In Praise of Women: 5 Questions With UBS CMO Johan Jervøe


UBS Annie Leibovitz 2017 women photo exhibit

In time for International Women’s Day 2017, UBS has gone further down the trail toward prioritizing women as clients and managers of the Switzerland-based wealth management firm.

Annie Leibovitz UBS women photo exhibit

Building on a brand campaign that it began in 2015 with photographer Annie Leibovitz, a touring photographic exhibition, “Women: New Portraits,” features photos of accomplished women such as the American ballerina Misty Copeland, at top, and British anthropologist Jane Goodall.

UBS is highlighting its efforts around women and diversity initiatives with a new, international wave as the tour travels to 10 cities worldwide.

There’s an updated film featuring a series of questions asked in the voices of female entrepreneurs and reflecting women’s challenges. The featured track, “Free Me,” was re-recorded by British singer Joss Stone exclusively for the campaign.

UBS also is launching a white paper on gender investing with Rethink Impact and the United Nations that’s in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It’s launching a partnership with leading education organizations to increase the financial confidence of one million women by 2021 through a Gender Lens Investing Institute.

“We chose to focus the campaign on women because it is important for us to communicate directly to our female clients, and marketing is one way of doing so,” Johan Jervøe, UBS Chief Marketing Officer, stated in a press release. “UBS is committed to further increase diversity, not only becuase it is the right thing to do, but also because it is key to achieving our goals.

brandchannel talked with Jervøe about UBS’s commitment to gender equality and creating more opportunities for women inside and outside the company.

bc: What are the origins of this multi-year effort to build the UBS brand around women, both as clients and in terms of your own personnel?

UBS Johan JervoeJohan Jervøe: We have been through a strategic transformation of the company. The financial environment has changed considerably in the last 10 years. It’s meant to be a business-area focus. We set out to become the No. 1 wealth manager globally and the premier universal bank in Switzerland.

So as we transformed that over four years and were ready in 2015 to go out and tell the market, the global executive board decided we wanted to update the brand. We are 150 years plus, and the way that we communicate the brand and look and feel would signal a strategic transformation to employees. There’s a lot more transformation that needs to happen. We wanted to communicate that to employees, clients and stakeholders. So we relaunched the brand.

bc: Why make diversity a cornerstone of the brand relaunch?

Jervøe: The more diverse a team is, the better results you get. If you go through our white paper there are hard-nosed figures. Diversity not only is the right thing to do, it is the right thing to do commercially. We committed to 30 percent of our senior management threshold being women. That is the biggest diversity group. We are at 30 percent in Asia and on a global level depending on where you look, somewhere between 25 and 27 percent. In the US, we are at 50 percent already.

That piece got reinforced by signing Annie Leibovitz in 2015 to shoot pictures for us and to go on tour with exhibition called “Women.” Then, early in 2016, we opened the doors to the show for free and had about 200,000 people on a ten-city tour. We saw a huge amount of pickup and interest.

bc: What’s next in this journey?

Jervøe: The way you project your brand outside needs to reflect who you are. You have to mirror the way you look and think internally or the disconnect is very obvious. So we took the liberty all along to go out with Annie (Leibovitz) as well as a really large commitment that we’re putting our money where our mouth is around diversity of women. And the rest will follow easily. You kind of have done your homework.

The last thing we learned is that about two percent of managers globally have programs designed to explore specifically questions in the voice of the client. People are asking questions such as wealth transmission from one generation to another; wealthy people want to know how did other people do it? It’s very relevant to start your journey with a lot of questions and we help you get to the answers. And that’s really what the campaign is. And as we were ready with the white paper we built that out with piece of creative during International Women’s Week.

bc: What’s the key insight driving this many-year effort?

Jervøe: Women bring diverse perspectives. Our organization needs to reflect what our clients look like and many of our entrepreneurs and wealth-management clients are women. There’s a different perspective that women are asking themselves, to leave a legacy and solving some of the issues around philanthropy. A team of women can get a lot clearer about offers and solutions that are interesting to women than two men can.

UBS Annie Leibovitz Can I truly make a difference?

bc: Is there a risk in releasing an issue-oriented campaign in a highly-charged political environment for a brand—and might it have made more sense at the Super Bowl, like Audi’s ad on pay equality, for instance?

Jervøe: We haven’t seen any of that happening. We had pre-tested a lot of this in four locations including the US. These are the questions that women ask themselves. We also advertised for last International Women’s Day. We relaunched the brand in September 2015 with 15 different assets which were about 50/50 women and men.

We’re not making a political statement but a social statement and it has been received well by a large number of respondents that we tested with what we called the top two box: “very good” or “all good.” Those are the only two boxes that will change people’s perceptions. We were quite confident we’d done our homework.

I’m not sure I’d ever put this perspective into a Super Bowl ad because I’m not sure it’s the right environment to bring on that conversation. It should be more enteratining and humorous and less of a statement.

Below, some of the brand’s social messaging this International Women’s Day: