Q&A with Yvonne Balfour

Q&A with Yvonne Balfour

Yvonne is an experienced marketer with an emphasis on data-lead, integrated marketing.  Her career started in client management within marketing agencies, to running a successful direct marketing agency before moving into the corporate world working for Sainsbury’s, based within Sainsbury’s Bank, with roles leading Customer Insight and Targeting, Product Marketing and Marketing Transformation. 

Yvonne is now Chief Marketing Officer at Ultimate Finance Group, building the newly launched Direct business to complement the successful Introducer business, requiring significant business transformation to meet the growth ambitions. The approach and successes achieved within the first year of setting up the direct channel’s digital marketing activities will be shared on 17th May, so without revealing too much ahead of then, a positive return on investment was considered a fantastic achievement. 

We caught up with Yvonne ahead of her appearance at Digital Day. Tciekts available here.


You’ve worn many ‘hats’ in your career Yvonne. What have been your proudest moments?

There have been many moments that I look back on and am very proud to have been a part of, from completing the management buyout of our agency to take 100% control, to making a successful move from agency to corporate world and joining a brand that I’d always loved in Sainsbury’s. For those marketeers working in FS, being proud of the moment I realised I understood more about risk than some of my risk colleagues!  Bringing it right up to date, I’m proud and delighted to join a great team in Ultimate Finance, where we have a real opportunity to be successful challenger in the B2B funding space through the launch of our direct proposition.

Ultimate Finance recently launched a new direct to consumer model. What was the driver behind such a move?

The driver was and continues to be, to grow our business and to do this, we needed to open a new route to market, to deliver funding to a wider SME population, to complement the existing, successful introducer channel, that had been built over the past 16 years.  Research had shown that many of the target audience were happy to source their own funding requirements directly, and in fact wanted to do so.  It initiated some new product development, introducing unsecured lending in what is a traditional a secured funding sector.

You worked with iProspect to go through this transition. You yourself have agency experience – how was it on the flip side working with an agency on such a massive project?

I believe good agencies deliver real added value to clients, by bringing objectivity to the table, challenging preconceived thinking that may exist internally and their experience and successes gained in other sectors, with other clients, can be successfully drawn upon.  In our case launching a new direct channel, we needed iProspect’s expertise in the audience targeting, testing different messages and approaches, setting up the measurement capabilities and reporting, along with fast learning capabilities, as we opened each new marketing channel to drive demand and sales through the new digital journey.

What are the biggest trends/disruptors you predict for fintech in the next few years?

We continually look to partner with innovators in technology, data and capability and being part of the fintech community is key, as we continue to transform our business.  There is much more automation and simplification required within our sector, to make it easier for clients and brokers to access funding when they need it, manage accounts online and innovate in some still very traditional products systems.  A good example is Open Banking and the most appropriate use within the SME funding space – do we need direct access to a client’s bank account or can we simply plug in a new technological solution that enables us to do the required checks to provide them funding.  

Is Fintech influencing the landscape of traditional financial services?

Absolutely, we can already see some great development of plug-in capabilities that have happened in the banking sector – RBS buying FreeAgent for example.  Building closer working relationships between the FS organisations and the fintech community will help drive great improvements for all, especially the clients and customers that are demanding it.  Our key focus is to continue to drive on customer service, so accessibility of funding and building strong relationships with our clients using modern techniques. 

What’s next on the cards for Ultimate Finance? 

Our ambition is to continue to grow and develop our capabilities, funding solutions and client base across the UK via both direct and introduced channels, and with the right partners, can continue to innovate in our approach to the market.  Our use of advanced data driven marketing techniques will be key, such as programmatic video and display, combining our content rich strategy to engage our different audience segments.