The eLearning Guild’s latest Guild Insights case study describes how the L&D team at Allianz Global Investors is confronting a perfect storm of challenges facing the financial services and banking industry by using interactive video to create world-class recruitment and onboarding and to enhance employee engagement.

AllianzGI is a diversified investment management firm with 25 offices in 18 countries. The firm provides global investment, research, and delivery of localized consulting services. As of March 31, 2016, AllianzGI had $495 billion in combined assets under management for individuals, families, and institutions worldwide, and employed more than 550 investment professionals—including portfolio managers, who on average have more than a decade of experience with the firm.

Rough times for the financial sector

It is no secret that employers within the global financial services and banking sectors have endured tough times during the past decade. Among other impacts of the downturn, employers are facing serious issues with low morale, high turnover, and an increasing number of job candidates who no longer view the sector as a desirable career choice. Perhaps the Deloitte Talent in Banking Survey 2014 expresses it best:

“It has been more than six years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which brought the financial system to its knees and forced the big banks in the US and Europe to turn to their governments for help. Management has been focused on ‘fixing the bank’ and on meeting regulatory demands, such as rebuilding capital. Attention is now turning to talent. The task of the banking sector has not been made any easier by scandals and fines, often for historical misdeeds, that continue to trouble it.”

Competition for banking and investment talent

Looking specifically at talent in banking and the financial services sector, findings from the Deloitte survey also reveal sobering facts about the state of recruitment, retention, and employee engagement in this sector:

  • The survey finds that banking is no longer the number-one career choice for business school graduates—the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) business sector has taken over the top spot.
  • Work-life balance remains important to business graduates, “but job security is becoming increasingly desirable,” the survey reports. For students evaluating potential employers, “professional training and development” tops the list of most attractive employer attributes.
  • The survey also reveals: “The banking sector was viewed by business students as less likely than the average employer to offer ‘secure employment,’ ‘a friendly work environment,’ and ‘flexible working conditions.’” (Emphasis added.)

It is clear that learning and development (L&D) and human resources (HR) practitioners who work within the banking and financial services sectors have their work cut out for them today and in the decade to come. The following observation from Tony White, AllianzGI’s head of L&D and talent management, appropriately sets the stage for our case study:

“Today’s financial services sector is not seen as innovative. ‘Banker bashing,’ the 2008 financial crisis, and a number of other challenges have all left the financial industry with a tarnished reputation. It is more important now than ever that we elevate the standards and ethics that underpin what we do and how our businesses work.”

Facing the people challenges

White and Gözde Imamoglu Vandevoorde, assistant vice president for L&D, identified a number of people challenges facing their team:

  • Recruiting new talent. Just as attracting talent to the larger financial services industry is an uphill climb, recruiting is also a substantial challenge for AllianzGI. Similar to other industry firms, AllianzGI is working to dispel widespread negative impressions of banking and financial services.
  • Broadening the talent pool. Everyone competes for high-potential talent, and the AllianzGI team is working to broaden its talent pool by showing qualified people—from both inside and outside the financial sector—that their skills are applicable to the company’s culture, goals, and service delivery capabilities. As White puts it:

“The best way to accomplish that goal is to tell a story. Show that our work environment is fun, exciting, and innovative. [Directly confront] industry stereotypes that need to be overcome. And not just for recruitment, but also [for] brand awareness, [promoting our] value propositions. [We need to tell the story and explain that] there’s a lot more to what we do than first meets the eye.”

  • Addressing Millennial challenges and the generation gap. The AllianzGI team specifically wanted to use learning approaches and video technologies that would appeal to younger Millennial recruits. In so doing, the team also wanted to appeal to current employees who would find video learning approaches fun and engaging. White goes on to note:

“The tools and techniques that we used for attracting new hires and appealing to current employees were based in the past, rather than current day. Using interactive video enabled us to appeal to the Millennial generation and also show our current employees that we are up to date with technology and open to innovation.”

A strong foundation, culture, and philosophy

AllianzGI has a strong and diverse culture, and it persistently strives to communicate and transfer the key elements of its culture to new hires as well as current employees. These elements include the values of excellence, integrity, passion, and respect. The firm’s cultural foundations and organizational philosophy are sustained and embodied in the phrase “Understand. Act.”

A featured video on the company’s career website echoes its corporate philosophy:

“At Allianz Global Investors, we follow a two-word philosophy: ‘Understand. Act.’ This is as powerful as it is succinct. It describes how we look at the world and how we behave. It signals our belief that with so much information available, the best way to gain an advantage is through understanding. To this, we add a commitment to taking action that capitalizes on potential and drives performance.”

Looking at AllianzGI’s approach to interactive video, one can quickly see the critical role that organizational culture and company philosophy play in learning design and video development.

Learning metaphor: “A day in the life”

Within the video product itself—Welcome to the Investment Factor—the primary learning metaphor used to tell the story was that of “a day in the life of a portfolio manager,” where the viewer travels through the video and meets other characters along the way. The team felt that the role of portfolio manager (PM) was one that almost everyone—applicants, recruits, and current employees—would identify with. Using the PM role enabled the AllianzGI team to better tell the story in more understandable fashion. Viewers can choose between two paths and then be guided through the ensuing interactive journey by a helpful “onboarding buddy” (Figure 1).

Figure 1: “Onboarding buddy”

Source: Allianz Global Investors, 2016

Partnership approach

AllianzGI partnered with two design and technology firms to design, create, and deploy its interactive video content.

