How TD Wealth is leading in the digital marketing space

New tools and updated messaging resonate with clients amid ongoing uncertainty
Covid changed the conversation around finances – it suddenly became all about how clients could protect themselves from global uncertainty. In response, TD quickly pivoted its messaging towards advice and practical information.

COVID – 19 changed the conversation around finances – it suddenly became all about how clients could protect themselves from global uncertainty. In response, TD quickly pivoted its messaging towards advice and practical information.

Money. It’s hard to think of a subject more on the minds of consumers in the last year, other than COVID-19.

So, it’s no surprise that consumer behaviour in the financial services sector changed dramatically during the pandemic. And, while any good marketing organization was already using a host of listening tools to monitor what consumers were saying before the pandemic, financial search trends tended to take their sweet time to play out.

No more. As Michael Letsche, vice president of marketing, TD Wealth, Personal Saving and Investing puts it: “Now we live in real time.”

Says Michael Letsche, vice president of Marketing, TD Wealth, Personal Saving and Investing: "The uptake and receptivity to digital marketing knowledge has been huge across TD."

Says Michael Letsche, vice president of marketing, TD Wealth, Personal Saving and Investing: “The uptake and receptivity to digital marketing knowledge has been huge across TD.”

If you’re looking for a window into the new norm, consider search. “Within the span of days after the pandemic,” says Letsche, “we saw a shift in the financially related terms people were searching for, moving away from tactical things – the ‘how-to’ and the ‘what-is’ type of questions – into more advice-based searches, like ‘What is my personal safety?’ And, quickly on the heels of that: ‘What is my financial safety?’”

With consumer behaviour changing and a growing demand for protecting what matters when it comes to their finances, TD shifted its messaging into the topic of better managing finances – things like cash flow, how to help manage debt and surviving market volatility.

“After the pandemic hit, there were clear markers indicating that clients were focused on protecting what matters to them,” says Letsche. “We felt well prepared because one of the key priorities at TD Wealth has always been ‘protecting what matters’ – planning for the unexpected, including events which affect your physical and social well-being.”

And there’s data to suggest that’s still top-of-mind for consumers. A recent TD Wealth survey conducted by Leger revealed that 45% of Canadians say “protecting what matters” – like their assets, health, and ability to earn an income – are most important to them when it comes to their personal finances.

While many Canadians remain more hyper-focused on protecting themselves and their finances, Letsche believes that the upward trend of financial-advice search terms will be here to stay.

“Even after a year of the pandemic, we’re still seeing more than a 100% increase in search terms tied to financial advice. This is the new norm,” he explains.

“Across TD, we realized that the order of the day was to deliver content that could help people make decisions and give them advice,” he says. “So, very quickly the marketing lens was about giving back and leading in the advice space.”

TD saw a 500% increase in the use of some of its digital tools, as clients took full advantage of online offerings instead of in-branch banking.

TD saw a 500% increase in the use of some of its digital tools, as clients took full advantage of online offerings instead of in-branch banking.

Traditionally, one of the most important messaging channels for banking has been in-branch, but as TD had to turn to more digital alternatives, the result was incredible consumer uptake: Letsche describes 500% growth in digital adoption for some TD tools. (Perhaps not surprising, he notes, as some studies say the digital adoption seen in the last year represents four to six years of normal growth.)

Staying connected with clients became more important than ever. As the pandemic wore on, TD ramped up email campaigns, constantly checking how messaging was playing out in the market. “We sent more emails to our clients, which might suggest that you’re starting to dilute the message – but the opposite happened,” he recalls. “Engagement levels were off the charts. We very carefully monitored things like unsubscribes as a proxy to determine if we were doing too much or pushing too hard – but not at all. We clearly saw a significant uptake in email.” He also points to a resurgence in television ads (given that many Canadians were at home), though inventories were limited and production during physical distancing measures proved challenging.

From a digital standpoint, Letsche says TD was in a fortunate space, having already invested heavily in capabilities like digital onboarding and online investing tools. In fact, he notes, over the course of the last year or so TD Direct Investing has seen a significant number of new clients in the direct investing space – and not the usual suspects.

“We saw that the profile of interested clients tended to be increasingly younger or less experienced – which is great,” he says. “You want to be there for clients right when they start their investing journey.”

Why? Because “it’s not enough to just acquire a new investing customer,” Letsche explains. “It’s about how you support them early on in their tenure, how you educate them so they can have the confidence to invest on their own. Having touchpoints with the customer along their investing journey is key.”

In fact, TD Direct Investing launched a new service this past fall called TD GoalAssist to serve a clear demand for DIY investing and education. “GoalAssist was in production for some time before the COVID-19 crisis began. But launching last fall was probably one of the biggest moves we made to break through: to come out with a new service amid a pandemic when many Canadians were at home looking for easy and affordable ways to invest on their own,” he notes.

Speaking of new digital tools, Letsche says one of the main reasons TD Wealth was able to transition so seamlessly into digital-marketing tools and technology so early on in the pandemic came down to management buy-in.

The fact that TD Wealth was able to transition seamlessly into digital marketing tools and technology so early in the pandemic came down to management buy-in. It’s an understanding that digital marketing can solve business problems.

The fact that TD Wealth was able to transition seamlessly into digital marketing tools and technology so early in the pandemic came down to management buy-in. It’s an understanding that digital marketing can solve business problems.

“We essentially deputized our entire executive and management class as digital marketing specialists by providing them with knowledge and insights. We think this is crucial so they can make informed digital marketing decisions that solve business problems versus just for the sake of marketing itself. I think this is one of our biggest differentiators,” he reflects. “The uptake and receptivity to digital marketing knowledge has been huge across TD. Our executives outside of marketing are talking amongst themselves about Martech stacks and algorithms – it’s remarkable, the calibre of conversation is just in the stratosphere.”

Letsche says TD will explore digital tools, machine learning and model-driven acquisition more than ever before as the market continues to evolve. But, he cautions, it’s not just about digital. “You can over-index on the digital front – take robo-advisors, for example, or digital-only investing. Some people still yearn for the face-to-face, human connection rather than investing on their own. And one of TD Wealth’s huge competitive advantages is we have a large pool of advisors and financial planners in our wealth management business who proactively reach out to their clients to offer support, especially now when it’s needed most,” he explains.

The choice of a human and digital approaches – with elements of each empowering the other – is the vision for the future, says Letsche.

“Despite the challenges of the last year or so, we’re connecting with our existing and potential clients in every channel we can. We’re now in a new level set of consumer engagement that will carry forward into a post-pandemic world.”

TD GoalAssist is a service of TD Direct Investing, a division of TD Waterhouse Canada Inc., a subsidiary of The Toronto-Dominion Bank.