The CMO Show:
Rebecca Shears on maintaining human...

A leading foreign exchange and payments company, OFX is an Aussie success story. So what sets them apart? According to CMO Rebecca Shears, it’s all about finding the perfect balance between digital and human interaction.

In this digital era, finding a way to appeal to your target audience and forge a genuine relationship with consumers can be a difficult task. This is especially true for online banking and financial institutions, as the majority of the time making a payment is an impersonal transaction.

Australian online foreign exchange company OFX has found the key to thriving in this sector is moving away from remaining solely digital and instead embracing human relationships with customers.

“People still trust people. And that’s where the humanity comes in,” says Rebecca Shears, CMO of OFX.

“It’s really surprising how emotional a lot of our transactions are. It’s a big deal for most of our customers when they’re sending money, because they’re sending large amounts. The reasons are very varied, but quite often they might be buying a home. It could be their life savings,” she says.

“So getting it right is really important, and having great service and empathising is really what stands us apart,” Rebecca says.

According to Rebecca, the key to getting it right lies in understanding what appeals to your different demographics and adjusting your marketing methods to suit them. Rebecca believes the traditional forms of advertising are no longer strong and brands need to start strengthening their content with topical themes to appeal to their customers.

“Obviously content marketing is not around your own brand. If you’re at a party, if someone just talks about themselves you’ve got to walk away. So you’re going to talk about a conversation that they’re interested in,” she says.

Tune in to this week’s episode as Mark and Rebecca discuss the importance of creating human relationships in online businesses, creating marketing strategies for all platforms and the importance of a good data strategy.




The CMO Show production team

Producer – Charlotte Goodwin & Natalie Cupac

Audio Engineers – Daniel Marr & Tom Henderson

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you:



Host: Mark Jones

Guest: Rebecca Shears


Mark Jones: There’s an old saying that money isn’t everything, but everything needs money. And today, when we think so much about lifestyle and how money can help me achieve the things that I wanna achieve, it’s a fantastic way to start thinking about 2019. What are the goals that you’ve got, and where do you wanna go? What’s your business trying to achieve, and how can money get you there?

Mark Jones: Welcome to the CMO Show. My name is Mark Jones, and it is a brand new shiny year. I’m really excited about our guests this year, the conversations we’re going to have about the future of marketing and brand storytelling. My very first guest today is Rebecca Shears. She is the CMO at OFX. OFX is an Aussie success story. They’ve sprung out of the northern beaches 20 years ago. Can you believe that? 20 years they’ve been running. They’ve gone global with their transfer business, the money transfer business. Today we’re gonna talk about how do you market money. How do you sell a money based service? We’re gonna hear from her about how she’s thought about the dynamic of cheap, fast and good, and how do you connect with people. How do you really get to know your customers, and what they wanna achieve out of their business and their life. So it’s a great conversation. Let’s hear what Rebecca has to say as we kick off the new year.

Mark Jones: Rebecca Shears, CMO at OFX, Thanks for joining us.

Rebecca Shears: No problem Mark. Nice to be here.

Mark Jones: For the uninitiated, tell us about OFX.

Rebecca Shears: Well, OFX. It was previously called OzForex in Australia. We’re an online foreign exchange company. We’re actually one of the original Fintechs. We’ve been going 20 years now. That was our anniversary last year. It was set up in the northern beaches by two guys who left the banking world and said, “I can see an opportunity here to give customers a better go at foreign exchange. They don’t need the complications of the bank. They need a faster, cheaper way.” That’s how it was originated.

Mark Jones: Were they surfers?

Rebecca Shears: They were yeah.

Mark Jones: So in other words, they’re working in a bank, not getting enough surfing in. We can do this thing. Move over, let us surf as well.

Rebecca Shears: Yeah.

Mark Jones: Excellent.

Rebecca Shears: And they made a great success of it, and because of their friends and network it grew globally very quickly. So it started in Australia, but quickly managed to go overseas to the U.S., to the UK, to Canada, New Zealand. And OzForex was the Australia name, and then in the UK it was UK Forex, and then it was U.S. Forex. From a marketing perspective it was identified just before I joined that, really we need one single brand, and that’s where the name OFX came. We said, “We need to have a global identity. We can’t operate with seven different brands.” Which is what was happening.

Mark Jones: Is it O for overseas? Does it stand for anything?

