Going Green Can Gain Clients for Financial Services Firms

Just in time for Earth Day, report says that efforts must be ‘sincere’ to avoid cynicism

Friday is Earth Day, so as thoughts turn to being green, advisors may want to rethink their eco-friendly options.

While green marketing has been low on the totem pole as financial services firms have focused instead on the fallout from the financial crisis, new research indicates that perhaps it's time to take another look.

This is particularly the case for companies that want to attract new clients within the demographics of the under-35 age group, women and Hispanics.

A report released on Wednesday containing research by consumer, product and media intelligence supplier Mintel, titled "Green Marketing in Finance, 2011," shows that 72% of respondents "feel good about working with a financial services firm that invests in companies that are looking at eco-solutions." Lest companies get too cocky about this, however, and believe that a little green luster is all it will take, be warned: nearly half of respondents also said they believe companies claiming green credentials are just trying to improve their image.

Susan Menke, vice president and behavioral economist at Mintel, said in a statement, "Overcoming this cynicism is the key to a successful green marketing campaign that really stands out. But the danger lies in promoting green messaging in a way that only feeds this cynicism. In order for a green campaign to be effective, the consumer must feel like the company is truly sincere."

How to do that? Walk the walk. According to the study, companies that take green to heart and show by their actions that they take it seriously by, for instance, running a green corporate headquarters, come in head and shoulders above the rest. A little over two thirds of respondents said that that is the most important thing a company can do to become more environmentally friendly. With environmental issues an important reason for women, people 35 and under, and Hispanics to choose a company to work with, that should be incentive enough.

There’s another reason, however: despite the recession, the study showed that the number of people influenced by environmental issues in their choice of financial services companies actually grew. In January of 2009, 8% said that environmental responsibility was a determining factor in their choice of businesses; in December of 2010, that had risen to 11%, despite the fact that that time span represented "a very tough economy."

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