Patrick Stal

Chief Marketing Officer
"Marketing means showing purpose through actions, not just words."
Patrick Stal is the Chief Marketing Officer at Zepz, a fintech company that enables affordable and efficient cross-border money transactions, mostly for migrants. We met with Patrick in Cannes to discuss the plight of his customer base, as well as the true meaning of purpose.
What brings you to Cannes this year?
‘It's always great to reconnect with ex-colleagues that have turned into friends. And also spread the gospel; my teams at Zepz have been doing amazing work and I want to make sure the world sees that.’

For those who don't know Zepz, please, explain what it is.
‘We're fintech providing a vital service. We enabling affordable and efficient cross-border money transactions through two brands: WorldRemit and Sendwave. Our customer base often doesn't have a lot of disposable income. We were a big disruptor in this space 10 years ago. I believe WorldRemit was the first digital money remittance business, competing directly with giants such as Western Union. Ten years down the road, our group moves more than $15 billion for people every year. We service upwards of four, five million customers. All of them are sending money for vital reasons, such as paying electricity bills or school and tuition fees.’

Zepz focuses mainly on developing countries. That brings me to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, more specifically goal number 10: Reduced Inequalities
‘That's right. Part of goal number 10 is to lower the global cost of remittances to a fairer level. We usually charge less than 3 per cent for a transfer, which is under the goal set by the UN. Recently the Filipino community in Queens, NY, told me that some competitors charge 10 per cent. That is highway robbery to me.’
What is the difference with the more established money transferring platforms?
‘There is very little differentiation in this category, to be frank. There is a lot of commoditization. Since we disrupted the category we've seen a lot of price pressure - to the benefit of the consumer. My challenge is: how do we stand out from the crowd? Today, a hundred other businesses do what we do in smaller ways. What differentiates us is safety, the development of the product and the corridors that we service to over 150 countries worldwide. Sending money to, say, Zimbabwe or Somalia, is a very hard equation. Here we are one of the few trustworthy parties and we’re working very hard to improve the infrastructure for people. We are now working to differentiate our brands. Sendwave is a very cheerful brand; it is in the community, close to the people, despite being a digital brand. We don’t just service migrants but we will stand up for them in their communities and countries. We use our voice to talk about the value that they add, both in their country of destination as well as their country of origin.’

And how do you communicate that in your marketing?
‘In the UK, we recently launched WorldRemit’s first upper funnel, full country brand campaign in over two years. We're making a big statement around the value that migrants add to the UK economy. That is a hot topic, but we feel very comfortable taking that stand. We're using that platform to show that migrants are incredible people. Most migrants have one or multiple jobs. They send money back home to support their families there. In most economies, they are not appreciated enough. People often confuse the small meaningful difference between migrant and immigrant. We put the words together, because immigrant and migrant are just an ‘I am’ removed from each other. In the campaign we state our point of view and then we go and tell some individual migrant stories. We're spending our money to tell the stories of our customers and the value that they add across the world.’
What are some of the biggest marketing challenges you faced at Zepz?
‘There are two particular complexities that are relatively unique to this category. The first one is the global complexity and diversity. Today, we send money from 50 countries to 150 countries. We have over 5,000 individual corridors, for instance from the UK to Nigeria. So, where do you invest? Where do you see growth? How do you dial that up? There is a direct response, data-driven performance marketing aspect there. And how do you build an engine that can truly optimize across such a wide array of complexities? Then there are macro elements that influence our business, such as a back-to-school season, when people start sending for schooling. And we have literally every cultural moment in the calendar; Mother's Day, Christmas, Ramadan. All of that is manageable, but what do you choose to do? Another challenge is that our senders are often niche communities.’

How do you reach them?
‘Within the general population, many of them are wonderfully assimilated. Some of them live in very close-knit communities. We have found that it is a combination of scalable tactics and a lot of the digital and brand marketing that great brands do. At the same time, you can't let go of your proximity to the community; the people that are sending money. So, it's boots on the ground, people on the ground. As a digital business, we're at risk of not having a presence in the physical world. And that presence is vital to drive trust in a category that's rife with fraud and imposters. I had the same experience at Uber and at N26. The communities are probably the most valuable source of feedback on your product, your service, your marketing, and your tone of voice. It’s a sustained effort to stay in touch, it’s a journey.’