Rebecca Shears: No, it doesn’t actually. I get asked that quite often. It was the Stock Exchange code, so that’s where it came from. OzForex group is actually listed, we listed, again just prior to me joining, and the stock code was OFX. So we decided to use that as the name.

Mark Jones: Maybe I can help you. Maybe we just call it, you could say, “Oh no, forget that actual real story.” Overseas foreign exchange. It sounds much better.

Rebecca Shears: Yeah. Could do. Also Online foreign exchange, because we do digital platform. Yeah.

Mark Jones: It’s still, it’s a fantastic origin story. I guess the next question would be then, since those days, how has our relationship with money in that context changed? 20 years is a long time. That’s an eternity in this game, right?

Rebecca Shears: Exactly. Well, it’s fascinating. One of the things that I love about OFX is the customers that we have. They’re global citizens, and we’re becoming a more connected world. Money’s just an enabler to that. People actually don’t have a one-to-one relationship with their bank anymore, as you know. Branches are shutting. Money is very much part of just enabling us to live the life we want to live, and that’s really the approach we take when we talk about our product. It needs to be seamless. It needs to be fast. It needs to be convenient. That’s why people come to us. And interestingly, around the world, the banks are catching up, but slowly. So the main reason people come to us rather than a bank is the speed and convenience.

Mark Jones: I was gonna say, you know the old maxim in business, you can be cheap, fast or good. You can pick two. So obviously you’ve got the cheap and fast sorted out. Is that universally what you see from a competitive standpoint?

Rebecca Shears: Yeah. Interesting I would say there that the cheap and the fast is probably what most of our competitors do and we do. What I would say the third thing, the good, is service for us. We differentiate ourselves on service. We talk a lot about digital and human and humanity, and for us the people that we have, and the service we provide is absolutely key. It’s really surprising how emotional a lot of our transactions are. If you ever came and listened in to our calls, it’s a big deal for most of our customers when they’re sending money, because they’re sending large amounts. The reasons are very varied, but quite often you might be buying your home. Maybe a luxury purchase. It could be your life savings. So getting it right is really important, and having great service and customers that can empathise is really what stands us apart.

Mark Jones: So is the humanity of your business, does that equate to the trust you’re talking about in that scenario?

Rebecca Shears: Yeah. Exactly. I think that digital is really important, but with money, particularly large sums, trust is absolutely critical. People still trust people. And that’s where the humanity comes in.

Mark Jones: Because if you think about the big banks, people say, “All right, big banks you can double down on the trust aspect of that in the sense of, well if anything goes wrong they can repay me. I know them, and there’s that big bank sense. But I know that I’m gonna pay for that.” There’s a trade off that goes on. How do you incorporate that mindset into these customers that you’re speaking about? The millennials and these digital nomads.

Rebecca Shears: Well, I think for us it’s quite a complex area. We’ve done a lot of customer research. There’s two types that really we serve. We have one which we call the informed and engaged. Those are people that understand money and the markets, and are really interested in it. So for them we need to make sure we know our stuff, and we’re on top of the market. We give them news, political news that impacts currency. All of that stuff. So we do that, and we do that very well. But there’s a whole other group that really, they have to make the transaction because it enables their life, but they’re not really interested in money. If you try and talk to them about money they’ll switch off.

Rebecca Shears: So we’ve started to talk to them about things that they’re interested in, and this is where our brand positioning around where the world’s moving comes in. We talk about passion points. We talk about global living. All the stuff you said about the nomads, and sustainability. That conversation actually shows that we’re a brand that understands what they’re interested in, and where the world’s moving, and topical trends. Of course we can talk to them about money as well, but we don’t lead with that conversation. So that, I think, helps build that trust, and just build the fact that we’re a knowledgeable brand that can relate to their issues.

Mark Jones: So a lot of the conversations in that space look at lifestyle aspects that you mentioned, right? What are people looking for? What are the lifestyle tips? I’ve read some of the blogs on your site, the entrepreneur who’s created a business. A Queensland guy now running a ski resort These kind of really interesting characters. Are they looking for just different ways to imagine their lifestyle? At what point do they wanna get technical? They can’t stay in the lifestyle space forever, can they?

Rebecca Shears: Yes. Some people, really amazing now. We’ve done some research recently with global citizens. We did this in combination with the BBC. Things that are important to millennials now are much more around where I live, my sense of community. Am I working for a company that makes a difference? All of those things are becoming much more important than the practicalities. Even property ownership now is coming down, and people are more interested in, “Is this living space good for the environment?” All of those things are becoming more important.

