Hargreaves Lansdown CDO on the changing nature of customer experience

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez May 29, 2019
Chris Worle, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) at investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown, is thinking about how data can be used to change a client’s digital experience.

Image of Hargreaves Lansdown building

Hargreaves Lansdown is one the UK’s largest investment platforms, providing financial options for 1.2 million clients that range from ISAs to pensions. However, like many other financial institutions, Hargreaves Lansdown has had to change the way that it thinks about customer experience and the digital journey of acquiring and retaining customers.

We got the chance to sit down with Chris Worle, Chief Digital Officer at Hargreaves Lansdown, at Adobe’s recent user event in London, where he explained that the company’s primary aim is to “empower people to save and invest with confidence”, providing them with the tools, information, services and support to help them make good investment decisions.

However, the way it engages with customers - and potential customers - is changing. Worle explained:

Traditionally we were a direct mail company, so we put adverts in the Times, Telegraph, etc. People would cut out slips of paper, write their details on and post it back. In the last 10 or 15 years we have gone through digitising that.

A lot of what we do today is still very similar to what we were doing years ago, which is offering people information, building up that relationship over time, so that they trust us with their money and life savings.

The challenge that we face as a business is that that relationship building takes place over days, weeks, months, sometimes years, from that initial enquiry to them actually doing something and trusting us with their money. That means that us having visibility and understanding of that journey, and what happens during that journey, is incredibly important.


Hargreaves Lansdown began using Adobe back in 2013, where the focus and investment was on analytics, using the Test and Target tool, to grow the client base and optimise the traffic it was receiving to the site. Over the past 10 years the company has grown its client base from 200,000 to 1.2 million. And with that has come a lot of data which can be used to enhance the customer experience, with Worle’s focus primarily being on personalisation. He said:

That has evolved over the years to multi-channel attribution. So, understanding that quite surprising journey people will go on between that initial inquiry and actually transacting with us. Where we are today is that we’ve got Campaign, but the next piece of the puzzle is Adobe Experience Manager. We’ve got all this insight, we’ve got all this knowledge, now we need to be able to act on it and respond to it quickly and efficiently. Put the power in the hands of our marketing team, our user experience team, so that they can develop and improve the experience for our clients.

A lot of it is about personalisation. Back in the day, those 200,000 clients largely had the same needs and expectations of us. Now, our client base is much more diverse. We’ve got expert investors through to people that are just starting out. Us being able to not just tailor the content, but tailor as much of the experience as possible to their needs is becoming increasingly important.

Worle said that this will be focused around a number of outcomes. Firstly, being a commercial business, Hargreaves Lansdown wants to focus on conversion rates and getting more people to pick it as the investment platform of choice. He adds that the way to do this is to build “trust and confidence” by providing an “amazing service and experience that is tailored to their needs”.

As an example, Worle explained that when you currently log into your Hargreaves Lansdown account, a customer will have all of their information, account valuations, etc, sitting in one place. For one client, the best experience will be to show them all the data that is available, everything that could possibly be presented to them, so that they can know as much as they can about what’s going on in the market. However, for another client, the best experience may be no detail, nothing confusing, just a simple number or indicator about the performance of their investments.

However, Hargreaves Lansdown will not be totally prescriptive. The customer should still have control. Worle said:

There’s always a danger that you will assume too much about people. Data will tell you a huge amount, but you’ve got to be careful not to shut bits off to certain people. I think my view is that is that we still should allow clients a degree of control in that experience, but accepting the fact that many people don’t want to spend ages configuring what they see and can do.

It’s not easy

However, technology projects of this kind - ones that focus on the use of data for personalisation and managing legacy with investments in new technology - are not easy. Worle is focused on ensuring that any implementation of Adobe Experience Manager is done with both technology and organisation front of mind. He said:

I’m confident that Adobe is the right solution, but you can go buy the best technology in the world but still mess up the implementation. It’s not just about the technology in itself, coming with it will need to be huge organisational change, culture change. There’s a lot for us to think about and line up internally. We are getting there.

We are working across the business to understand the opportunities it will bring to them and their teams, what they will need to do to work with it. But that’s going to be one of the biggest parts of the challenge. People are happy for change until they see it rock up on their shores.

And data projects, in particular, are complex in their nature, Worle added.

If we look at the data, and this goes across everything, it’s not just the technology that solves the problem. Particularly with data, the technology and analytics can do a huge amount, but there’s two barriers.

Firstly, I think you still need to have the people in front of it to interpret it, understand it, act on it, and action it. And the other barrier is then ensuring you can execute on that insight, because otherwise you can just sit there saying, ‘wow, that’s really interesting’. You build up this huge wave of insight, but unless you’re changing the business or the experience as a result, it all just becomes academic.

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