The End of the Tax Year Wasn’t Taxing for HSBC

Lorna Rose Gill Posted by Lorna Rose Gill

The tax year has drawn to a close, and it should come as no surprise that banks and building societies have decided to push hard on their savings accounts and ISAs. But who came out on top in the end?

At the end of each tax year (around April 5th), banks and building societies alike rush to promote their savings accounts to customers in order to make the most of tax-free savings, whether by ISAs or other similar types of accounts.

At this time of year, you would think that ISAs would be the most popular option, as financial establishments are battling for a share of the tax-free market. Well, I had my questions about such an assumption, so I decided to investigate a bit to gauge whether this was true, or whether banks were opting to promote other types of savings accounts.

I took a look at Virgin Money, HSBC, Halifax, and TSB (formerly Lloyds) to see how they fared across a broad range of savings accounts and ISA-related keywords in paid search.

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”” title=”Top banks share of voice, Adthena data” src=””][/lightbox]
Top banks share of voice, Adthena data

The three competitors to note from this share of voice (SOV) graph are Virgin Money, HSBC, and TSB. Halifax, it seems, decided not to change its PPC strategy around April 5th, although its lack of variance did lose it a small share between mid-March and April 5th. This change was practically nothing, however, compared to what the other competitors experienced.

HSBC gave its all in the period leading up to the end of tax year, heavily promoting its savings accounts for the entire month preceding April 5th. This activity led it to reach its peak in performance on March 31st, when it obtained 50% SOV.

Its SOV then dropped slightly before peaking once again the day before the tax year officially ended, on April 6th. It then dropped significantly, presumably because the sole aim of the campaign was to get people to reach their ISA limit in advance of the approaching deadline.

It seems as if Virgin Money implemented virtually the opposite strategy. Its SOV started soaring starting on March 31st, and then quickly overtook HSBC’s just after the deadline. It then continued to grow its share of clicks, resulting in around 57% SOV by mid-April.

While both of these competitors made the most of the tax year’s end to boost their savings accounts’ SOV, TSB wasn’t so fortunate. After peaking at the beginning of the year to get the “guilt savers” — those who want to recoup losses after Christmas, or who have made a New Year’s resolution to save money — its SOV dropped substantially, falling to just 3% around the time of the tax deadline.

Let’s take a look at the actual ad copy these competitors used to boost their visibility in the savings market.

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”” title=”Savings ad copy, Adthena” src=””][/lightbox]
Savings ad copy, Adthena

Taking a look at the ad copy for the last 30 days (from March 27th to April 27th), the clear winner was HSBC, owning the keyword string savings accounts. Look a little bit deeper into the “£120 HSBC Save Together” ad, however, and you’ll find that it’s actually an ISA — the account allows customers to earn up to £120 a year in extra interest on their tax-free savings.

It’s a very clever deal, as customers must already have an HSBC Advance bank account to apply, meaning they’ll already be paying HSBC a monthly fee.

In fact, it would seem that HSBC is pushing this particular account because it’s advertising the same product across all of the top performing keywords I looked at — all except Halifax brand terms.

If you took a look at when exactly HSBC was launching these ads, it would appear that the bank stopped pushing its Save Together ISA on April 12, allowing Virgin Money to snatch back the SOV. Looking at the huge estimated spend involved with all this promotional content, it’s no wonder that HSBC couldn’t sustain the performance.

Although it did manage to take a fair share of the traffic, HSBC didn’t implement a particularly intelligent spending strategy, as evidenced by the fact that the bank had to eventually take a major step back.

Using competitive intelligence for search, HSBC could have cut back at some points, concentrating on lower-cost, higher-impact keywords, therefore earning a higher ROI over a longer period of time.

What We’ve Learnt

Although the period between the end of April and the beginning of May is a hot time for banks to jump onboard the savings account train, it’s important that they, along with other financial institutions, carefully consider what their competitors are doing at the same time of year.

Combining information on market conditions and the activity of your competitors is essential to any successful sponsored search campaign. And Adthena’s platform allows you to analyse how both you and your competitors are performing when the hottest time of year approaches.

(Main image credit: GotCredit/flickr)

No Adthena client data was used to write these insights

About the author

Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies. She is curious and passionate and likes to find stories in data and technology.