Marketing Strategies

The 5 Skills Fintech CMOs Need During COVID-19

By Nadav Shemer
Sunday, July 26, 2020

In a post-pandemic world, few senior executive positions have evolved as much as that of the chief marketing officer (CMO). In a tumultuous economic time, CMOs in the world of fintech are finding themselves in a brave new world in 2020.

One of the industries that has been influenced the most from the COVID-19 crisis is Fintech, which already had an impressive growth trajectory prior to the pandemic. According to Forbes, during 2019, global consumers accessed finance apps over a trillion times, conversion costs dropped by 76% and registration rates rose by more than 71% compared to the previous year. 

In the Coronavirus pandemic, contactless personal finance isn’t just more convenient, it’s safer. Swiss financial services company, deVere Group, has reported a massive 72% spike in the use of its Fintech apps across Europe. Social distancing has forced us to manage our banking needs, make payments, insure our homes, vehicles, businesses and health, invest in the stock market, 100% online. This new reality presents a whole new realm of opportunity for fintech CMOs and requires a very specific set of skills. 

Back in 2007, McKinsey and Co. correctly predicted that CMOs would assume a larger role as the “voice of the customer” across their companies. It also noted the difficulty of finding chief marketers with the full range of necessary skills needed to perform their roles.

Fast forward more than a decade –the role of the CMO continues to expand and shift with drastically changing times. The average tenure of a CMO is 4.1 years.

That’s the lowest tenure of all C-suite titles. Why? Largely, it’s as a result of the increasing complexity of the CMO role, which requires the right balance of left and right brain skills, says Caren Fleit, leader of Korn Ferry’s Global Marketing Officer Practice. In recent months, this flexibility has been further put to the test with stay at home orders keeping most, if not all strategic and creative projects taking place behind a screen. 

Being a CMO requires a more diverse range of skills than being a marketing director or manager. In all likelihood, the requirements of the CMO job will only continue to become more complex in the next decade, as more technologies and methodologies are introduced.

So what skills do fintech CMOs need in order to be successful in a pandemic-stricken 2020?

Here are the 5 most important skills:

Skill #1 – Be Agile

Not even the savviest marketing professional could have predicted the COVID-19 crisis, and those who didn’t remain quick on their feet were kicked to the curb. The economic devastation has already resulted in a 9% reduction of marketing jobs – with more likely on the horizon. Agility and a significant pivot towards digital marketing are the new rules to live by in order to stay afloat in this new age of digital marketing – especially in the world of fintech. 

Based on a Forbes survey of 250 chief marketers, of the 64% who are actively making changes to their offers and tactics, 43% are changing focus, product and/or marketing, and perhaps surprisingly, only 20% are offering discounts as a part of their post-pandemic marketing strategy. 

Increasing or consciously not decreasing advertising budgets in the middle of a pandemic and global financial unrest might seem counterintuitive, but it could be the key to staying relevant in an increasingly digital world. According to Bob Benz, the President of Advanced Telecom Services, “Facebook and Google advertising is 20% cheaper than it was pre-coronavirus and internet use is at an all-time high… you may never have this opportunity again.” If marketing professionals in the fintech sphere make the most of affordable advertising right now it will likely pay for itself several times over. As the financial situation continues to be unstable and unpredictable, consumers will continue to be on the hunt for smart alternatives. 

Skill #2 – Be a True Leader

C-suite executives must be leaders and this is no less the case for a CMO than it is for  a CFO or CTO. In the case of chief marketing officers, the waters are further muddied by the fact that the role contains so many diverse responsibilities.

According to Deloitte’s February 2019 CMO Survey, in more than 50% of companies marketing executives lead the following activities: brand, digital marketing, advertising, social media, public relations, promotions, positioning, marketing research, lead generation, marketing analytics, insight, and competitive intelligence. Since February 2014, the percentage of companies in which CMOs lead these activities has risen for all except one of the aforementioned (promotion).

Increasingly, being a CMO entails cross-departmental leadership and collaboration. In the 2020s, the most successful CMOs will be the ones that are able to build relationships and get the most out of each member of their team. 