Rebecca Shears: I think, at what point do we start talking to them about the money side of it? That comes in when they need advice. What we can do is really help people make those choices at the right time when it comes to them. If you’re an expat moving overseas, you need to know the best time to transfer that money. It might not be all at once when you first move over there. You need to understand the trends and where the currencies are going. We have put outs that can help, and then we have great customer service people that can talk at the right time to help those people make the right decisions.

Mark Jones: So obviously we have to talk about mobile for a little bit. Just how predominant or essential is a great mobile strategy for the digital nomad?

Rebecca Shears: Yeah. when we look at our website and we look at our content strategy, we don’t differentiate now. That’s, to me, when I was at HP a few years ago we used to talk about mobile first. And we used to have these different strategy for mobile. Now it’s all one. I don’t think about mobile any differently. I still have the stats that I can tell you how many people have converted on a desktop versus a mobile, but in general everything we do is optimised for mobile, and will work on mobile. We have just launched a new App, and obviously Apps are important, and our App works really well. People can consume the media however they want, and the same with our products.

Rebecca Shears: So they can choose to use the desktop or a mobile. And in terms of our offering. We’re open 24/7. You can trade anytime. We have a fantastic customer service model called ‘Follow the Sun’. Because of our global presence we start in Australia, and as the clock goes around we move to London, then we move to Toronto, then we move to San Francisco. Whatever the time of day is where you’re living and that’s the bit, it’s where the customer’s living not where we are, there’s someone there to talk to, but also you can trade on the App 24/7, or you can have that customer service. Everything we do, we always bring that humanity element back in as that’s important.

Mark Jones: What’s the percentage of people making transactions just on a mobile device versus their desktop?

Rebecca Shears: Well, it’s interesting, because we get both and it really depends. A lot of the set up will be done, actually over the phone and talking to people. The desktop is still, we probably get more than 50% that will set themselves up on the desktop. But then once they’re up and running then it moves to 90% of the transactions will be on the App or on mobile.

Mark Jones: Got it. Particularly if it’s regular transactions, or a regular style transaction.

Rebecca Shears: Exactly.

Mark Jones: All right. I think it’s always interesting to check in on what’s changing. We’re always looking for those, and I guess that might shape your marketing going forward. This is 2019. I’m still practising writing that down. But if you go back to 2018, it was a bad year for the crypto currencies, right? What are your thoughts on that? Has that, in any way, shaped your business?

Rebecca Shears: Yeah. One of the things that we look at closely. Our strategy is very much linked to using what we call the banking rails. The system that the banks use is what we use. We actually have very strong relationships with banks, in each of the markets we operate in. The crypto currencies are definitely the future, and we’re always asked about that. But at the moment we still think we’re quite a long way off that becoming the norm for people. Also, clearly in Australia, with the regulation and the banking commission, we’ve seen people going back, as you said, much more to trusted establishments. The fact that we have the relationships with the banks, and that gives us liquidity and credit at times. It gives us a much more stable model. For us, the crypto piece is something we’re keeping an eye on, but it’s not here yet, really. For our business, as we’ve already talked about, the trust piece is something that we really dial up and talk about a lot in our marketing.

Mark Jones: Well, that makes a lot of sense. We did see those crazy stories of people buying Lambos with the Bitcoin. I think that bubble’s well and truly burst. Then, if we just think about the discipline of marketing. What’s on your radar for this year? What are the priorities, the strategies, and the way that you’re thinking about how to engage with people?

Rebecca Shears: Well, we did a lot of work last year around our brand. I’ve talked a little bit about the positioning, where the world’s moving. We did the research to help that. We’re really keen to bring that to the fore. We did a great content partnership with the BBC last year. We’re still using a lot of that content and bringing that to life. I think, for me, engaging as much as you can on a one-to-one level with your consumers is how we want to look at marketing. I do a lot of CRM, customer relationship marketing. We’ve launched automation in that space. That’s around making sure we talk to customers at the right time, with the right product.

Rebecca Shears: I think one of the things we want to be clear on is not automation for automation’s sake. It’s there for the customer benefit, and that’s a journey that I’d say I’ve just started. But we’re not really at the personalised level yet that I wanna get to. That’s the strategy going forward. It’s how can we be more personalised? How can we give each and every one of our customers a different experience when they come to the website, or when they talk to one of our customer service agents.

Mark Jones: How sophisticated do you imagine yourself getting on the classic buyer journey?

