The Real Value to Leading with Creativity in Financial Services

By Erin Waddington, Creative Director

Over the last two years, our businesses, employees, and careers have been transformed by COVID-19. The sudden transition to remote working required a shift in our core thinking to ensure that we were still true to who we were before “the big change,” and continued to deliver world-class creative to support every facet of the Netspend product portfolio.  While it's easy to focus on the things that are different, it’s also given our team an opportunity to reflect on how we have used these challenges as opportunities to grow and continue to provide industry-leading products, services and support that our customers and partners have come to expect from us.

As a Creative Director at Netspend, part of my role is to foster an in-house agency environment where our team members have every opportunity to do their best work in bringing innovative products to our customers and partners. The Netspend creative team was recently recognized at the 2021 American Graphic Design Awards by earning five awards for outstanding graphic design work representing both our brands and our broader partnerships with consumers and other businesses alike.

While this recognition is a great honor for any team, it has also been one of those opportunities that I can look back on as a creative leader to consider what a strength that the internal Netspend creative team is for both our brand and our business.

The trend of cultivating internal creative agencies is not a new one. According to the Gartner 2020 CMO Spend Survey, almost 32% of work has shifted from external agencies to in-house teams. CMOs cite benefits such as greater agility in executing campaigns, the ability to spend marketing dollars more cost-effectively, and a greater control on brand messaging. What I’ve found in my experience managing an in-house agency is that another often unrecognized benefit is the ability to serve our customers even better while also building an environment where creative talent can be retained and cultivated.  

The retention in creative talent is not only a win for you, but for your customers overall. All teams, creative included, seek to craft a cohesive and carefully managed customer experience. Your customer experience is an extension of your brand, after all. And in a highly regulated industry like ours, engaging campaigns can be a challenge. While some agencies may lack this experience, we’ve had over 20 years providing marketing and branding to partners.  If your brand is successfully living and breathing, then the rest of your organization can also grow your bottom line as well.

The ability for our team to deliver across a broad spectrum of creative channels has given us an unexpected return — significantly higher employee retention even within the remote work environment.

For those with an internal creative team or if you’re looking for a foundation to create one, I wanted to share a few best practices that my team has been able to use, adapt, and (I think) succeed as an in-house creative team while transitioning to a 100% remote model.


Provide All the Things. Use the tools you have differently and always look for new ones that promote easy, informal, and collaborative communication. There is no replacement to hallway conversations or huddling at a desk to solve creative challenges. We might not have totally replaced those encounters, but we’ve come close. And we have found that in some ways, communication has improved, such as the ability to share screens and concepts as you’re working on them with groups. 

Let ‘Em Grow. We strongly encourage personal and career growth. It’s baked into our culture. We hold “The Mulch”, which is a monthly creative share that allows team members to share personal pursuits and experiences. We also provide financial support and dedicated time to explore new skills and career paths. Team members also have the leeway to re-shape their own job description as they grow. 

Keep It Fun. One of the critical components that is easy to forget is to take the time to regularly organize team events. Typically, someone on the team will suggest a local watering hole or the latest ax throwing place, and we’ll make time to see each other beyond just on-screen. It helps to ground us and re-establish connections. It’s also an opportunity to invite other teams to our get-together to maintain those important working relationships.

Stay Organized and Agile. For a team like ours, that ingests and finalizes thousands of projects a year, it’s imperative that we stay organized and maintain a strong process. We have the support of an incredible producer team that keeps the wheels on for us. And we revisit our process regularly to see where and how we might improve, staying agile enough to withstand even a pandemic.

Work From a Big Toolbox. Another reason we’ve been able to deliver great creative to our business stakeholders, is the breadth and depth of our small team. Yes, they all have their strengths, but we’ve hired people that can adapt, and have experience across a wide range of industries and roles. As a result, our customers and business partners have received amazing creative and impactful campaigns with eye-catching digital ads, video, and content.


If The Great Resignation has shown us anything, it’s that employees highly value the ability to do meaningful work in an environment where you can intentionally grow and be challenged, all while in a respectful culture. The Netspend creative team has the opportunity to work and learn from multiple internal stakeholders, the challenge of adapting to compliance and legal requirements, and the capability of taking part in growth opportunities that strengthen our team member's skillsets, all in a highly regulated industry.


 “Having a partner with a consistent creative presence provides an inherent value not only to the WWE brand but to our entire customer base,” says Claudine Lilien, WWE Head of Global Sales and Partnerships. “Their team’s ability to deliver visually stunning, impactful creative that unites our brand message together with consistency is a key pillar of our partnership with Netspend that we value and look forward to continuing to extend across all of our advertising channels.”


What has ultimately won customers and creative awards for Netspend and our partners is the ability to cultivate a forward-thinking creative engine that can continue to serve our multiple audiences. It’s a holistic win for the entire Netspend organization, but specifically our team members, customers, and partners.


About the AuthorErin Waddington is Creative Director at Netspend, with over 20 years in the creative field, he is able to offer deep experience in design, advertising, and branding to Netspend and its partners. Leading a team of creative experts, this lets Netspend and partners strategically communicate brand and marketing of Netspend and partner branded products in any channel or media. Prior to joining Netspend, Erin held leadership roles in agency and in-house creative teams.