How HSBC Banks on Employee Advocacy

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Banking. Probably not the first industry you think of when discussing employee advocacy. How can a bank use workforce marketing at scale? I’ve spoken to Camila Romuld of HSBC to find out more.

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Tell us about HSBC and what you do there, please.

HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial service organisations. We serve more than 45 million customers through four global business. So we have retail banking and wealth management, commercial banking, global banking and markets and global private banking. Now our network covers 71 countries and territories in Europe, Asia and Middle East and Africa, South America and Latin America. Then we have around four and a half thousand offices worldwide and we aim to be where the growth is, connecting customers to opportunities and enabling business to thrive and economies to prosper and helping people to fulfil their hopes and realise ambitions. I think that’s what HSBC stands for.

I am responsible for the global strategy planning and execution for social media in two of our global businesses. So I look after commercial banking and global banking and markets, more the B2B side of HSBC. Today, HSBC is active on social media in over 20 countries across the globe. So this is me.

What prompted HSBC to launch an employee advocacy program?

I can say from two different perspectives. So from a marketing perspective, there were three points. One was to dismiss the perception that relationship managers are solely operational and not capable of having more strategic and high-level conversations. Second, we really want to increase the HSBC brand familiarity and increase familiarity across products, building relationships with prospects and current clients. Third, from the HR perspective, is to gain understanding of how employees are sharing content and then how it impacts hiring across various target markets and functions.

Were there any particular problems you were looking to solve?

Well, you always have problems to solve. So I think two main points were; one to help to build our employee social media profiles. So then show the power of social media and how it can help on a day-to-day execution of their jobs. The second one is to leverage our content with our employees through a smart platform without having to spend the time and the money to build this platform. So LinkedIn Elevate came in to make us much more efficient and to help us to leverage the right content to the right employees in a very user-friendly platform.

What types of content do you distribute to employees and what gets the most engagement?

We have a wide range of content, a mix of HSBC content that is produced by HSBC and this type of content comes from the marketing, from the business, HR or corporate comms areas or non-HSBC content that we source from, let’s say, trusted sources of content such as Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist and everything else. The mix between HSBC and non-HSBC content is what we want as I don’t think our employees should be only taking about HSBC products and content. But we should also show current and the relevant industry news to show to our network that we are up to what’s going on in the world.

Also because we have a mix of employees from very different departments on Elevate. Our most engaging pieces may vary depending on what these employees are from. So we have employees from HR and corporate comms, employees from business and employees from the marketing area. So I can tell you like as an example our HR content, the one of the most popular ones recently, was our 2016 summer program in Hong Kong. It’s been extremely popular. From the business content, this is a great piece of content that came from our Israel office with a grand opening of The Floor, Israel’s new Fintech Hub and HSBC is one of the founding partners which was very exciting for our offices in Israel. So it’s been extremely popular with our business employees.

Then with the marketing employees we have to say one of my favourite things has been 15 Things To Remove From Your Website Immediately. So it’s been the most popular one. I think it’s worth mentioning that we have defined content topics so each article is allocated to a topic so employees subscribe the top two topics they’re interested in. So basically they’re only fed with information they are looking for.

What are the benefits to HSBC and to employees in this program?

From the perspective of HSBC, our relationship managers are building the networks faster. The HSBC company page have been attaining more followers and more prospective hires are applying for jobs than previously. I thought it’d be nice to give you quotes from whoever is using Elevate in the markets instead of me talking more.

So I’ve got a comment that came from Israel, where we have 70% of employees using Elevate, from our CEO, CFO all the way to relationship managers. I have to quote the head of marketing from Israel. He sent me his lovely feedback saying, “Elevate is uber positive. This product help empower our employees to be social, professionals, endorsing HSBC brand while building our own professional brand on LinkedIn. As such, LinkedIn engagement and enthusiasm levels are phenomenal, manifested by highest employees share rate, overall numbers of social engagement figures and overall user feedback.” So it’s been extremely positive, the feedback that came from our offices in Israel.

I’ve saved a few quotes here from our team in Australia, that they’ve done so well that they were awarded an internal marketing award, of course, for the best relationship manager program in Asia. So LinkedIn Elevate won that in Australia. Then we went around and asked everyone who was using what is great about Elevate. Two things came out quite frequently and they say, “The automated and mobile platform which makes the shared link content efficient and having great articles ready to choose from in an avenue to recommend content has been great.”

