Claire Oldstein, Chief Marketing Officer, The Openwork Partnership, reflects on the trials and tribulations of going through a major rebrand throughout the covid pandemic
The Openwork Partnership was already one of the UK’s largest and longest established financial advice and investment networks with a proud history and a strategy focused on further expansion as an independent adviser-owned business. With 680 network firms and 4,200 advisers looking after more than £20 billion of clients’ money we are in a strong position.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit we kept recruiting new advisers and support staff as the business switched rapidly to support advisers in ensuring clients continued to receive the help they needed during tough times.
Everything was working well so why did we decide more than a year ago to rebrand the business from Openwork to The Openwork Partnership and take on the hard work involved at a time when sticking to what we were doing reasonably successfully would have been easier?
The answer is that if we want to deliver on our ambition of becoming the leading network ranked on better outcomes for more clients, by reputation and by growth across the business we had to change. Expanding our distribution and range of propositions needed a rebrand.
The essence of the new brand is to put the client firmly at the heart of everything that we do – if it matters to our clients, it’s a matter of personal importance to us.
Our ambition is to make it easier for advisers and their clients to face the future with confidence and optimism. If we wanted more people to know about us and be advocates of the power of personal advice, we needed a new brand positioning and we decided on “For us financial advice is personal.”
Evolving to grow
The new name signals the next step of our evolution and better reflects who we are and our purpose by taking a more modern and inclusive approach. We want everyone who works with us and interacts with us to feel that the brand is personal to them.
Building a new brand with a new visual identity, website, strapline and adviser materials alongside updated values and behaviours is central to a wider more confident and inclusive positioning.
The Openwork Partnership name captures the essence of the organisation, which is that by working together to build trust and deliver peace of mind, everyone can make a difference.
It had to be evolution as we were building on very strong foundations – the strength of the organisation has always been diversity with all our firms having their own branding. Unifying the brand under one heading, without losing the individual firm identities was essential.
The rebrand achieves this with an upgrade to our unique Smart Hub system enabling firms to dual brand, which is mandatory for essential client documentation. They can dial up or dial down The Openwork Partnership brand as they choose.
It’s all about partnership
Not everyone welcomes change and there was an obvious risk of alienating people who did not want to change or saw any reason for change.
We knew we needed to conduct extensive research and involved more than 180 advisers, clients, and staff in the process. They came back with a clear message on the importance of personal stories, shared values and commitments and making a difference to clients’ lives.
Throughout the process we focused on working together and that helped ensure people felt comfortable with the change because they had been a part of it. There’s no imperative for network firms to rebrand and they will retain their own well-established brands. The response throughout was very encouraging with some network firms saying the name should have been The Openwork Partnership long ago.
In fact, the name came from one of our adviser focus groups in Northern Ireland underlining how we have created this from the inside out. We validated the name across all stakeholders, and it was unanimously accepted as being a great representation of who we are and what we stand for. Working together has been the defining part of our approach to the rebrand and the big highlight for all of us from a process that could have been a lot more challenging.
And there was a pandemic
Work started more than a year ago to enable key stakeholders, partners, staff, and clients to contribute and understand the real drivers and essence of the brand. We were well underway when COVID-19 struck.
Lockdown and the pandemic meant that it all had to be delivered virtually which was challenging but our team adapted, and we’ve had tremendous support from staff and agencies and across The Openwork Partnership.
It all culminated with a presentation of the new brand vision to thousands of advisers and staff at a virtual conference which meant putting ourselves at risk of a technology fail at the big moment. There were some nervous moments, but it was all right on the night in the end.
Success in the long-term will be more challenging but the reaction from our advisers and partners has been very encouraging and puts us in the ideal position to deliver.
We have big plans for the rest of the year including a wider brand awareness campaign which we are working on so please keep an eye out for that. Working together in partnership has been the defining approach to the rebrand and will remain so in the next chapter of our story