Office Lives: Joyce Onyegbula, Head, Corporate Communications, Greenwich Merchant Bank
Joyce Onyegbula is the Head of Corporate Communications at Greenwich Merchant Bank. Prior to joining Greenwich Merchant Bank, she worked at Lafarge Africa Plc as Manager, Events Sponsorship & Sustainability.
She has an MPA from the University of Lagos and is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management. Joyce is a proactive professional with a proven ability to deliver commercial and operational goals through integrated communication strategies.
“Nothing kills a bad product faster than good publicity. In financial services, the brand would die twice as quickly. Strategic communications must be aligned with the values and practices of a business”.
What is the role of brand management in the financial services sector?
Brand and Marketing communication is pivotal to business success. Today’s client is well-informed and has a plethora of choices. Brand and Marketing communication is therefore instrumental in enabling business outcomes. A business needs to be distinct and consistently showcase its value proposition to consumers. Having a clear and effectively communicated value proposition improves top-of-mind awareness and ensures a brand is positioned as the consumer’s first choice.
Strategic brand communications, leveraged thoughtfully, engages internal and external stakeholders in a cohesive manner to build trust and improve brand affinity. Ultimately, it continually expands the pipeline of prospects while making current clients loyal.
A cynic may argue that a very strong financial services brand is just about developing and executing a clever brand strategy very well. What would you say to them?
I would quote an aphorism- nothing kills a bad product faster than good publicity. In financial services, the brand would die twice as quickly. Strategic communications must be aligned with the values and practices of a business. It starts with deep, genuine insights into the needs and aspirations of your clients and rebalancing your value proposition to meet them. In niche areas of financial services, every interaction with your business, every one of your touchpoints must reaffirm your value proposition to your clients. As a strategic communications practitioner, you are working to make a financial services brand make a promise that is believable, clear, cannot be misunderstood, and that you have verified that the business can deliver.
So a financial services brand might as well concentrate on delivering the promise rather than invest in communicating the promise.
No. Brand communication amplifies that promise and enables more people to benefit from it. Would you advise a very eligible bachelor or very elegant young lady to do the hard work of dressing up well for a party and standing winking in a dark corner? Beyond creating a great product, the product has to be visible, and the target audience must understand clearly how it can solve problems or add value to their lives or business. Communication is a bridge and a business enabler. Every business must take it very seriously.
Is there a difference in how communications work in the financial services industry compared to manufacturing?
The art of communication is the same. It involves enabling desired business outcomes, promoting brand visibility, amplifying key milestones, and engaging with multiple stakeholders. Communications positions your business and helps build the trust required to transact seamlessly and multiply transactions.
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Both contexts are similar in that you are trying to expand reach, engage with stakeholders, win new businesses, and positively impact the bottom line. However, they differ slightly in the presentation or execution because of the peculiarities of each sector.
What’s the first thing you do once you arrive at the office?
When I resume, I do what I call an “introspection”. I observe some quiet time, recalibrate my thoughts, read my notes, and get started for the day. I value my quiet time, which helps me focus and clear my mind to do quality work.
What would one find you doing in the office at 4:00 pm?
I will typically have my notes open before me to review planned deliverables vis-à-vis what has been done. This keeps me focused on the tasks at hand and also helps me reprioritise in response to unfolding dynamics.
What do you spend more of your time doing in a typical week-execution and tactical stuff on the one hand and strategy on the other?
When I am not working on strategy, I will typically spend time gathering market and competitor insights or engaging stakeholders. This gives me the depth required to provide strategic communications counsel and support to Executive Management. I have a name for it- situational awareness. So, strategy and execution are intricately linked.
What’s your style as a manager? Do you set broad goals for your team, or are you someone who likes to check on what they are up to daily?
I employ both as my team members are at different career stages and are unique in their approach to work. This means some people see the big picture and can own their tasks and take it to completion with minimal supervision. Others need to be guided. With this in mind, I employ a mix of both to manage team members.
What do you think is most important in your line of work? Creative ideas or talent for rigorous analysis?
