Meet marketing technologist and Northmill’s head of SEO Hugo Palm

Hugo at the Stockholm HQ

Hugo talks about the blending of marketing and technology, his rock star ambitions and how financial institutions can tackle the challenge of improving their digital experience.

A jump start career at Northmill

Being a guitarist and lyric writer of a Swedish garageband performing at local clubs in Stockholm, he is perhaps not your average stereotype of a digital marketer.

Prior to joining Northmill in October 2015, Hugo worked as an independent web designer. Becoming passionate about Northmill’s goal of building a modern financial hub, he quickly thrived within the walls of the fast-growing company.

Head of SEO since 2016

In 2016 he was appointed Head of SEO, tasked with handling the SEO-strategy of three consumer credit brands in Sweden.

With the company’s current push to launch a full stack "mobile-first" financial hub, Northmill is entering an industry that is under hard pressure to adapt their business model to the digitalization. The technological evolution is considered to offer new opportunities for fintech companies.

We sat down with Hugo to ask him some questions about the transformation of the business and what it's like working at Northmill.

The new way of marketing

Marketers working with technology are increasingly becoming known as martechs. Do you consider yourself a martech or is it just a fancy term?

I recently came across the term and starting looking into it. Martech is basically the future of marketing and I think every digital marketer floats around in the areas of martech.

The more familiar I got with the word, the closer I came to the conclusion that it’s not just me, but in fact our entire marketing team is a bunch of martechers based on the activities we perform on a daily basis.

We use several different automation softwares, build complex customer journeys and also build our own technology in a way that lets us be more effective.

According to a recent research study fielded by the Digital Banking Report, over 70 % of financial institutions place 'improving the digital experience' as one of their top three strategic priorities in 2017. Do you understand their concern?

It is a real concern, since finance as we know it struggles in adapting to and keeping up with the digital revolution. They have slowly found out that they are not resistant to disruption by technology and will have to fight much harder in areas like customer acquisition and customer loyalty.

Do you think they have a hard time moving into a more agile, data-driven marketing model?

Traditional banks basically market their products the same way today as they have always done. They spend a lot of money on offline channels, partner- and sponsorships.

Swedish summer requires shades

Their marketing departments are also more old-school in the hierarchical structure, where in this pyramid structure, most decisions have to work it’s way up to the top and then down to the bottom again.

I believe at some point the financial industry needs to adapt to the new way of marketing, to avoid being outgunned by the new wave of companies. Building these capabilities and recruiting digital-marketing talent will require considerable time and investment for them.

"Traditional banks basically market their products the same way today as they have always done"

In what way will this be different for fintech companies?

In the way that we do not take a reactive approach to new technology, but are powered by data and analytics. In-house tech and analysis are cornerstones of Northmill's vision of building a new and modern financial hub. The same goes for our marketing operations, which also run on data-driven insights.

The teams are unceasingly coming up with creative ideas that will benefit the customer experience by challenging our developers to implement new features with a very fast time-to-market.

So this is what makes Northmill stand out from the other players?

Northmill might still be a small company but stands out in the way that it capitalizes on its flat organizational structure. Anyone in the team can take decisions and are also capable of performing every task a digital marketer of today might need to do.

Our way of doing things, like encouraging own hand decisions even if it means higher risks, let us move faster and perform tasks much smoother and more cost-effective.

A team member can go from idea stage to implementation stage entirely on her own, saving the company both time and money whilst at the same time coming up with something really cool that totally enhances the customer experience.

"Encouraging own hand decisions even if it means higher risks, lets us move faster and perform tasks much smoother"

Describe your average working day?

The reason I enjoy working here is because of the fast pace environment and the diversified work.

One day I might be digging deep into heavy keyword analysis, trying to optimize our site for certain key-terms and the next minute I find myself being involved in complicated customer journeys, or doing sketches for our new FAQ-section in our Android app.

Playing records at local club in Stockholm

Northmill has its core capabilities in an in-house system. What are the benefits of say an in-house SEO?

The highest upside is that the individuals who are working with SEO aren't just experts in SEO but also know the company and its business inside and out. It leads to new insights and creative ideas. We can also dedicate full time resources which is very important since our presence online is absolutely crucial for part of our success.

So the big banks should focus more on SEO?

Not necessarily, it depends on what kind of audience they're trying to target. It’s all about identifying where your target audience is located, and how the customer journey starts.

You perform regularly with your band. What has impacted you most in your music career?

The perfect mix between raw talent and perfectionism that created pop music as we know it today. Timeless music. Of course I'm talking about the Beatles.

What would you do if you weren’t busy building the next generation financial hub?

I would probably be touring the world with my band, posing as a famous rock star. But building a financial hub is the closest to being a rock star you can probably get.

Are you excited to listen to Hugo's music? His band "Ett band" is available on Spotify.


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