The first of these partners was Casual Films, a creative design and video production company that focuses on helping clients create high-performance cultures and enhance recruitment and employee development. Founded in 2006, Casual Films uses a core team, split between London and New York, to design interactive videos including fully interactive “choose your own adventure” films. Casual Films has created award-winning recruitment videos, and several of its films have been entered into the British Film Institute National Archive.

The second partner was Boulder, Colorado-based Rapt Media. Founded in 2011, Rapt Media provides a cloud-based, interactive storytelling technology that combines personalized narrative with data integration. You can use its HTML5 mobile-native video platform to navigate a large number of individual videos. The website CrunchBase notes that Rapt Media “also offers solutions in the areas of creative services, branching, link outs, site pairing, and strategy aspects. The videos are available on browsers, tablets, and handheld devices.”

The AllianzGI team and its two partners used the following division of labor to accomplish their project objectives:

  • The AllianzGI team created paper-based designs for learning content and navigation paths, and also provided project leadership and coordination for all aspects of the partnering initiative.
  • Casual Films designed the user experience (in conjunction and collaboration with AllianzGI), shot and produced the content, and built the project on the Rapt Media platform.
  • Using the Rapt Media Composer, a cloud-based creative tool and editing suite, Rapt Media ensured the functionality of the game-based scoring component through custom development and implementation.

Lessons learned

White and Vandevoorde identified a number of lessons that they and their team learned from this experience:

  • Allow sufficient time to find the right partners. This process was more complicated, and a steeper learning curve, than the team had originally anticipated. They had to find partners who had the industry knowledge and technical expertise to help them create scenarios that were both realistic to current employees and understandable to external recruits.
  • Invite the partners to visit your organization. Let them spend a day with you in order for them to learn a bit more about the organization and experience the company culture. After they have met with people in your organization and better understand the cultural setting, have the partner(s) select the actors. (More on this to follow.)
  • Plan for a substantial editing effort. The amount of editing that was required on the decision trees, scripts, and individual scenarios was more than originally anticipated. The team faced the frustrating challenge of thinking their product was finished, only to find that it still required numerous last-minute tweaks. Involve more stakeholders earlier in the design process to speed up and reduce editing efforts later on.
  • Plan for a global audience. Simplify and focus the language you use in your video script. Avoid using idioms (language that is specific to one community, geographic, or cultural setting), because your video may also be viewed by a global audience.
  • Build a marketing plan. Develop a written marketing and distribution plan that describes how future interactive video rollouts will continually amplify and keep each product moving. Take responsibility for identifying and acquiring viewers, and remember this warning: “Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean that they will come.” Create a detailed plan that defines and describes the following:
    • How you will distribute and promote your video.
    • The specific “choice points” that you will use. (Note: According to Creative Company, a “choice point” describes “where and how your target audiences take action to move forward” in a purchasing transaction, information discovery, or learning process—for example, a point when the viewer can choose to “inquire, refer, call, join, download, click through, sign up, or buy.”)
    • The specific audience(s) that you are targeting.
    • The specific purposes or outcomes you intend to achieve (e.g., drive onboarding, appeal to Millennials, or engage current employees).
    • Together with choice points, additional elements of the video that will drive viewer “conversion behavior” and incentivize the viewer to take action. (Note: This widely used technique to increase conversion rates is called “behavioral targeting.”)
  • Be prepared to work with media professionals. One of the team’s challenges was that team members were L&D professionals, working in a corporate world, who had not been exposed to actors and “creative types.” White observes:

“It was fun reviewing audition tapes and choosing actors. But we weren’t casting professionals. Several times, we selected an individual who auditioned well but ultimately didn’t work out for the actual video. This created the need for additional time and effort in reshooting that segment. Next time, we might invite media production professionals from within our own company to help us. [But, as we learned,] you can only do the best you can do at the time.”

  • Use actors, not employees, for your video. Don’t use executives or internal employees in your video for explaining corporate philosophy and values; keep longevity of the video foremost. For example, viewers could be confused if someone appeared in the video who had since left the company.
  • Make sure you clearly understand the contract. Ensure that your team and learning leaders fully understand all of the technical terms within all partner contracts. Work with partners to clarify and simplify contract language.


AllianzGI’s interactive video solution has proven highly successful in its appeal to the firm’s recruits, new hires, and current employees of the firm. Furthermore, the interactive video solution has fully delivered on the business case that AllianzGI learning leaders had made to company executives. White explains: “The business trusted me that this [interactive video] was the right thing to do. We operated within our overall investment philosophy [by asking]: ‘Why should I invest in your product?’ Why would it be any different [for learning initiatives originating] in L&D?”

Looking ahead

The AllianzGI team and learning leaders are focusing on a number of changes and activities as they build on their current success and work to make future interactive learning videos even more successful.

For example, learning leaders want to involve a wider group of employees in content creation. This means enabling AllianzGI employees to create videos that solve their own problems. White calls this “learning at the point of need.” These employee-produced videos can be linear; they don’t need to be interactive.

In addition, the AllianzGI team plans to better define what they call their “learning journey.” This includes answering questions such as: “How do we use other mediums, such as augmented reality?” and “How do we better use gamified-learning concepts?”


Allianz Global Investors. AllianzGI Understand. Act. YouTube video. 27 May 2015.

Allianz Global Investors. “Corporate Philosophy.”

Allianz Global Investors. “Understand. Act.”

Allianz Global Investors. Welcome to the Investment Factor. Video.

Creative Company. “Build your brand on action.”

CrunchBase. “Rapt Media.”

Deloitte. The Deloitte Talent in Banking Survey 2014: Graduate recruitment in banking: Facing the credibility crunch.