Wendy Arnott

Title: Vice-president of social media and digital marketing
Company: TD Bank Goup
Size: $94.59bn market capitalisation; 78,750 employees

THE SOCIAL BANK: Embracing a new world of open conversation

TD Bank Group’s Wendy Arnott admits that most people do not readily associate “bank” with “social business”.

“The first question we had to ask ourselves is: ‘Can a bank be a social business?’” the Toronto-based bank’s vice-president of social media and digital marketing said at a New York conference last year. “We’re a heavily regulated industry and we take a very conservative approach.”

But Ms Arnott, who is 51, saw that TD’s customers and employees were starting to use social media, and, around 2011, the bank decided that “we should be there, too”.

Ms Arnott developed a two-pronged strategy for TD Bank designed to make it a truly social business from the inside out.

“We developed an internal social network that connects all 85,000 employees in the US and Canada in a very open way,” she says in an interview. “It’s a little bit like LinkedIn, so you can do status updates and connect with different people at the bank.”

At the same time, she developed a social strategy for the bank’s customers. “As we were ramping up on the inside, we also were listening to our customers,” she says. “We were noticing that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were becoming popular, so we developed a social media programme focused on customer service.”

Ms Arnott put together a team that monitors all the different social networks and responds quickly to any questions, complaints or suggestions, seven days a week. The team has grown quickly along with this new customer-service channel; a group that started with three people now numbers 25, with another 45 who contribute and provide oversight. To further improve customer service, TD Bank also created forums on its website where customers and employees from across the bank can interact.

Social is now also part of the company’s marketing strategy, she adds. TD Bank sticks to the soft sell when on social channels. “Social is a conversation,” she says. “If you walked into a cocktail party and the first thing you said was ‘buy my product’, that would be jarring. You have to establish a relationship.”

But TD Bank uses social to do more than just interact with customers, Ms Arnott says. It also gathers feedback to inform and adjust how TD Bank does business. “If we see a lot of questions about a topic, that might indicate that we need to take a look at an issue and do something about it,” she says.

The next stage in TD Bank’s evolution as a social business is to get even more employees to connect with the public through Twitter and other social networks. “We’re starting with a small number of employees—in the hundreds,” she says. “What they’re doing is building up their social network. So you could have branch managers connecting with local leaders or an economist sharing their views on Twitter.”

This employee participation will be vital to a full shift in company culture. “When you have a company that’s committed to social and openness, it really changes the way you think,” she says. “In the old world, you would just say: ‘Here’s our message.’ In the social world, ‘here’s our message’ is just the beginning of a conversation.”





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