Is Environmental, Social & Governance the domain of the CMO instead of the CEO?
‘I would disagree with that. If your CEO is not a champion of it, it will not fly. As CMO you’re are sometimes the second most visible person in the exco, simply because our work is visible in the field. We have a license to inspire an organization. You can do a lot of heavy lifting in making sure that the purpose, the ESG activities, are visible to the team. But you can't do it by yourself. If the rest of your board and your CEO are not committed, you can make them and you can inspire them. But you're gonna be quite lonely after a while.’
More and more companies are replacing CMOs for Chief Growth Officers or CCOs. Is there a place for the CMO in the exco’s?
‘I really don't care what you call it, I've never been a big title person. The CMO needs to be responsible for growth, marketing is a growth function. If we've gotten tired of calling it marketing and want to call it growth, then fine, call it growth. But what we're doing really well as marketers, is that we attract people to our customer value proposition. We help make that as sharp and as informed as possible to service that customer. Then we work with everybody in the business to retain that customer and maximize the value we can get from them.’

But marketing is also the voice of the customer, right?
‘I know that's a kind of cemented belief, particularly in the larger FMCG organizations, but I actually disagree with that. I've had marketers come into my teams from FMCG and CPG companies that thought they owned the customer, the insight. In technology that is simply not true; a lot of product and engineering teams are seeing customers move through the product second by second. Every day they're seeing exactly what's happening. And so, I do not believe that marketing needs to be, or should be, the only party to know about the customer. Marketing can do a lot to facilitate that knowledge; we have research, insights and analytics, data science within the marketing teams, etc. But never believe that you should be the only team equipped, because then you’re guard-railing knowledge that should be democratized within the business.’

What was the last moment that really inspired you?
‘Two weeks ago, I spent time with customers in New York. I was speaking to people who send money to the Philippines and Nepal whilst working service jobs in New York.
They're traveling an hour and a half into the city from neighbourhoods that are way outside the realm of where tourists would travel. They're content, they are hardworking, they support the people around them, there's a deep community support. I felt incredibly inspired by them and walked away, feeling that we're doing the right thing as a business.’
Please complete the following sentence: If more marketers focus their messaging on purpose, then…
‘…if we're not careful, purpose will become a commodity. In order for you to message about purpose, you need to have one that's well-defined. Your entire organization needs to be informed and rallied around that. Before you message it, you should be doing it. Acts are stronger than ads. Too many businesses out there talk like they have a purpose. When you only scratch the surface, it is just bullshit. At the same time, not every purpose needs to change the whole world for the better. A strong purpose can be: serving an individual customer incredibly well with whatever niche product or service you provide.’

What do you love most about being a marketing executive?
‘What I love about marketing is the diversity of people, languages culture within one team. Marketing is probably the most cognitively diverse function in an organization.
I've had the absolute luxury of growing up, moving every three years, and speaking four languages fluently. I feel at home running marketing organizations because I get to talk deep data science and marketing analytics. I get to talk customer and marketing research. But I also get to talk about our typography, our tone of voice, how we're bringing things to life, media planning, performance, marketing, ad tech, martech, data streams, data plugins, CRM, automations, tech. I truly believe there are few other functions within businesses where you're running a team that is so diverse. I have two roles. Firstly, I need to help all those people understand each other. And when they do, that's when magic happens. You're on fire when your analyst is inspiring a creative, who is working closely with a CRM team and a performance marketing team to make sure that the customer moves through the funnel faster, and then delivers a higher value to the business and sticks around for longer. Secondly, my role is to get out of the way and let those people do what they do and make sure that they come to me when they need something, so we can make that possible.
About Patrick Stal
Patrick Stal is Chief Marketing Officer at Zepz. He’s a seasoned marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in the advertising and tech industry. Prior to joining Zepz, Patrick was a.o. Sr. Director, Head of Marketing EMEA at Uber, and VP of global marketing at N26, one of Europe’s leading digital banks.

About Zepz
Zepz is the corporate brand name of a group of companies, including two large global payments brands: WorldRemit and Sendwave. Collectively, they service more than 11 million users across 150 countries. Typically, users are looking to send money cross-border to their family and friends. Largely, this happens from the more developed economies to the more developing economies. Zepz was founded in 2013 by Ismail Ahmed, a Somali immigrant to the UK. The London-headquartered company employs over 1,400 people globally, with team members located across six continents.
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