Rebecca Shears: Well, ideally I would love when somebody comes to the website. We already know who they are. We know if they’re a consumer or a business. We know if they’re an existing customer or a new customer. We know if they’re interested in transferring money to the UK, or sending it to the U.S.. All of those audience signal data, if you like, is what we want to pile into our data strategy so that when you come you can already see the information that you’re looking for. If you’re a small business, there can be a whole lot of information there on the site about how to help you run your business better.

Rebecca Shears: That’s where I like to talk about personalisation. Then we are doing a lot of it, as I’ve said, once they’re a customer and they start transacting, they get a different type of communication. If you were to send some money overseas to the UK, you’d probably find the next email I’ll send you will be about what’s gonna happen next week with Brexit, and will there be a deal or not, and that could affect the pound, therefore you should give me a call. Those are the type of things we do now, which are personalised to a certain amount, but not as much as I would like.

Mark Jones: Yeah. We find that the automation and the product development, if you like, on your product side, the actual transactions, is obviously well ahead. From a marketing point of view, I’m presuming then you’re talking about making sure you can more tightly integrate the two. Right?

Rebecca Shears: Yeah, that’s right. So when I joined, we didn’t have a CRM department at all. So that was one of the things that I felt was important so I invested in a team. We also invested in Salesforce marketing cloud. We worked with an agency, we set up all of our customer journeys. That’s all up and running as I said, but you have to get all that basics right before you get to the next level. So that’s where I’ve got the vision of where we want to go. But yeah, we got to take steps. We’ve done the first step, which was the consumer CRM automation. The next step is,, that personalisation with the website and with the prospecting.

Rebecca Shears: We also work really closely with Google. Not surprisingly, as I suspect most of the CMOs you talk to would say that. But we have a close relationship with Google, because we do a lot of acquisition via search. That relationship leads us to work around our data strategy, and work with them on how we can bring the two together. So understand our own customer data, and then work obviously with the aeons of data that they have, and get a much more targeted approach to our acquisition marketing as well.

Mark Jones: So it sounds like paid search and related strategies are really key to your top line growth. Is that what you’re really counting on here?

Rebecca Shears: Yes, that’s right.

Mark Jones: So what advice would you have then for other CMOs in your position, given those different elements that you’ve stitched together? The CRM, marketing automation, Google for top line growth. What’s the best way to think about getting all of that right?

Rebecca Shears: Well, I think the key thing is understanding your customer. One of the reasons it’s taken a long time to get to this stage, two and a half years into my role, is that we had to spend the time and the money doing the insights to understand who our audience was or is. That’s been really important because, as I said, Google’s got all the data, but you gotta know who you want, and what data you want. We’ve had to work really closely to understand who’s our target audience? Who are we after? And really narrow that down. Then we’ve looked at who’s on the website? Who’s coming to the site versus who’s actually making a transaction? Because a lot of people will come and look, but they may not buy.

Mark Jones: Window shopping.

Rebecca Shears: Yes exactly. we’ve got a beautiful site and lots of information, but we also do want people to buy when they’re there. So that’s the piece that we’ve worked closely to understand who are the ones that are buying, and who are the ones that will keep coming back as well. It’s an interesting space, because a lot of people will do a huge transaction, maybe bring all their money over, and then they start earning money in the relevant currency, and so they don’t need us anymore. It’s our job to keep communicating with them so that we’re top of mind when they do come back.

Mark Jones: Yeah, got it. What do you see the role of content being? Ongoing.

Rebecca Shears: I think, as you’ve talked about. It’s a discerning audience now, and they want to engage in interesting conversations. I think the old school way of advertising, unfortunately is long gone. The kind of let’s shout, buy now, and somebody will just come along. I think content’s about positioning your brand in a relevant and topical way. Having done a rebrand, and OzForex didn’t have a huge brand awareness, but it certainly had a good one going to OFX when everyone, like yourself, said, “What does that mean? Who are you?” Content partnerships of being helpful for us to build our brand with a credible brand. That’s why we did the partnership with the BBC, and we’ve also done one with Forbes in the U.S. Because nobody had heard of OFX. We’ve got great content on our site, but we need to build that brand awareness to get people in to start with. The reason we worked with the BBC, not only as a great brand and credibility, was that their target audience and their vision is so aligned to ours. They’re talking about the same topics that we’re talking about to the same audience.

