State Street invests in a digital future with Adobe

Not since the 2008 financial crisis have people and businesses been so mindful of their assets. More than half of Americans have felt anxious about their finances during the COVID-19 pandemic. Younger generations have also become more proactive about their finances, with many turning to online investing for the first time this year.

For Boston-based State Street Global Advisors, the world’s third largest asset management company, COVID-19 has become the testing ground for a comprehensive digital transformation initiative – one that began in 2019 and has since seen the organization rebuild nearly 150 websites to offer its customers more personalized digital experiences.

This was no easy feat considering that State Street Global Advisors has more than $3 trillion in assets under management and numerous divisions that focus on several types of investments.

“All of these pieces of the puzzle operated as separate organizations when I took on this role, and we’ve been able to bring them together under a single operating model in less than two years,” says Jet Lali, State Street Global Advisors’ chief digital officer.

Unifying the customer experience

Like many financial institutions, State Street Global Advisors had grown organically over the years, as had its technology systems. This meant that while the company evolved and broadened its offerings, its online properties multiplied as distinct entities. This approach began to show its cracks when more customers started to engage with State Street Global Advisors on digital channels.

The first step for State Street Global Advisors was to unify its online customer experience. Using Adobe Experience Manager, Lali and his team moved State Street’s 152 global websites onto a single platform, bringing a consistent look and feel to the company’s digital properties while delivering a more intuitive user-friendly experience in every market. Additionally, using Experience Manager, State Street Global Advisors’ marketers can now easily make updates to the company’s websites themselves, without relying on IT or developer teams, or waiting to get into sprints and losing valuable time.

“Our legacy was a strength, but our legacy infrastructure was not,” Lali says. “We had more content management systems than we could count. That inevitably led to disjointed customer experiences and to a great deal of inefficiency in our operations.”

Most importantly, this approach made it difficult for State Street Global Advisors to understand its customers’ needs on digital channels.

“Understanding our audience is the basis of everything we do,” Lali stresses. “Our aim is to best serve the people who rely on our services, no matter which branch of State Street they engage with or what investments they hold.”

State Street Global Advisors is using Marketo to reach its audiences with targeted content and respond to prospects and clients “in the moment.” Marketo allows the company to trigger emails automatically in real time based on activity—or lack of activity—in any customer channel, including the website.

“Marketo enables us to drive relevant content to our prospects and clients based on what we understand of them. Since onboarding Marketo three years ago we have been able to establish consistency, stability as well as control over the brand, and have seen an uplift in key metrics across global marketing campaigns,” says Lucy Alligan, director of global marketing automation. “In addition, the use of Marketo Sales Insight helps us align efforts across marketing and sales around a united buying cycle and relationship process driven by real-time information”

Breaking down data silos

Working closely with Kate Marx, head of digital training, Lali has continued to spearhead State Street Global Advisors transformation by investing in Adobe Analytics to gain deeper customer insights and drive the business’ broader strategies forward as it adapts to a digital market.

His team began by consolidating all of State Street Global Advisors’ customer profiles down to 37 personas, a major achievement considering the organization offers an incredibly broad range of services to people from all backgrounds living in different regions around the world. The team also developed more logical taxonomies, defining the way it classifies content, for its websites, which allowed it to roll out more user-friendly experiences built on an in-depth view of customer behavior.

“With these pieces in place, we can now use Adobe Analytics to get a more complete picture of the people who visit us on digital channels. Just as importantly, we can draw on what we learn to continuously adapt and improve our online services,” Lali says.

Phase one, check

Since beginning its transformation, State Street Global Advisors has seen a 40 percent improvement in customer engagement on its website, Lali says. Page views per visit and time spent on the website has increased, and every engagement metric shows a more satisfied and better-informed digital audience.

“Our web traffic has more than doubled since early 2018,” Lali says. “That is partially due to people spending more time online during COVID-19, but it’s also an indication that the enhancements we’ve made in terms of web design, personalization, and SEO are paying off.”

State Street Global Advisors initially set out with a three-phase transformation plan. The first phase was to simplify its operation, bringing together all data, websites, and technology platforms onto a global standard.

“We stripped back the design of our sites, simplified our database of product data, reduced the number of applications we offer, and streamlined how we move information around the business,” Lali explains.

The next step was to further unify all the consolidated data. The task included connecting State Street Global Advisors’ CRM data with data from its websites, marketing automation, social media, and all other digital streams.

“By getting the right information to our salespeople, we can help with lead generation. By getting it to our content creators, we can help them develop experiences that speak directly to customers’ needs,” Lali says. “The more insight our employees have to work with, the better equipped they are to drive our strategies forward.”

Lali and Marx’s target is for 25 State Street employees to have access to Analytics and the data it delivers by 2022. Their teams have already built custom dashboards and analytics platforms for employees to use, and today they are training everyone to take advantage.

Phase three will be to amplify State Street’s digital footprint and continue evolving.

“This project doesn’t end with our websites,” Lali stresses. “Technology gets more advanced each day. Just look at how artificial intelligence is changing the financial services sector. We plan to take advantage of new tools every step of the way and are setting ourselves up today to build toward the future.”

Democratizing data through training

In addition to transforming its systems, State Street Global Advisors completely retrained its global team, making strategic hires to shape the next phase of its evolution.

Many of State Street Global Advisors’ teams were previously made up of financial services experts, extremely talented in their field but with minimal experience in customer analytics. Today, Marx works closely with Adobe Digital Learning Services to train employees on Adobe Analytics so they can thrive in a digital environment.

Looking forward, State Street Global Advisors plans to get the entire business up to speed on the Adobe platform and promote a cultural shift toward customer-centricity. “We needed to transform our client experience, our technology, and our people, and the people piece is often the hardest,” Marx admits.

Marx’s initial aim was to log 1,000 hours of training within a year, but that number more than tripled when employees showed immediate enthusiasm for the project and for access to learning resources through the Adobe All Access Learning Subscription, she recalls. Where State Street had specific learning needs, Adobe conducted custom training sessions with dedicated support for onshore and offshore developers. State Street also trained more than 40 internal Adobe subject matter experts to use Analytics and Experience Manager to manage their digital content and assets.

For both Lali and Marx, training has become a focal point across State Street Global Advisors, shining a light on the business impact of cultural transformation.

“With a work stream specifically dedicated to training, we now track and celebrate the progress we make each day, and that in turn motivates more people to learn new skills,” Marx says.