Case study: BDO and Interbrand

The Background

BDO Unibank, Inc., commonly known as Banco de Oro or BDO, is a full-service universal bank in the Philippines. It provides a complete array of industry-leading products and services to individuals or small businesses, and large corporations and institutions.

In 2007, BDO merged with Equitable PCI Bank. As a result, BDO needed to establish a strategic brand framework to bring to life the business strategy post-merger and to align its culture with the combined bank’s vision.

“We were just coming off a merger of two big institutions with three distinct cultures and we were operating as an entity without a unified message, nor a common value proposition.  We needed to unify our story under one brand proposition that is common and genuinely practiced across the whole Bank – one that is anchored on service, the genuine desire to help customers and the ability to think out of the box,” shared Nestor Tan, Director, President and Chief Executive Officer at BDO Unibank.

To achieve this, BDO worked with long time branding partner, Interbrand, to first establish a strong brand foundation and then to help the bank’s employees deliver the brand experience.

The Context/Challenge

Working with clients across the region, Interbrand has found that effective employee engagement that truly drives business performance is rare. Too often, efforts suffer from several fundamental yet addressable flaws: First, leaders throughout the organization do not own employee engagement efforts – they tend to fall under the guidance of human resources or communications divisions without strong leadership from the top.  Secondly, these efforts approach the workforce 
as one homogeneous entity and fail to acknowledge the very different needs and motivations of employees throughout the organization. As a result, messages become diluted and fail to resonate with intended audiences.

Today, the conventional view of employee engagement is that it’s primarily an internal communications endeavor with the fairly limiting objectives of sharing business goals and explaining how job functions support these goals. Such initiatives do not link employee behavior to the desired customer experience and thus fail to create real impact to the business.

After developing the strategic brand proposition “We find ways”, Interbrand worked with BDO on a number of initiatives that focused on building a stronger employer brand through employee engagement. The objective of these initiatives was not only to compete more effectively for talent, but also to embody the ‘We find ways’ service proposition through the company’s culture.

The Solution

BDO’s branches are at the forefront of setting high standards as a sales and service-oriented, customer-focused force.

The customer experience is in many ways the 
sum total of what’s transpiring inside an organization, sometimes even indirectly. If there’s no alignment of internal behaviors, it seeps into the customer experience.  Yet, if every individual in the business is aligned and working in harmony, then customers will experience that positive coherence every time they interact with the company. This brings about the very tangible benefits of more customers, greater loyalty, and premium pricing.

What was needed at BDO was a move away from simpler models of broadcasting in favor of a segmented, tailored approach that truly activated employees as agents of business growth – from understanding to action and from action to initiative.

“We recognized that sustaining the brand proposition was key, especially with the turnovers, and the growth and expansion of the business across markets and geographic location. We focused on the customer experiences we wanted to nurture and then worked with Interbrand to highlight the behaviors that brought BDO’s brand proposition to life,” added Tan.

The following practices have been key to delivering BDO’s employee engagement effectively:

  • This was an initiative endorsed and led by BDO’s President and senior leadership. While employee engagement efforts may start from the bottom up or within one division, true organizational impact ultimately requires the support of top leadership.
  • Segmenting the workforce similar to segmenting customers – it’s important to work not only with HR, but also key business and functional heads to understand the different needs of diverse employee groups. An individual working as a bank teller in the provinces will have different motivations than that of a senior banker working in head office.
  • Move beyond internal communications – emphasize how to live the brand through actionable behaviors and link these actions to desired customer experiences.
  • Help internal staff understand the role they play on the outside. Many back-office function employees don't understand or even realize the vital role they play in delivering and influencing the customer experience.
  • It’s important to generate a sense of momentum and energy. An effective tactic is to pilot programs that quickly demonstrate the positive business impact of engagement.
  • Create scalable solutions that can easily be accessed and delivered through digital channels. For BDO, Interbrand created an internal socialization tool that allowed staff at all levels and all locations to search and share exemplary ‘We find ways’ success stories.

Business Results

Today, BDO maintains a strong Number 1 or 2 market share position in almost every major product category of significance. It has become the overwhelming image leader in terms of defined brand attributes, critical awareness and patronage - surpassing its nearest competitors within three years of establishing its brand proposition.

Annual usage, attitude and image studies since 2010 show that customer experience in the branch network has been a major driver of BDO’s image, along with the advertising. Since the beginning, the BDO customer promise has been consistent and unchanged as "We find ways" – and supported by its customer service philosophy. This commitment is reflected in BDO’s customer tracking scores over the past 5 years, in which the bank’s main index score exceeds both regional and global standards. Additionally, among local multi-banking customers, the tracking likewise shows BDO’s significant advantage over its nearest competitors.

“Interbrand helped us with a program to instill behaviors in our staff that bring our brand proposition to life. More than a cultural aspiration, our employees genuinely practice ‘We find ways’ to help our customers.  They’re engaged and are proud to work for BDO, always going the extra mile to ensure that customers receive the best overall banking experience, and deliver better results for all stakeholders,” concludes Tan.