Interview – Iress

Iress is an Australian technology company that supplies software to the financial services industry in the UK, APAC, North America and South Africa. It has 1,950 staff, and works with 9000 businesses and 500,000 users. As a software provider it is by nature in the background, and after nearly three decades in business it could easily be taken for granted. We spoke to Matthew Holland, head of corporate marketing, about why they refreshed and refocused their brand.

Interviews | 3 minutes read | Michael Gough

Interview – Iress
Interview – Iress

Sparks: What’s the story behind Iress?

It’s really the story of a lot of businesses, starting in Australia in 1993 with the original business, IRESS – or integrated real–time equity software systems. The company listed on the Australian stockmarket in 2000 before acquiring  financial advice software Xplan in 2003, which was created by our current CEO Andrew Walsh. Over the years we’ve continued to expand into new regions and markets and grown to nearly 2000 people around the world.

 

So Iress is in a fairly dominant position today?

Iress today is an established, successful business but it’s in different stages of development and maturity across different markets. There are plenty of competitors out there in all those markets doing parts of what Iress does. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, but no one company is able to deliver what we can. We represent a highly competitive, compelling offer in all the markets we operate in.

 

 

…our clients were telling us we were important, but not always loved. Once you’re an Iress client, it’s a sticky relationship. We become an essential part of a client’s operations. We want people to be happy in that situation, not begrudge it.

 

What inspired the rebrand?

Initially we didn’t think we needed a rebrand. It was a healthy business and had powered on for a long time without being too concerned about the aesthetic. It was all working, but our clients were telling us we were important, but not always loved. Once you’re an Iress client, it’s a sticky relationship. We become an essential part of a client’s operations. We want people to be happy in that situation, not begrudge it. There’s a genuine ambition to make sure clients feel good about using our products – to be desirable – and to make sure the market knows we are keeping pace. This is particularly important in places like London and Sydney, where bright new fintechs arrive and can make an impact pretty quickly. We are a little wary of the instability that can be associated with the fintech label, but we want to make sure we’re not seen as a sleeping giant either.

 

So the rebrand had to make Iress more desirable?

Yes, and we weren’t going to get to desirable with the visuals we had, or the way we described ourselves. Iress talked very functionally and factually about the business. Desire is an emotion. To be desirable, we needed to be less rational.

But none of us thought we needed a full rebrand. I thought we could ‘round the edges’ on the logo and tighten up the kerning – change the narrative and hold onto the visual brand. It wasn’t until we’d shown some of the stuff that you guys had done that the leadership team was on board. From that point, the team wanted us to really push it. We had been looking at more incremental change. I certainly didn’t come to you thinking we’d end up where we did. It was a good surprise, to get to where we are today. Our new visual identity doesn’t change everything overnight, but it’s a clear signal to everyone of our ambition, that we’re on the move.


 

The rebrand was the right thing to do to excite our people as well as our clients. This rebrand is linked to a bigger aspiration for the company. Iress people are really proud of the business they’re building, and we want our clients to feel the same way about it as we do.


If you were thinking about smaller change, what made you bring in an agency?

While we have skilled and capable in–house designers, we are a small team and it’s hard to be objective. It’s hard to shake off what you know. An external point of view is always helpful.

We could have gone to a big agency, but it’s not about size. Impact and relationships are more important for this kind of work. We didn’t want to get swallowed up.I think what makes a good agency is a balance. You want them to understand what you’re trying to achieve. On the other hand, I’m not always sure about the best way to articulate what I’m trying to do, so a bit of discomfort is good too.

You don’t want to work with an agency that just says, “yeah, got it. We’ll just slap a bit of paint on your idea and away we go.”  Neither do you want to work with an agency that says, “No, you’re completely wrong. You should do it this way.” It’s about listening and understanding. They should bring just enough of a challenge that you walk out of a meeting going “I’ve got to think that through.”

 

Can you describe some of the benefits of rebranding?

Something we haven’t talked about yet is the employer brand. It’s hard to attract good developer talent to a brand that hasn’t moved on as much as it could. Talent acquisition wasn’t the main consideration, but it was a strong influence.

In Sydney we’ve got the Google offices across the water in Darling Harbour. You can see their offices from ours. If I’m a skilled developer, I could go there, right? Or to Slack, or Zoom or any software business that looks the part and is known for doing interesting things. Iress looks and sounds more interesting now. It looks more like a technology company. We can now translate that into the employee brand and that’s a job for the next twelve months. 

The brand foundation has been very useful too. When we’ve lost our way a little bit we go back to the foundation and check in. There’s also the challenge to embody the words used in the brand foundation. It’s become the essence: perform better every day. We ask ourselves ‘Is what you’re doing helping people perform better every day?’ If it is, carry on. It’s a really good, simple filter. The brand foundation has popped up in places that I didn’t think it would, because it’s clear, simple, and pragmatic. It’s totally hit the mark. 

People genuinely love the rebrand and the ambition it represents. It’s been a massive hit with our people and there’s a lot of love for it.  We’re doing client and user surveys now, and it will be interesting to see what they think.

The rebrand was the right thing to do to excite our people as well as our clients. This rebrand is linked to a bigger aspiration for the company. Iress people are really proud of the business they’re building, and we want our clients to feel the same way about it as we do.