HQ Profile: Efma

Thriving in a constantly evolving digitalized world
31st May, 2016

Efma promotes innovation in retail finance by fostering debate and discussion among peers supported by a robust array of information services and numerous opportunities for direct encounters. Karine Coutinho, Deputy Managing Director, explains how the organisation operates. Interview Rémi Dévé

Could you please present Efma?

Karine CoutinhoEfma isa global non-profit organisation, established in 1971 by banks and insurance companies. It facilitates networking between decision-makers. It provides quality insights to help banks and insurance companies make the right decisions to foster innovation and drive their transformation. Over 3,300 brands in 130 countries are Efma members.
We are headquartered in Paris and have offices in London, Brussels, Barcelona, Stockholm, Bratislava, Dubai, Mumbai and Singapore.

Can you describe the challenges you’ve had to face over the last few years?

As an association, Efma needs to strive hard to survive in a constantly evolving digitalised world. Competitions from smaller but innovative players specialised in niche services that are also provided by our association is something that is sometimes not easy to manage.

I would say that in today’s context, the challenges associations have had to face is threefold:

  • Digitalisationmany associations have heavy IT legacy and are not using 360° CRM tools enabling them to better know their members and properly engage with them. The lack of agility towards the adoption of new technologies and innovative tools is one of the reasons why associations are sometimes failing to be in line with members expectations. We need to bear in mind that our members are also “customers” and that most of the time, their experience when buying a product or reading content online is set by the Facebook’s, Amazon’s, Apple’s of this world. Associations need to go this route is they want to survive. As an association whose mission is to help its members in their digital transformation, Efma needs to set the standards and create innovative digital tools to meet the expectations of its membership base.
  • Internationalisation: After the 2008 financial crisis, Efma suffered a harsh decline as many financial institutions left the association. As we used to be a European-centric association until 2008, we had no choice but to expand to new geographies. The hardest part when going global is obviously the cultural discrepancies in terms of membership services consumption. While in some geographies, members are favoring networking opportunities and events, in other ones, they prefer to get access to online portals and reports. Besides, these preferences can vary from one member to another making it hard for local relationship managers to set up standard approached and service packages.Addressing the needs of remote members and retain them is a key challenge today.
  • Planification: One could think that strategy is something for big companies. Neverthless, it’s important to set up a vision and ambition, not only to engage members in the long term, but also to engage the association employees into a roadmap and make sure they are committed to deliver the services/initiatives that will be launched in the future. Happy and committed employees make for happy and committed members.

We see Efma organises many different kinds of events - can you tell us more about those?

Indeed, Efma organises many types of event from conferences and summits gathering hundreds of participants to more VIP,exclusiveand smallerevents targeting C-level executives (councils and clubs).

Five years ago, we also launched webinars and online think tanks that are much more content oriented but giving less space to “live”networking. Nevertheless, we find this type of event valuable to reach remote members with travelling restrictions, they can still enjoy our services from the comfort of their deskbut again, it is harder to truly engage them in the community. More recently, we started to live broadcast one of our awards ceremony, allowing us to reach new prospects and evangelize them with Efma’s value proposition.

Last but not least, we also organise business trips - theseare exclusive events where senior executives meet for high level debates and interaction in different countries.
During an entire week, participants are immersed into the culture of the country via tour guides, gastronomy and meetings with their local homologues. Being a small group makes it easy for them to create bounds and opportunities throughout this unique adventure.

What is the decision process behind the selection of a destination/venue?

Destination attractiveness is one of the key elements to make an event successful. Nice locations, with good flight connections and favorable weather are definitely strong argumentswhen a participants decides to attend an event or not. Apart from this, as every association, we have budget restrictions. To make sure the event is profitable at the end of the day, we are favoring affordable but attractive locations like Spain or Italy.

Of course, we are not against organising event is new locations or make effort in terms of budget if we feel that the potential in terms of participation is high. London being the biggest Fintech hub in Europe, we for example organised our 2016 Distribution Summit and Fintech awards ceremony in this city, even if costs were quite high. At the end of the day, we were very satisfied with the participation rate and geographical spreadof attendees.

We also choose locations according to our global expansion strategy. We are organising more and more event in Asia, Middle East and Africa to make sure our local members have forums to meet and network.

We understand you’re looking to relocate your Karachi office and expand your services. Can you tell us more about that?

Dubai being a hub between Africa, Europe and Asia, we are thinking about relocating our Karachi office in the UAE. Prior to that, we decided to open a chapter in Pakistanin order to set up our back office and database activity there, mainly for cost reasons.

Now, we think that having an office in Dubai will enable us to penetrate the African market more easily as we cannot devote budget to opening one specifically in Africa at the moment. This is a strategic choice we made. Besides, Dubai offers attractive conditions for any association trying to set up an office in the Middle East thank to the Dubai Association Centre. We are currently exploring this opportunity.

Can you share your insights about the latest trends in the association community?

I recently had the opportunity to meet with peers from other associations during an event in Dubai and I really felt we have the same concerns on top of our agendas:How to innovate when you are an association? How to embrace new technological trends? How to retain your members? How to grow global with limited resources? These are the key questions keeping association execs awake at night.

There’s a lot going on in the association’s community, mainly regarding event trends (digitisation of events, increased interactivity and social events) and virtualisation of the relationship with our members thanks to virtual events, training, digital platforms and apps. Today, for an association to remain relevant to its members, it needs to accompany them anytime, anywhere and I believe this is be possible thank to the capacity associations will have to integrate digital in their overall strategy and mission.


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