Then we also asked them about sales leads if they had any. Three main comments were; they have noticed that they receive interaction from potential vendors, stakeholders which may be useful down the track. Someone else said that no sales leads yet, however he says it has helped HSBC out in the market among my connections and also to increase engagement within their networks.

The last one said “It seems to be mainly be read by our competitors but it’s great at raising awareness amongst them. It’s important that I am recognised as a thought leader with my followers.” So I think it’s great to see that our employees are seeing the value of employee advocacy.

In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?

I wish we had had one social media lead in each region before I launched Elevate because I’m the only global social media lead here based in London. So it would have given me much more of a fluid execution to launch this programme. It was a challenge, for example, to have New York, London and Sydney on the same call.

I remember the only option was to get New York and Sydney on the same call at 10:30pm UK time. Safe to say that a few late nights were involved in the process but overall it has been worthwhile. It’s been a pleasure.

Do you find that employees who are active members of this program are the more engaged employees?

Definitely more engaged. Absolutely more informed and then the fact that there’s an app, it helps a lot as people start looking for new content during their early commuting hours which is great. It’s a one stop shop for all the content that we believe they are looking for and they are keen to share with the network so it has worked really well.

How do you measure success and can you share your results?

We have three initial points there we set up to decide on how we’re measuring success. One was connecting audiences and communicating more efficiently within our network. The second one was to retain prospecting clients and unlock new business opportunities and the third one was to increase HSBC visibility and credibility. So far the results have been amazing. We have seen a huge spike on the amount of impressions. Impressions is how many people have seen the content that has been shared. Engagement and the content being shared by our employees has been great, too.

So to give you a bit of some numbers, the numbers of impressions mean the content being shared went from just over 1,600 to over 5,000 pieces of content which means the average employee advocacy user drives 3 times more impressions with Elevate than without it. When it comes down to engagement, our engagement rates went from an average of 37 every month to 80 which basically show us that the average employee user drives two times more engagement than a non-Elevate employee.

The amount of content being shared by our employees on LinkedIn, they went from 0.8% to an amazing 7.7%. This means that on average Elevate user shares content eight times more than a non-Elevate user. So you can see that the number speak for themselves and these are great results.

Can you tie back this success to actual ROI?

The Elevate team is pretty good and gave us some amazing reports which allow us to give a bit of insight to the actual ROI. So the best for it is to use an engagement rate. Assuming that $3 is the cost for engagement, I can say that in June alone, we had the media value of $25,000 and this is massive because we only have 20% of the licenses allocated and I’m hoping that by December once we have allocated all the remaining licenses, now we’re going to see a significant jump on the media value with employee advocacy.

What has surprised you the most about employee advocacy?

It’s been a journey and it’s always a challenge to launch a social media program in this industry. The finance and the banking industry are extremely regulated and then we always have our friends from legal compliance that says it can always bring some sort of risk to the bank. Launching Elevate was not an easy process from maybe two different perspectives. One, it was a hard sales pitch to the business to get them to agree that it would bring the benefit to HSBC. The second was once we had the markets selected to join the program we had no results like, “Come on board with us, we’re going to take in this great journey. The result’s going to be amazing.” When you have zero results it’s a bit of a hard sales pitch.

Then when it comes onto the legal compliance we had a fairly longer path to overcome with our colleagues, the concerns and challenges, especially because every single region, country, they have different legal compliance requirements so having to go through all of it has been a lovely challenge. It’s never easy but I have to say that a lot of challenges and overcoming these issues, to see such a great result has been absolutely great.

Then last but not least, as I said, our team in Australia that has been awarded has been given award for the best engagement with LinkedIn Elevate. I do like to take also this opportunity to thank my colleagues in Sydney who were the ones implementing and running the program there. So thank you very much guys and the whole journey has made me extremely proud and happy with the results as you can imagine.

What’s next for HSBC and employee advocacy in general?

With regards to Elevate, I mean, we have still a long path to go. So I’m now in the process of increasing the license in existing markets. We have Australia, Singapore, Israel, UK and MENA region. MENA stands for Middle East and North Africa. India, it’s coming next to join Elevate and I’m also in talks with different markets in Europe and Asia to launch soon. So we are hoping to roll out the success of Elevate across many, many more markets.

I think employee advocacy will catch on in other banks because it can be quite time consuming and expensive for any bank to build their own a platform and Elevate is just there for us to use straight away.

More on this topic at Employee Advocacy: The Ultimate Handbook.


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


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