China’s Belt and Road Initiative is huge. And so was the task HSBC set us.
We’ve been on a journey of discovery over the last year. Starting in China, travelling across 65 countries, and finally ending up in Europe. Okay, we never actually left the UK, but the resulting toolkits we’ve created for HSBC turned out to be a creative masterclass in how to digest a vast amount of highly complex information and present it in a visually appealing, easily understood and inspiring way.
This virtual trip of a lifetime all began with a small thing called the Belt and Road Initiative. Or BRI to those in the know. Or even OBOR (One Belt One Road) to those really in the know. China’s Belt and Road is a vast $2.5tn sized road and sea ribbon of infrastructure, trade and finance projects that will eventually stretch across Asia, Africa and Europe. The opportunities it will create are equally mind boggling for businesses of all kinds around the world.
HSBC wanted to provide their Relationship Managers with a handy toolkit guide that would inform and inspire them about the massive opportunities offered by BRI, while equipping them with the information they would need to generate meaningful conversations with HSBC clients. And when we say clients, we mean top-level financial movers and shakers at some of the world’s mightiest multinational corporates with turnovers of up to $750m and in some cases, beyond. No pressure then?
Mapping it all out
The volume of information we had to digest was considerable, and the first stage was a steep learning curve. With the necessary knowledge under our belts, we then created content structure and a visual style that would form the basis for a range of subsequent toolkits expanding on HSBC’s capabilities around the Belt and Road theme.
Our primary objective was to ensure that Relationship Managers could quickly see and grasp the most important take-outs. So our content structure and layouts made ample use of pull-out boxes, short summaries and infographics containing key statistics. There was also a section at the back with suggested ‘conversation starter’ topics to ask their customers. Careful attention to clarity and complexity of language ensured that the topics were covered in a way that would be accessible to all HSBC colleagues and customers, including those for whom English is not their first language.
The resulting toolkit was so well received within HSBC that we were then asked to produce a further three toolkits to promote HSBC’s capabilities across other aspects of the Belt and Road.
A journey of product understanding
The first of these projects was the HSBC Global Trade and Receivables Finance and Global Cash and Liquidity Management pitchbook. Building on understanding provided by the first toolkit, this demonstrated how HSBC’s range of products and services can help corporate treasurers, fund managers and other high level financial people in large corporates to take advantage of BRI opportunities. This is a complex area, so we made sure the toolkit had clear information laid out in easy-to-read infographic style – product solutions were clearly aligned to client needs and separated into key business areas.
Next, we created a China Capabilities toolkit, which looked at the way China is opening up its capital markets. Over recent years, there’s been further reform of China’s financial markets, a liberalisation of its financial system and the internationalisation of RMB (the Chinese Renminbi trade currency). This has created opportunities for overseas corporates to play a bigger role in China’s economy and for foreign investors to tap into China’s market potential. The pitchbook demonstrated how HSBC are the perfect partner to help overseas institutional investors looking to invest in China.
To China and beyond
Our third toolkit covered HSBC’s presence and capabilities in the fast growing ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) area. Established in 1967 to promote collaboration and cooperation among member states, ASEAN includes 10 member states: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. HSBC expects the economies of the ASEAN to grow faster than anywhere outside China, achieving a combined GDP of $4.7tn by 2020 – almost double that of 2013.
Working closely with the HSBC marketing teams we developed a toolkit consisting of a customer pitch book and two-page fact sheet which outlined the size of this huge opportunity and showed how HSBC are perfectly positioned to help corporate clients capitalise on this exciting growth area. Key stats and country profiles delivered easy to read, bite-sized information on ASEAN countries, together with an ‘essential overview’ of HSBC’s capabilities in each.
With input and feedback from a variety of stakeholders within HSBC, spread across the world, the toolkit process also called for a flexible, yet highly organised project management approach by the Born + Raised account teams.
We learned a huge amount about global finance and China’s economic soft power along the way. But above all, we proved, at least to ourselves, that we can handle the marketing equivalent of building a ship in a bottle.