Rebecca Shears: They’ve got a big expat audience. They’ve got an audience that are global citizens that travel around the world. It made a lot of sense, and I think that’s where our content marketing is really interesting to our customers, because we’re giving them helpful advice, and interesting information As I said, sustainability, AI, global living, all of these things that they’re probably talking to their friends about anyway. And obviously content marketing is not around your own brand. I guess it like anything. If you’re at a party, if someone just talks about themselves you’ve got to walk away. So you’re gonna talk about a conversation that they’re interested in.

Mark Jones: What do you think the role of amplification, and also known and reach in the old school. What role would that play this year for you?

Rebecca Shears: Well, that’s massive. I think we’ve got so much content now. We’ve invested in it, but you need to get it into the hands of people. And actually, podcasts are really interesting.they take a long long time to build. So we’ve got a really fabulous podcast we’ve done with the BBC, but not very many people have listened to them yet. For me amplifying that content and getting it into the hands of the right people is absolutely critical. There’s a really good job in terms of getting the right bits of content out, so podcast might not be for everyone, but we’ve got art schools. We’ve got shorter snippets. We’re breaking it all up now, and looking at that strategy and how we amplify it in different ways and reach different types of audiences in the media that they choose to consume it in.

Mark Jones: That’s great. Just as we wrap up. What are any other trends on focus areas for you in 2019? What do you think should be top of the marketing agenda?

Rebecca Shears: Well, I think we’ve already talked about data. That’s really top of mind for me, our data strategy. We’ve brought a lot of our media in house. We do search in house. The content side of things we’re building up , so I’m gonna be focused quite a lot on SEO, and how we can get more natural traffic to our site without having to rely on paid search. This a big one for me. The data strategy in general. We’ve got over a million customers on our database. How do we really mine that data and use that for acquisition. I think I spoke about that already, but that’s really important.

Rebecca Shears: Then the other thing for me is, I’ve done a lot of work on consumer side of the business. There’s a huge opportunity on the B2B side, and we’re gonna be looking at how we can support small businesses as they’re becoming more global, and they’re exporting and importing, so we can help them too.

Mark Jones: Great. Well, all the best with that. I think it’s a fantastic story, as I said in the beginning. Your origin story, and the growth story. Then I think this vision of a connected world where you’re supporting these people who are living their most incredible lives. I think that’s something that perhaps all of us who are sitting at desks can relate to, aspire to perhaps, to some degree. Also great to see an Australian company, just to get patriotic for a minute, cracking along and doing well on a global stage. That’s fantastic. So thank you for your time and joining us on the CMO Show. All the best with your marketing.

Rebecca Shears: Great. Thank you for having me.

Mark Jones: Pleasure.

Mark Jones: You know, it’s interesting as you think about some of the things that Rebecca and the team are working on, is connecting up their core platform with CRM and digital marketing, and other aspects of their marketing channels. That’s an ongoing journey, and interesting to hear how that’s an important focus. Also, I was really struck by the continued focus on understanding the customer and how you really wanna optimise the spend that you put, particularly from a customer acquisition point of view. We don’t talk a about it a lot in marketing, but wastage is a big deal. You don’t wanna waste money attracting the wrong sort of customer into your funnel. Because then you’re gonna have all the expense of extensively getting them out, or possibly ignoring them. I don’t know what you might do in your business, but that’s an interesting part.

Mark Jones: Also for me too the content marketing thing. we’ve been tracking this for a long time now in the CMO Show, and of course it’s not just a case of creating great content. It’s the old, if a tree falls in the forest. You gotta amplify your content. You gotta make sure that the right people are reading it, hearing it, listening to it, watching it. So that’s a big focus for OFX as well. I know for also many of our clients here at Filtered Media. Amplification is a big deal, and I think we’re seeing more and more money being spend on attracting and retaining the right type of audience. There’s a lot of good ideas and good content in there to dwell on and to apply to your business. I trust that will be the case for you. It’s been great to kick the show off again for the year.

Mark Jones: Please do let us know what you wanna hear. If you’ve got any good guests suggestions for who we should interview on the show, I’d love to hear them. Please do tell your colleagues and your friends about the CMO Show. I’ve been really encouraged actually just before Christmas, people telling me they’re subscribing to the show, and really enjoying the content. So thank you for that. Word of mouth really is the key to all of this, so please do let your friends know. You know how to subscribe on all the channels and all that kind of stuff. Do all of that, and thank you again for making this show so successful. It’s fantastic. So that’s it from me for this episode. We’ll see you next time.

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