At the risk of sounding like a wise – yet vague – mystic, change is inevitable…
Whether it’s the economy, fashion or geopolitics, very little stays still in our fast-paced, ever-shifting modern world. In very few industries is this as true as in finance.
In times of political flux, particularly, new directives and fresh financial initiatives are implemented by incoming parties, shelved by “yesterday’s” politicians and revived by other interested parties seemingly every month. In 2015, for example, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) enforced a cap on loan rates. This new cap triggered a big change to Wonga’s business model, which came into effect in 2014, ahead of the FCA’s deadline.
But there are still plenty more changes which could affect the brand in the coming months. Wonga Spain is a particular source of volatility at the moment, thanks to tensions between Catalonia and Castilian Spain.
With a large number of Catalonians (in and around Barcelona) pushing for independence from Spain, the financial future of the entire country – and both regions – remains murky. An independent Catalonia could make for a cut in market share for the Spanish branch of the company.
There’s been plenty of change for Wonga to accommodate in other areas too. With public perception of the brand somewhat volatile in the UK, Wonga has long been working to give itself a makeover in consumer eyes. A drop in profits led to the brand dropping their controversial sponsorship of football team Newcastle United in 2016. Meanwhile, criticism of their television advertising prompted the lender to move away from this type of overt promotion altogether.
With big structural changes happening behind the scenes and new products emerging, Wonga has also recently invested in support from Leeds-based search specialist Epiphany to help manage their image online. This marketing investment followed hot on the heels of another big marketing side-step – a “Cash Smart Hub” which will make up a significant new portion of the lender’s website, focussing on topics like saving, budgeting and borrowing.
Wonga’s latest product, the personal “flexi loan”, is another shift for the payday lender. Available for up to six months, this new product features much longer terms than those previously available, with the same convenient application system. With lots of changes behind the scenes to comply with ever-tighter regulation, it’s not just the surface of this product which is new, either, the differences run far deeper – including the loan rate cap.
With so much change on their hands, it’s little wonder that Wonga has found itself a little short of – um, change… – in recent months. Indeed, the company’s profits dropped by a considerable £65m in 2016. However, despite losses, the brand remains confident that it will roll with the punches and come out of this recent spate of changes stronger than ever.