My Media Life – Christoph Woermann

November 2, 2022

CHRISTOPH WOERMANN IN CONVERSATION WITH THE WORLD MEDIA GROUP’S BELINDA BARKER

Welcome to My Media Life, where we chat with the movers and shakers in the worlds of business and marketing to find out what the media industry means to them. They share their advice for those starting out today and personal insights into their sources of inspiration and motivations.

This month, we’re delighted to be joined by Christoph Woermann, CMO of Corporate Banking for Deutsche Bank.

Below are extracts from our conversation – you can watch the full interview in the video above or listen to the podcast here.

How does marketing for a large bank differ from marketing in other industries?

Banking means different things to different people. Most people usually have a notion of banks in their capacity as a private retail customer. Of course, banks have other facets as they are also conducting capital markets business, or business with larger corporate clients, or in the asset management space, so marketing is multifaceted.

The challenging and fascinating thing about marketing for banks, and in marketing to business audiences, corporates and large multinational institutions, is that you’re not marketing any physical products. You’re marketing the capacity of an institution to foster economic growth by supporting corporates in various aspects of their day-to-day activity by processing their payments or funding their business.

As such, marketing is super inspiring because one day you may be involved in talking about a project in a developing country. Another day you may be talking about how you can support a client in growing into different regions in Asia Pacific and the challenges they may have. And on the third day, you’re involved in issues about supply chain management. Marketing, therefore, is the conveyance of the intellectual capabilities of a financial provider or their expertise, as opposed to pure product and getting rid of something you have on your shelves. That is not disrespectful to anyone who has that – it’s just a different mechanic.

You’ve been within the media industry for a number of years – what does it mean to you?

When you have decades of experience in one industry, you witness how the industry has developed through various cycles, and the same is true for the media industry. Whilst in the past, the media industry had a so-called monopoly on the content creation, nowadays, everybody is their own content creator.

There is information overload – people suffering from information fatigue, from information burnout. In a very fast and easy-consume media world, quality is key. The media that can provide well-researched, balanced quality has a lot to say, for that will be where, in my view, the tendency will go.

You can get confirmation for every weird opinion from left, right, and centre and feel perfectly entitled to continue with that thought. At that time, a balanced media offer can help you navigate on the right path again, and that’s why I feel media has an even more important place in this world that gets increasingly polarized, than ever before.

What’s the one piece of advice that has helped you in your career?

There’s one piece of advice that was given to me before I even started in banking by a banker that I met on a private occasion. At that time, I had no intentions whatsoever to join banking. In fact, I was poised to go into the FMCG business in a marketing role. This person said to me, “Why don’t you join the banking industry?” to which I responded, “Oh, I’m not too sure whether I’m the right person for it.” And he then said, “Look, what you know can come in very handy at some point in life. What you don’t know should be your constant quest. So please venture into unchartered territories. That will make you stronger.”

He went on to say, “If you join our company, at some point your knowledge about marketing can come in very handy because they’re all bankers, not marketeers.” And now I’m sitting here speaking to you as a Chief Marketing Officer of Deutsche Bank’s corporate bank as a trained banker, but also as a marketeer. That is the advice I would give somebody: Always tackle the unknown. The reward is much bigger than the risk!

What’s your favourite thing about your current role?

Banking, in the true sense, is about enabling customers to make a difference to the worlds in which they operate – to their markets, to their customers. You can foster innovation by providing financing, and you can foster innovation by providing the right advice.

That is what I absolutely love in my job because if you have the privilege to sit together with highly intelligent people that are all subject matter experts, then you can draw the knowledge out of them, package this in an unbiased, non-product-led way, and offer the gift of knowledge to your audiences, be it existing customers or the wider market.

It is very rewarding if you see that the responses of those who read your content result in an activity that makes a difference in the market. It sounds very heroic, but at the end of the day, that’s what it boils down to, and that’s why it is a privilege to do what I do.

It sounds like you still get excited about your role?

Absolutely. I mean, I would say the moment you’re losing your passion for something, you have to move on. It’s almost like cancer that eats you up from the inside if you’re not doing what you love. Not every day for me is a day where I say, “Wow! I’ve just moved the world”. There’s a lot of lot of mundane stuff that we all have to do, but in essence, you’ve got to really love what you’re doing. You’ve got to be positive.

What’s your secret talent?

I think the secret, is to see your role as a leader of a team almost like an inverse triangle, that you turn it on its head and you are at the bottom of it, supporting the careers and the success of every single member of your team. You are only as good as the weakest link in your team. And it’s not about identifying weaknesses and giving them the grandfatherly help. It’s about showing good leadership by rolling up your sleeves, not being too precious to do something super mundane; doing things that surprise people.

When we’re at conferences, for example, I’m not just running around having senior meetings. I am reporting from the conference myself on our corporate LinkedIn channel. I write, I produce the videos myself with my own camera, all within the confines of guidance that our company gives us. You’re only a credible leader when you show that you can do everything that your team can do, and you’re curious and helpful to those who do things much better than you to lead the path.

Where do you get your daily news from?

Living in the UK, I wake up and listen to Radio 4. I know there are people who have different views about certain radio shows or news outlets, but I think it’s good enough for me to know what’s currently cooking. I know that there isn’t any such thing as a completely unbiased news provision.

I’m an ardent fan of the Economist. When the very contentious and heated debate on Brexit happened, this magazine made clear where they stood, but they allowed everyone to voice their side of the view. And that is what I feel every adult can expect or can demand from media. Provide them with data points and let them form their own opinion.

What about social media?

I was very active on Twitter a couple of years ago and I know Twitter is here to stay, but I find it increasingly hard to pick out a good gold nugget. It’s a lot of chatter. I feel that LinkedIn is my online supplement to the news and I value the professional approach, generally, that this medium offers.

What media brands do you trust the most?

This is a blatant plug for the World Media Group and I’m very pleased to be involved. I can wholeheartedly say that every single member listed on the World Media Group’s participants – I don’t want to single out anyone – has stood the test of time in terms of their approach to journalism; their approach to research.

Nowadays, it’s so important that there is a collective force for the good, for quality journalism. And we as recipients of that need to willingly pay for it and support it by making sure we cite those quality sources whenever there’s an opportunity to do so. It is important, in my view, that we maintain the integrity of those outlets.

What do you do to switch off?  

As somebody who’s very interested in and passionate about wellbeing, I feel that we shouldn’t dismiss the fact that we are all part of nature and the connectivity with nature via things like the food that we eat. I love cooking for my family, and I love preparing food. Not in the microwave, wait for the ping and take it out. Prepare fresh stuff if you can take the time.

Time is the biggest thing you can gift to members of your family. I also go for walks with my little dog – these are the mundane things that I do. I’m a gardener of a little London garden patch – in two hours I can manicure my garden so that it looks spic and span!

When or where do you get your inspiration?

When my brain is idle. Mowing the lawn doesn’t require a lot of brain attention – the only sensory experience is the wonderful smell of freshly cut grass. This is usually when I get my inspiration, and in the morning in the shower, or sometimes when I’m riding my scooter to work (although increasingly less so because of the traffic).

That’s the source of my creativity, and, as with so many other people, when you talk about gardening or when you talk about London, or mundane things like preparing food, you can have hours of conversation with people who have the same interest.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and time with us today, Christoph. Your thirst for creativity and your ongoing passion in your role is inspirational!