ACI’s Strategic Planning Group (SPG) presented a comprehensive marketing plan to the ACI Council in Luxembourg. The SPG was charged with producing the plan by the Council at November’s meeting in Paris, and has held three meetings since, undertaking what Mike Eastaway, chairman of the SPG, says has been, “A completely open and honest process.”
Eastaway adds that the SPG undertook the task from the grass roots level by initially conducting a self-inventory, looking at the strengths and weaknesses within the structure of ACI. “We have set self-management targets for the national associations, which represents something of an audit trail, established reporting lines, provided PowerPoint presentations for all associations and intend to produce a quality brochure,” he explains.
The plan was unanimously accepted by the ACI Council and is to be implemented immediately. Eastaway says it will provide the template for national associations to build membership.
The need for a plan was decided after much talk and debate over many years, according to Eastaway, and represented a difficult concept given ACI’s structure. This is the first formalised or proposed marketing plan ever put forward for the association.
The SPG agreed that before the plan could be created and implemented, certain problems needed to be addressed. Specifically it was felt that to build the strong foundations necessary, true membership numbers must be provided, given that they must have changed following the widening of ACI’s membership criteria, agreed in Paris in 2000. The group also felt that it was important that subscriptions be paid based on the new numbers. This was seen by the SPG as a necessary starting point in the process, given that the basic goal of any plan would be to increase membership.
The ACI Council agreed with the SPG that the lifeblood of ACI involves three key constituents, The Model Code, education and accreditation. The latter is seen by Eastaway as being inevitable. “It is coming, and is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped,” he says.
The plan to be implemented is intended to be addressed on two levels, from the perspective of the national associations and from that of the ACI Executive Committee and permanent staff.
At national level, the SPG stresses that the marketing needs to start at grass roots level to all regulated financial institutions in each country. It should be targeted towards senior, divisional and line-management personnel, as well as the human resources, compliance and training areas of the targeted institutions. The SPG also stresses that the plan must be inclusive and existing ACI members must be updated on the changes taking place within the association.
It is felt that insufficient marketing is currently being undertaken at national level to the employers of existing members, and that it should be stressed that many of the benefits of ACI membership directly affect, and flow through to, the employers. The SPG believes that there is currently enormous scope to increase membership from within the markets and that any such increase would have a far-reaching impact across many other areas of ACI.
A crucial component of the plan is the branding of the ACI name. Many national associations have yet to incorporate the ACI name or refer to their affiliation with the association. The SPG states that all national associations should incorporate the ACI name as soon as possible, and where this is legally impossible, make note of their affiliation in all formal material. It adds that incorporation of the ACI name must be made compulsory for any new association seeking affiliation.
The marketing template provided for the national associations provides a history, membership details, and the organisational structure of ACI, and stresses its mission statement as well as laying out the association’s charter. The work of the various committees of ACI, specifically the key components of education and The Model Code, as well as the benefits of accreditation, are also demonstrated and explained.
The plan stresses the need for strong communication with members by such means as ACI Briefing and the central and national Websites. The core objective of the marketing plan for national associations is to increase membership by 20%. To do this, they are set the task of visiting all existing members’ banks, other regulated financial institutions, the local offices of the vendors, local regulators, other local trade associations and the local press.
The marketing plan is to be presented to association members at the next local meeting, and a methodology will be implemented to measure the plan’s success. Regional and Sub-Regional Executives will report progress to the Executive Committee and the ACI Council at the next two meetings.
The marketing plan also lays down tasks for Executive Committee and ACI permanent staff. Initially members of the SPG will work with the ACI staff to conduct an in-depth review, overhaul and updating of ACI’s Website. ACI staff are also to maintain regular contacts with the international press through timely press releases to raise the association’s profile both inside and outside of the financial markets.
To reinforce this approach, ACI will look for opportunities for affiliation or joint membership of organisations and also for sponsorship opportunities to benefit ACI at both central and national level. ACI as an organisation is also expected to reinforce the marketing approaches of the national associations to the major regulatory bodies. This will involve joint marketing on a wider basis.
Joint marketing exercises are also to be undertaken with major universities and business schools. This will be coordinated by the Board of Education. Infrastructure support for the entire marketing effort will also come from the ACI central unit. The latter, along with Executive Committee members, are to submit regular reports regarding marketing calls and presentations, and a summary of the progress made will be submitted by the president and vice president at the next two council meetings.
Aside from the ongoing evaluation of progress at the next two meetings, the SPG will present detailed analysis of results to council one year from implementation.
An examination of resources will also be undertaken as part of the plan, studying questions such as, are the existing staff resources adequate for appropriate implementation, or is there a need for a full- or part-time marketing executive within the central unit? The subject of additional financial resources for marketing will also be examined, via the budget process.
Eastaway stresses that the marketing plan is a solid foundation to raise awareness of ACI – The Financial Markets Association, and expects the process to develop along parallel lines as different aspects work through in different areas. He also commits to using the constant monitoring and feedback process to enhance the programme even further if possible.
“ACI provides a lot for its members,” he stresses, “This is the message we want to extend to the market as a whole. The Model Code allows dealers to work. Accreditation is coming – it is already compulsory in Australia for instance – and with this effort we aim to demonstrate that ACI provides the premier platform and structure to meet the ever-changing demands of the regulatory authorities.
“The plan has an important role to play in securing the future of ACI,” he continues, “and as we cannot afford to use professionals at this stage it is down to us to put in the effort. We look forward to hearing from anybody with an opinion on our effort. There is no such thing as unnecessary feedback. The plan enables ACI to reinforce the validity of its mission statement, ‘To be regarded within the business community, authorities, media and financial services industry as the leading association representing the interests of the international financial markets, and to actively promote the educational and professional interests of the markets and the industry’.”