Meridian goes national with launch of Motusbank

The Ontario credit union will not leverage its brand to launch the digital-only subsidiary this spring.

A growing number of consumers want to manage their finances online without the assistance of an in-branch rep, according to a May 2018 retail banking study by J.D. Power. The report found that 47% of bank customers consider themselves “digital-centric,” meaning they do most of their banking online. Meanwhile, 32% are so-called “digital-only” customers, banking exclusively online or with a mobile device.

Embracing these trends, established banks have expanded their online services, launching chatbots (see: TD, National Bank, and BMO as examples) or partnered with startups to help position themselves for the future. Some digital-only banks, such as Scotiabank’s Tangerine and CIBC’s Simplii Financial  launched in November 2017 – and financial players like Wealthsimple, speak to this growth as customers continue to migrate online. Some players, such as Koho and Stack, are not financial institutions themselves, but have found a of way of carving their own digital niche.

Meridian Credit Union is the latest to follow suit.

This week, the Ontario financial institution announced it will launch Motusbank, a new full-service digital bank, in the spring, after years spent overcoming regulatory hurdles. The new digital bank will open to customers across the country, giving Meridian an arms-length presence throughout Canada for the first time.

“Meridian is the largest credit union in Ontario and has a really engaged member base,” says Angela Ricci, VP of digital marketing at Motusbank. “So the thought of bringing that value proposition to the rest of Canada was something that Meridian was really interested in doing.”

Motusbank intends to compete against financial giants by reminding customers that, as part of a co-op, it’s not beholden to shareholders expecting quarterly returns. This, it says, will allow it to offer better pricing on a number of services and products. As Meridian CEO Bill Maurin explained in a release, “We are building on Meridian’s unique, member-centric focus and bringing the Meridian experience to all Canadians.”

Membership-based organizations tend to enjoy high levels of trust, but Motusbank will face stiff competition on the marketing front as a result of a crowded market.

Over the next several months – Motusbank is expected to get off the ground in April – Ricci says it will focus its efforts on recruiting members outside of Meridian’s current trade area. It remains open to all Canadians, but won’t actively pursue its parent company’s current customer base.

As a national brand, it will have a lot of new ground to cover. “That’s part of the reason we have not leveraged the Meridian brand,” Ricci says. “Because the rest of the Canada wouldn’t be familiar with Meridian.” Rather, it’s marketing strategy will rest on running “smart, targeted advertising” with customers who are already digitally inclined and are mostly, but not exclusively, within the 25 to 55 demographic.

As it looks to raise awareness pre-launch, Motusbank will lean on now-ubiquitous digital tactics, such as optimizing in search and running cut-downs of a two-minute digital spot that currently lives on a Motusbank “sneak peak” website. The company will also run launch-specific ads, but has yet to finalize the details.

To date, the branding and marketing work has been handled in-house by a small marketing department of around 10 people – only five of which exclusively work on Motusbank – with support from industry freelancers. They arrived at the name Motusbank (“Motus” is Latin for “movement” or “motion”) as a means of conveying its role in creating “a movement in banking for Canadians,” Ricci says. Other branding elements, such as the logo, consist of a spiralling array of colour. “It’s clean, it’s contemporary, it’s diverse, and that’s really what we’re trying to accomplish with Motus.”