – has overseen a multi-million dollar investment to develop an in-housed capability program for 300 of her marketers. Mehra wants them match fit for an up-ended marketing world in five years, not floating in their own bubble with narrow, outdated skillsets. But building those smarts involves deep thinking about what skills are needed and ANZ’s program lead, Kate Young, says empathy, creativity and storytelling will be crucial as AI replaces campaign managers and the rest.

What you need to know:

  • ANZ’s internal marketing training programs are boosting retention and job satisfaction scores in a tight labour market – while trying to future proof a 300strong workforce of marketers.
  • The Brand Academy and Marketing Masters programs are now endorsed by the Australian Marketing Academy (AMI) and tackling the biggest challenges in the industry one module at a time: Data and insights gathering, market intelligence, portfolio economics and business implications, for example.
  • Marketing hasn’t invested in people as much as it should, ANZ’s Head of Customer Centricity and Capability Kate Young says. And it’s worth focusing up the value chain, because AI and machine learning will soon replace a lot of a campaign manager’s role.
  • Empathy and creativity are the new frontiers for marketers, especially when machines are generating a lot of material automatically.
  • Young isn’t too concerned about poaching – the whole industry should be upskilling, and a rising tide lifts all boats.

We're thinking about people that will be responsible for ethical management, people that will be master storytellers, people that will be responsible for auditing, for bias, and ensuring that the algorithms are not biased.

Kate Young, Head of Customer Centricity and Capability, ANZ

There are a lot of ways to upskill a workforce of marketers in the face of profound AI, personalisation, media, creativity, and customer changes: There are endless masterclasses, external bodies, or employee incentives. Or, if you’re ANZ Chief Marketing Officer Sweta Mehra and her former head of consumer finance marketing Kate Young, you can build an accredited marketing academy from scratch.

What started as a study into how the bank’s 300 marketers could be more “customer centric” has morphed into two programs – Marketing Masters and the Brand Academy – that have now been endorsed by the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI). That means the bank’s marketers can, internally, study and earn points that go towards AMI’s Certified Practising Marketer accreditation.

But in the face of an industry-crunching talent crisis, the programs are having other benefits, like higher staff retention and leaps in job satisfaction levels. People like to feel like they’re getting better at their job.

“We've got 93 per cent of our marketers really actively engaged in this program,” Young, now Head of Customer Centricity and Capability at the bank, says.

“What we target is a 10 per cent year-on-year uplifting in capability, which we're absolutely on track with, and we measure that.” Employee satisfaction has grown 20 percentage points to 25 per cent.

The programs cover 19 capability areas in four core modules and are designed to span the entire value chain: Market and customer intelligence, portfolio economics, business implications, data discovery and insights, market intelligence, strategic planning, and measurement and reporting, to name a few areas. And there’s more to come.

The capabilities are emerging all the time as you’re building it... You’re almost saying, ‘Is that redundant?’ You’ve got to be looking into the future.

Kate Young, Head of Customer Centricity and Capability, ANZ

What ANZ has learned, and there are more industry changes coming

“When I took on the brief, I didn’t actually have in mind what the outcome would be,” Young says. She started by looking at what areas marketers should grow in, looking at global research to “anchor ourselves and our teams around”. But just having a framework outlining the areas in which marketers should grow isn’t enough. “[It] doesn’t drive the cultural change or the deep engagement that you’re after,” Young adds. It has to be a year-long – and ongoing – process. This year, ANZ is planning on adding a career pathway layer and a personalisation module.

But one of the hardest elements about building an academy that trains people in a very digitally led world is that, well, things change too quickly.

“It’s actually quite a hard one to solve for, because the capabilities are emerging all the time as you’re building it,” Young says. “You’re almost saying, ‘Is that redundant?’ You’ve got to be looking into the future.” Machine learning and personalisation will look very different in five years. The marketer will look very different over the same time.

Empathy the new USP in an age of AI, ML

When the promises of artificial intelligence and machine learning come to fruition, the technical skills of 2022 are likely to be less important. Young sees creativity, storytelling and – crucially – empathy skills being the key areas that will differentiate ANZ from its rivals.

