People Awards case study: How Cara O'nions turned Vocalink into a pioneer in the payments industry to be named 'Marketer of the year'

Discover how Cara O'nions, director of marketing and customer insight at Vocalink, transformed the marketing function and positioned the company as an innovative and authoritative voice in the industry

"I was truly delighted to be named as the B2B marketer of the year and given the quality of the shortlisted nominees, I was honoured to be in such great company! Being recognised for my contribution to B2B marketing is fantastic, but this is really an award for the marketing and customer insight team at Vocalink. I’m lucky that I get to work with a phenomenal set of individuals and their passion, talent and enthusiasm makes my job a real joy."
Cara (pictured above with Dave Stevens, marketing director at British Land and chair, BMC) after her People Awards triumph at Ignite 2017.

Summary

Cara O’nions has spearheaded a transformation in Vocalink’s marketing and in the marketing team itself, bringing new capabilities inhouse and creating a compact, agile and highly-effective marketing function that has supported the company’s surge onto the global stage.

She tasked her team with establishing a coherent brand and a supporting toolkit that enables the executive and the product and sales teams to speak with a single voice and present the company as an expert at the heart of its market. She has created digital, content and social media strategies that maximise the reach of Vocalink’s thought leaders, and promote and leverage its ground-breaking research insights. By conducting consumer studies in the UK and overseas, Cara has positioned Vocalink as the payments expert that understands its customers’ customers – and as a company that develops solutions that respond to their needs and concerns.

Having operated behind the scenes for years, Cara’s strategies have given Vocalink a higher profile, both in the UK and internationally, and established it as a pioneer and leader in its field – a partner of choice in the rapidly changing payments landscape. Vocalink's acquisition by Mastercard in May 2017 is the culmination of this approach.

About Cara

Cara joined Vocalink in 2013 as director of marketing and customer insight at the beginning of a period of rapid growth. Her responsibilities cover marketing, communications and research – everything that shapes the way the financial community and consumers perceive Vocalink. Her main priorities were to transform the marketing function and to support Vocalink’s five-year growth strategy.

Prior to joining Vocalink, Cara held a number of marketing and communications positions with Worldpay, One Savings Bank, Morgan Stanley Card Services, Citi and Barclays, so she brought with her a deep understanding of her industry and the challenges it faces.

About Vocalink

Vocalink is a pioneer in payments infrastructure. In the UK, Vocalink’s systems process 11 billion transactions annually. Its instant payments platforms are now transforming the payments landscape in the US, Thailand and Singapore, making it easier for people and businesses to access and move money.

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Why did Cara win this category?

Over the past two years, Cara has focused on:

  • Establishing a centre of excellence in B2B marketing
  • Positioning Vocalink as an innovative and authoritative voice in the payments industry, focusing on making commerce easier and better for businesses and consumers.

In transforming the marketing function, Cara has recruited and developed a highly skilled, flexible team. While continuing to make tactical use of external agencies, Cara has brought the latest marketing techniques inhouse – particularly around content marketing through the firm’s CONNECT platform – established a clear digital strategy and built an inhouse design capability that's allowed her to create new resources and support tactical campaigns at speed. She's also energetically supported the continuing professional development of her team, enhancing their skills and delivering exceptional results.

The enhanced capabilities of her team are best illustrated in the way Cara has used it to deliver on her second target – positioning Vocalink at the centre of the discussion about the future of payments. She has implemented a digital and content strategy that leverages the richness of topics within payments to create debate, with Vocalink as the expert facilitator. Central to this have been two consumer studies: a global examination of the influential millennial generation’s payments habits and attitudes, and an innovative study into consumer concerns about the capture and use of transactional data. This approach firmly positions Vocalink as an organisation that understands its customers’ customers, and which is leading the way in developing responses to make new payment channels more accessible and cost effective to businesses and consumers.

The analysis of millennials’ attitudes to new payment channels, particularly mobile, has generated significant press attention to coincide with the launch of new real-time payments platforms in the US and south east Asia. The payments data insights study has been used both to support the launch of Vocalink’s data analytics business Accura, and give tangibility, urgency and immediacy to a significant problem. This has created huge sales opportunities and shown Vocalink to be both proactive and expert.

Cara’s vision has given Vocalink a clear, purposeful brand, consolidating the firm’s offer and ensuring that the executive and the sales and product teams speak with a single voice – one that puts the customer at the heart of everything. This has been especially important in a period when Vocalink has been dramatically expanding its reach, extending its product portfolio and building towards its acquisition by Mastercard, which was completed on 7 May 2017.