Roger Ramsden cannot be accused of merely dipping his toe in the water in his first foray into financial services. As Prudential marketing director, he plans to spend£20m on a relaunch of one of the UK's biggest brands.
He joined Pru a year ago after seven years at supermarket Safeway and last month launched the Plan from the Pru campaign, intended to pick up where the Man from the Pru left off.
Ramsden arrived at the Pru only around eight months after the brand started attracting headlines for all the wrong reasons with the axing of its 1,400-strong salesforce.
He says his role and this task is a challenge, not least because it is his first foray into financial services marketing after a seven-year stint at Safeway, where he quit his position as marketing director to join the Pru.
As well as taking the new-look Pru to the mass market, he says his other biggest challenge is getting used to country living, having moved from London to Berkshire. Having a garden “bigger than the size of his desk” is also taking some getting used to.
Ramsden is confident he can cope with marketing financial services rather than cans of beans and says he is pleased to have made the career change. “The Pru is a fantastic brand and I am first and foremost a marketeer. But service marketing is an enormous challenge, especially because we have lots of different types of contact points with the customer, including IFAs, and we have to ensure the brand is always consistent.”
And a marketeer he seems to be through and through, making it very difficult to get much of the man behind the brand.
The new £20m “lifestyle” marketing campaign involving TV, press and poster advertising hit the screens late last month with the aim of getting people to think about their finances.
Although the crux of the campaign is consumer-focused, Ramsden is adamant IFAs are an important target in the push to interest people in its savings, protection, retirement and mortgage products. People who receive a Pru plan and then decide they want more detailed, face-to-face advice will be advised to visit their IFA or contact IFA Promotion to find one.
Ramsden says: “We have done a huge amount of work to introduce IFAs to the plan and will work with them to deliver marketing material and ensure our quality of service.”
Currently about 60 to 65 per cent of Pru's business is through IFAs and Ramsden says business-to-business marketing is a key part of the new campaign.
He believes a brand trusted by IFAs will make the Pru an attractive proposition for a multi-tie if CP121 moves the industry in that direction.
“One consideration for distributors when looking at what product to stock is having a highly trusted brand in the marketplace.”
Ramsden is critical of financial services marketing although he will not be drawn into naming and shaming, saying ads are too complex and product-orientated.
This explains why Pru has opted for more abstract advertising using poetry which is intended to cut through the promotion that is already bombarding people. “The poems are not about financial products but about peoples' needs, most of which cannot be fulfilled easily without money.”
Ramsden dismisses criticism that the Plan from the Pru does not have great connotations, given the demise of the Man from the Pru.
“There is affection for the Man from the Pru and people get emotional but times have changed and people are not at home as much – look at the proportion of women who are working.”
He says the new campaign has two roles, one is the need to re-establish the Pru brand which has not been advertised nationally for five years and the other is to tackle the problem of financial services not being well understood by the general public.
The ultimate aim is to help close the £27bn savings gap by targeting the middle-income group of the mass market.
He denies that the campaign marks a change of strategy for the Pru but says it is looking at new product areas, including equity release and money-back annuities.
Some might see this as a strange time to embark on a major advertising campaign, given that no one really knows what the market will look like following reviews such as CP121 and Sandler, but to Ramsden the main thing is building a consistent image of the Pru brand.
He believes a well known brand will help the Pru cope with any changes that come out of reviews which in the main he supports. “I support the principles of Sandler in that it will make things more straightforward,” he says.
Given the cynicism of the IFA market, especially since many people made redundant from the Pru opted to become IFAs, Ramsden has his work cut out for him.
But Prudential believes its size and multi-distribution strategy will help it win out in the post-direct sales era. The irony is that with so many of its former direct salesmen now working as IFAs they could be the first to know if the initiative that replaced them is working.
Lives: Berkshire, with wife and three children
Born: Halifax in1960
Education and qualifications: Read modern history at Oxford University from 1979-1982
Career to date: 1982-1987 – marketing Elida Gibbs personal care products at Unilever; 1987-1994 – consultant at Boston Consulting Group; 1994-2001 -various roles including marketing and format director at Safeway; October 2001 to date marketing director at the Pru.
Career ambition: To be a member of the team that successfully promotes the UK Pru business
Life ambition: To look back on what he's done and have had a good professional career and to have enjoyed himself
Likes: Outdoor activities such as hill-walking as well as theatre and opera
Dislikes: Coconut, including the “blue ones in Quality Street”
Car: Toyota Amazon
Peers say: “He is running the bravest financial services campaign in years.”