Anaylsis Expert View

Can Islamic Finance Be Human?

Islamic banking within Islamic finance has a tremendous opportunity both within the global Muslim community and the non-Muslim community. Capitalising on this opportunity depends on how well an organisation is able to develop ‘trust’ with its consumers. Given the impact of behavioural changes amongst people and an increasing need for authentic and transparent engagement, the Islamic banking fraternity need to take on board how social media can truly be a strategic edge in pursuit of growth.


What does consumer marketing and Islamic Finance have in common?
Well, for starters, the global Islamic finance industry can take a leaf (or rather the entire book!) out of consumer marketing and utilise that knowledge to develop business strategies that are people centric in order to achieve organic growth. Business is for the people, by the people It’s amazing how little we actually focus on the ‘people’ aspect in business in spite of the fact that its people who make everything happen. An organisation exists because of its staff, partners, customers and other stakeholders i.e. people. The value proposition of any organisation and of any industry, is totally dependent on the people involved. Yet organisations do not put enough emphasis on understanding the people involved in their business eco-system. Business strategy development still appears to be using the classical approach having a ‘USP’—unique

selling proposition—from a 4P’s (product, place, promotion, price) perspective. Not that this is wrong. But given the massive behavioural changes that has occurred in the last decade, not acknowledging the impact of those changes, in business strategy is akin to ignoring reality.

Business-as-usual in Asia?
Asian population numbers often throw off  product centric projections. It’s not just a case of a having a great product at a better price made available easily! ere’s more to it. e Asian market-space has two distinct market segments with one foundation. Whilst global growth is occurring in Asia, there exists a hyper-growth opportunity segment titled the 3rd Billion, or the global Muslim community. If we look through a numbers filter it’s an awesome market size;

enough to make any CEO salivate! But proceed with caution! Asian Muslims come from the same socio-cultural fabric like their other Asian fellow citizens. Faith is one part of their identity. Culture is the other. Culture forms their behaviour. But here two key differences come about:
1. As a group they are very young with people under 30 making up 58% of the population .
2. Their value system is from their culture which coupled with social media and spirituality, makes them seek rich, interconnected experiences. Quoting Dr. Jonathan A J Wilson—Senior
Lecturer & Course Leader, University of Greenwich and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Islamic Marketing,:

“The global consumer artisan as a second supplementary career who seeks rich interconnected experiences and views the world through multi-screens”.

This Impacts Business
Businesses spend millions on research, intelligence, technical competencies, and product & process innovations, all for growth.

Who does all of this? People!
But what’s needed is to ensure effective integration of both soft & hard skills that result in internal and external efficiency of a business. In doing business in Asia and specifically with the Muslim community this comes into acute focus. Ensuring this integration from a people-perspective becomes a must. Islamic financial institutions need a key shift to take place in their business thinking to place their most valuable asset people at the top of their priorities. Organisations who do this, can guarantee a domino-effect on their processes. For any business today, and Islamic finance is no exception, having a competitive advantage is critical. But this competitive advantage is no longer one that emanates out of the product or the service process!

Being human, behaving and using social media
Post the global financial crisis and the resultant recession marketers, across the globe, are unanimous in acknowledging that consumers have had significant behaviourial changes. These changes have impacted on the way they engage, interact and participate in the brand experience. A key factor for this behaviourial change is the rise of social media and interest-based community networks. This change has blurred the geographical borders of communication and has impacted heavily on business strategies. Brands, across industry categories, are moving into having well defined brand experiences in order to differentiate their offer. Islamic finance cannot opt to be impervious to this behaviourial change if it aims to be a significant part of mainstream finance industry!

Where do social media play in all this?
The POWER to DEFINE and CONTROL a brand has shifted from corporations and institutions to INDIVIDUALS who forms virtual COMMUNITIES. Today social media has brought this global community together through common interest groups and sharing brand experiences in a click!

So how can Social Media benefit Islamic Finance?
Maximising customer a affiliations. Taking a look at the APAC data from the same report we find that APAC countries are the one’s still having trust in the financial services & banking industries. What this means is that there is a basic

foundation of trust on which the Islamic financial services and Islamic banking industry can build strong relationships if the brands are authentic, transparent and value benefit oriented in their
relationship development. Social media becomes a key tool in this relationship development. To obtain measurable benefits here’s some key do’s and don’t’s:
1. Social media is a conversation online with your stakeholders. the key behaviourial change that is noticeable through social media are:
A. Everyone has a opinion
B. Everyone is in a community connected through a mutual interest

Utilising social media to get a conversation going is not just a simple case of a brand opening a social media account and simply putting up any messages that it wants.

Keep these basics in mind:
1. The social media conversation is not:
– controlled
-“on message”

The conversation is:
– organic
– complex
– speaks in a human voice
Social media is not a strategy or a tactic – it’s simply a channel.

2. Go All-In It may only take the minutes to create a Facebook page or Twitter account, but merely entering or dabbling here and there in the social media space a few minutes a week won’t produce results. If you’re looking to get anything of social media, you should first consider the amount of time and effort that it requires to be effective with social media marketing.
3. Get That Strategy Ironed out Social media marketing is slick and trendy. While it can be a great tool for banks, that doesn’t’ mean you should jump on the bandwagon without a clear purpose. In the early days, you could get away with strategy statements about “engagement,” “listening” or “testing the waters.” Not anymore. You have to go deeper. Much deeper. Why are you really in the social media space? What do you hope to get out of it?
4. Build your community through personal interactions Social media is all about connecting with people, so it’s the perfect tool to show your customers that you’re human. Build trust and add a personal touch to banking by interacting with readers, offering advice and asking questions (not necessarily related to banking). By initiating friendly conversations on your social media platforms, you can establish a virtual community and better connect with consumers.Don’t just make statements!
5. Resolve customer issues publicly Don’t fear customer complaints in social media. Instead, embrace it using social media as a customer service tool and let your customers know that you’re there to help them online. If a customer posts about a problem they’re experiencing with your products or services, reply to them and help them work through the issue. By engaging with customers online, you can ensure that customer grievances are addressed promptly, and by doing so, convey your commitment to high-quality customer service. Have a clear process with authorisation, potential issues and messages worked out and an escalation process in the case of a crisis.
6. Monitor and Measure Monitoring and measuring your social media success is key to calculating the impact of your social media presence. To decide how many resources you should commit to social media, you need to have a gauge on your return on investment (although calculating ROI in social media is notoriously difficult). For starters, you can turn to any number of online analytic tools, which will give you a sense of how your social media profiles are performing.

Social Media is PRACTICAL!
For an Islamic bank or financial service institution to benefit effectively from social media usage it is critical that you ensure the business strategy has a clearly articulated value proposition that answers the ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ question. Be it corporate or retail, at the end of the day its people who are involved on behalf of the brand and from the market.
–  Learn what people are saying about you
–  Create buzz for events / campaigns
–  Increase Brand Exposure
–  Identify and recruit influencers to spread your message
–  Find new opportunities and customers
–  Support your products and services
–  Improve Search Engine Visibility
–  Gain competitive intelligence
–  Get messages out fast
–  Retain clients by establishing a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP
–  Be an Industry leader not a Follower

Strategically planned social media activity would enable the industry to communicate with the consumers in their own language and interest areas thus drawing them to view the information and start to have a better understanding of what Islamic Finance is all about. Such consumer fulfillment would lead to high engagement with the brand as the brand would be perceived as a point of expert reference. In turn this would result in demand generation for specific products and services that the market accepts. Bottom line for a brand having a ready market demand means having a sustainable & profittable business operation

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