Both have their roles and are equally important. Communications has expanded beyond traditional methods into creative storytelling and rigorous analysis that involves examining data. Government policies, for example, always impact businesses, and communications involve analysing situations and new developments with potential impact on business objectives. A proper balance between creativity and analysis is essential for strategic communications business leaders. Insights based on analysis are important but so are big, bold, resonant ideas.
What’s one thing you have done in your career that you look back on with pride?
There are several strides I have made in my career. Three of them stand out. As a young professional, I worked in the aviation industry as part of an HR team. I joined when the organisation was about 40 years old. I noticed how time-consuming records retrieval was for my assigned HR intern and myself. I thought of improving things and remembered working in a knowledge management consulting firm with a sound record management system.
I designed a plan to re-engineer the entire records management system. I wrote up the plan, estimating the resources required. I then approached my line manager and explained the positive impact it would have on HR operations. The plan was approved, and the entire records management system was overhauled. This process cut back time spent accessing records by 40%. That was a proud moment for me as a young professional.
In recent times, two things have stood out. First was my decision to start my business in the PR and corporate event management space. When I started, I was very anxious and wondered if I would ever get a client as there were much bigger, more established brands. After a while, I got my first gig. After executing the brief, the client told me to increase my budget as my delivery was at par with industry standards and exceeded expectations. It was another proud moment for me.
The second event relates to my work for a multinational manufacturing company with operations across Nigeria. There had been quite a number of avoidable accidents on site, and there was a need to leverage communication to drive change. I led the widespread stakeholder engagement to understand the underlying behavioural factors. After this, a campaign was designed and deployed to drive change. There was a setback. I could not speak the language in that part of the country which the employees mainly used. I had to onboard an intern who was a native so that he could speak the language and support my team in building trust. The campaign was successful, and the accidents were reduced by 30% in twelve weeks.
I would like you to advise young Nigerians about the japa trend. What should they consider before making choices to join the japa trend?
First and foremost, don’t jump on a trend without due diligence. Life is in stages, and there are no guarantees. Before deciding to emigrate, define your objectives and understand that you may have to step back a few notches before you stabilize in the new clime. Being psychologically and financially prepared before taking this major step is helpful. Also, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so there are no shortcuts. You must be willing to pay the price to achieve your objectives.
For those who choose to stay back in Nigeria, be willing also to stay focused. It’s not always a walk in the park, and the proverbial grass is not always greener on “the other side”. Be ready to dedicate time to your work and survive headwinds. Ensure your position optimizes value for your career.
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What is your favourite part of the job?
Communications has several parts, but my favourite is the creative aspect. Creativity opens doors to various possibilities, from amplifying brand narratives to engaging stakeholders across touch points. My creative side also comes to play when telling brand stories on digital platforms. You can also develop stories that make your products very relatable and trustworthy once you properly understand your audience.
You deal with a particular kind of clientele when handling communications for high-end financial services brands. Could you give us an idea of your typical target?
My target audience or typical stakeholder is a high-network individual. This person is well-read, widely traveled, well-informed, and pays for value. As someone who understands how things work in other climes, he has high expectations and doesn’t mind paying more to meet his / her objectives.
So, what are the challenges of selling to these highly aware, sophisticated well-traveled people?
Meeting the needs of high-value clients requires being intentional. You need to have proper knowledge of the value you are offering and know exactly how that can help them meet a specific need. Additionally, you need to know the points to engage. You have to think about questions like, “where do my clients spend their time, and what do they get involved in while they are there?”. This will drive targeted initiatives to attract their attention and ultimately guide them to transact with the brand. Trust me; it’s serious work if you want to do it very well – planning around the lifestyle, aspirations, habits, etc., of some of the wealthiest people in Africa.
Do you need to study such people more than a mass audience?
Every audience needs a very specific assessment so you can deliver great strategic communications.
What next challenge are you looking forward to, and when do you plan on quitting the “Office Life”?
There’s no quitting the Office Life really. You would still have to look at numbers and engage with stakeholders. So, even when people supposedly retire, you will still find them working. Some even set up consulting practices to continue delivering value. This is even helpful. Science shows that work helps increase longevity. I plan to continue to leverage strategic communications to enable business outcomes, offer value to business leaders, and engage multiple stakeholders with unique value propositions.