CMOs are experts at promoting their companies’ brands, but in order to thrive (and survive) they must also promote their own personal brand. Telling your own story is as important as telling your company’s. Fintech is an industry that paradoxically deals in consumers’ most personal ventures while adhering to infamously impersonal marketing strategies. Fintech CMOs should embrace the personal at this volatile time – acknowledging the personal toll of the pandemic will encourage your efforts on an internal and on marketing level. You must have the ability to position yourself as a thought leader through multiple media channels.

Start with your own personal story and build from there.

Skill every CMO needs to have in order to be a good marketer
Telling your own story is as important as telling your company’s.

Skill #3 – Be Responsible

Fintech companies – now is your time to make a great impression on the younger generation of fintech customers. In a study held by PR firm Cohn & Wolfe, it was found that millennial customers consider a brand to be authentic when the company protects consumer data, respects privacy, and interacts with customers with transparency and integrity, and is socially responsible. Millennials don’t care about your brand’s sales pitch or reputation – they are concerned with your actions and community awareness.

In a Forbes survey of 250 CMOs, 79% believe that customers will be paying closer attention to the social activism efforts of companies during the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 has been felt in every corner of the globe, leaving some communities more vulnerable than others. Fintech institutions looking to make a difference during this challenging time are more likely to make a positive impression on their younger, more socially-conscious audience. Millennials are eager to put their money where their mouth is – make your organization a place where they can make that happen.  

Skill #4 – Communicate on a High Level

The need to communicate and collaborate across an organization goes hand-in-hand with the need to drive growth across all business activities. As Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes says, the CMO is as accountable for company growth and customer loyalty as any other function while also across cross-functionally–navigating product groups, sales, IT, and finance–to further drive the business. 

In the words of the CMO of a US-based vision health company quoted in the report, “The CMO needs to be a really great communicator, and collaborator, both internally and externally. The CMO needs to be able to take disparate ideas and data, and build a compelling strategy that is connected across the organization.”

Your marketing department should be a model of cooperation, conducting cross-departmental Zoom meetings, bouncing ideas, and teaching everyone at the company the principles of great user experiences. 

Skill #5 – Be Data-Driven

Data is everywhere, and companies are barely scratching the surface when it comes to analyzing and using it in business decisions. At the time of writing, the Internet contained around 16 zettabytes (16 trillion gigabytes) of data–a figure which will double in size every 2 years. Forrester Research estimates companies only analyze about 12% of the data available to them.

The 2 main reasons as: 

  • Lack of analytics tools 
  • Lack of knowledge about which datasets are valuable

In B2C organizations, it is the customers who provide the bulk of the data. In order to move the performance needle, the CMO who leads the relationship with the customers must aggregate the data, analyze, and draw insights. 

As businesses increase their focus on data management and analysis, CMOs will be expected to participate and even lead some of these efforts.

We’re not saying you have to be a BI genius. But you must know what parameters are important, what metrics are just vanity metrics, and–most importantly–hire analysts that can generate the reports you need.


Being a chief marketing officer in fintech during the COVID-19 pandemic is about more than just determining how a brand looks and feels in the market. It requires having a broad skill set and the ability to collaborate and drive growth across the entire organization – these diverse skills become especially acute when in the midst of an ever-changing financial space, with consumer fears especially acute and consumer trust especially difficult to earn. Marketing teams in the fintech space should focus on branding themselves as the secure and stable financial resource consumers are looking for. 

Going forward, we believe that the challenges for CMOs would include:

  1. Remaining agile, reactive and strategic in a volatile fintech space
  2. Creating rich and significant storytelling across multiple channels
  3. Helping organizations understand consumer needs during COVID
  4. Reducing resources and time by employing automation solutions
  5. Keeping adherence to ever-changing regulations and privacy guidelines

Natural Intelligence operates product comparison sites in 20+ fintech verticals (mortgage, personal loans, student loans, online banking, home insurance, pet insurance, and more), and specializes in attracting high volumes of customers right at the moment of purchase decision. NI’s fintech brand partners leverage it as a high-ROI lead-generation channel for high-quality customers. 

Interested in learning more? Contact us here.

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