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Challenger Banks Europe Fintech Intelligence

CommUnique: ESG Initiatives in European Neobanks including Monzo, Starling and Revolut

The recovery from COVID-19 will take time. The new reality will likely have fresh paradigms for our society, the economy, the way we conduct business and even how we address matters related to Environment, Social and Governance (ESG). 

One of the people who decided to tackle this matter and help organisations prepare for their post COVID-19 recovery is Gihan A.M.Hyde. Founder and CEO of CommUnique, a communication start-up specialising in Environmental, Social Impact and Corporate Governance (ESG) Communication. 

In an effort to highlight the importance of  ESG communication Gihan and her team conducted research where they looked at some of the most prominent Neobanks in Europe and analysed their ESG communication initiatives and strategies through online channels. The initiatives were analysed in terms of their duration, communication tone, audience interaction, and effective impact. The research looked at campaigns that took place in 2020-2021. 

The neobanks studied include Monzo, Revolut & Starling Bank from the United Kingdom, Lunar from Denmark, N26 from Germany, Neon from Switzerland, and Bunq from the Netherlands. All these companies are startups in scale-up or growth phase backed by credible investors and having dedicated user bases.

Some of the findings included: 

  1. 57% of the total campaigns were focused on “Social impact” whereas the remaining 43% were focused on “Environment”. This does not come as a surprise seeing that social impact campaigns are easier to launch and plan than environmental campaigns due to the technicality and complexity when it comes to measuring green and monetary success. 
  2. None of the banks told a holistic story around their sustainability and their social impact efforts. None of the campaigns analysed were related to the banks’ strategic objectives, narrative, or purpose. 
  3. All banks reported that their campaigns and initiatives were successful but lagged in telling their audience the full story and the role they played in making these campaigns a success. This is particularly evident with the “Environmental” campaigns. For example, Project Blue, is an initiative by Lunar with the help of The SeaBin Project, an Australian NGO. In the first 50 hours of launch more than 1,500 users signed up to join Project Blue. Lunar stated that the oceans were cleaned from 60 kg of plastic and more than 250 million litres of seawater. What was not clear is what did Lunar do with the plastic and where exactly did they clean the water?  
  4. The “Social Impact” campaigns focused on a philanthropic tone (Revolut), quirky, enthusiastic, socially conscious (Lunar), Brave, Bold, Advocative (Monzo) while the “Environmental” campaigns used a tone of voice that was authentic, informative (Bunq), positive, friendly, and encouraging (Neon). 
  5. Engagement level differed from one bank to another and from one campaign to another. The highest engagement from the audience came from Monzo’s Open Access to Gambling block campaign. The bank has the highest number of followers on Twitter (126.5k) and the highest average likes from Instagram with almost 1,700 likes (2.91% of followers) and 54 comments. While the lowest was from Bunq’s -Metal Card & Easy Green Plan – Instagram is the social media platform where the bank gets the maximum interaction for the posts from the followers compared to the number of people following which is 260 likes out of 23,000 (1.13%). 

The above results highlight the importance of communicating ESG as a holistic and transparent story. As it stands these banks risk being accused of “Green Washing” if they are not careful and if they do not continue to update their customers, employees, and investors on their progress. This is where your communication team will be your sense checkers and to do so they need to level up their skillset to fully understand the basics of ESG and its impact on business growth, employee engagement and customer satisfaction. 


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