“If you think about going to market through AI and machine learning, you have to be able to apply a very deep human element to be able to interrogate those algorithms. You have to be able to do that to be customer centric,” she says.

“Otherwise, you're just sort of implicitly believing the algorithms and the results and what the machine is telling you to do. You have to be able to bring in that human component… we're thinking about people that will be responsible for ethical management, people that will be master storytellers, people that will be responsible for auditing, for bias, and ensuring that the algorithms are not biased.”

By 2024, the current crop of younger employees – the digital natives – will become the dominant proportion of the workforce, Young says, creating an “inflection point” in the marketing team – and among consumers.

“What’s going to happen then is that digital no longer is a channel,” she says. “It’s part of the fabric of society. And all of a sudden, the way consumers act and behave with technology, the vastness of data availability… [marketing] is going to be much more anticipatory. I’m almost thinking beyond personalisation.”

Artificial intelligence will take over much of what a campaign manager does today, Young says. So she’s investing further up the value chain, making sure people know how to look at data, research and strategy.

When I speak to people like you or even the AMI or others out there, we're not seeing companies really do what we're doing. And I think that's also contributing to what we will see in the future, which will be a massive skill shortage.

Kate Young, Head of Customer Centricity and Capability, ANZ

A return to investing in people

What’s surprising about ANZ’s heavy investment in an internal series of marketing programs is how unique it appears to be, prompting the question: When did the industry start investing less in its people?

Young reckons some organisations invested in the past, saw the benefits of those investments, and cut back. Industry-wide, she says, there has been an underappreciation for the scale and speed of change that will lead to massive shortages in the future.

“We started to underestimate the rapid rate of change that was going to be happening around the role that in particular marketers would need to play,” she says.

“I don't know that I have a clear response to [why investment waned], but what I'm seeing is still quite a bit of lack of focus or attention to this. When I speak to people like you or even the AMI or others out there, we're not seeing companies really do what we're doing. And I think that's also contributing to what we will see in the future, which will be a massive skill shortage.”

ANZ is looking to create “fat T-shape” marketers. Rather than a broad knowledge and one speciality, “You're going to need to be deeper in maybe three or four and broader in many more,” Young says.

“We would hear feedback from people saying, 'Great, I know there's a lot of courses out there. We have lots of wonderful partnerships. There's great content. The challenge for me is that I don't know what to do'.” When marketers choose what they want to do, it doesn’t often translate to on-the-job improvements. ANZ looked into this and decided to create an internal profile for everyone in the marketing team, based on reflections of their skills. The profile generates a report that details where they need to improve to, basically, do their job better.

“They can look at that report and say, 'Oh, actually, if I want to be really great in my role, I just need to focus on these two things, which I'm slightly underperforming on today',” Young says. “And that clarity and transparency means they can be really focused. And off the back of that, we give them a personalised learning plan.”

If [ANZ's marketers] were to decide to go on and do something else in the future, that would be their choice. That's not something we can control. What we can control is ensuring that we are delivering on our obligations to our people.

Kate Young, Head of Customer Centricity and Capability, ANZ

ANZ the new poaching ground?

Being the most vocal and outspoken about its internal marketing training programs could have an unintended consequence: Poaching. In a nationwide skills shortage, when good marketers are being lured elsewhere with increasingly lucrative salaries, could publicly extolling the virtues of an accredited system at a major bank leave ANZ exposed? Maybe, Young says. But that’s not the way anyone should be thinking about it.

“I get asked that question quite frequently, actually. And the reality is, yes, that might happen, but we don't think about it in that way,” she says.            

“We know that we have an obligation to the business, to our marketers, and to our customers to ensure that we are upskilling and reskilling our marketing team. We have an obligation to them as their employer to help build them and to ensure that they are future proofed and ready. If they were to decide to go on and do something else in the future, that would be their choice. That's not something we can control. What we can control is ensuring that we are delivering on our obligations to our people."

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