NEW YORK: Citi, the financial services provider, has demonstrated how brands can take a nuanced approach to entering political territory with its introduction of rules that govern the sale of firearms by partners and clients in the retail space.

Ed Skyler, who serves as EVP/global public affairs at Citi, discussed this subject during a session at the 2018 Techonomy NYC conference.

Its stipulations for relevant partners and clients dictate that they cannot sell guns to people who have not passed a background check, restrict firearm sales to people under 21 years old, and must not sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines.

While this decision was applauded by many people, there was inevitably some push back among gun enthusiasts who expressed their distaste for any such restriction.

“There are a lot of strong voices on the other side, and we’re getting criticism that we’re experiencing as well,” said Skyler. “It’s not as if you roll out this policy and everybody slaps you on the back.” (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Citi enters the gun control debate while protecting its brand.)

Citi’s steps in this area followed on from the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February 2018 – an event that resulted in the death of 14 students and three staff members.

Some of its employees, Skyler explained, were affected by the tragic event. And that made the absence of an official firearms policy an even more urgent problem to resolve.

In putting together its rules, Citi looked at existing best practices and restrictions on gun ownership that were broadly supported by the public. It also deliberately took a variety of views into account.

“We tried to balance respect for law-abiding gun owners and respect for the Second Amendment – we have a footprint across the country in almost every state – and that was important to us to really try to focus on keeping firearms out of the wrong hands,” said Skyler.

Given the animus around this topic, he admitted the consequences of this action are not instantly discernible. “We don’t know whether it’s too much or too little, but the sense was that nothing was really changing in our society,” Skyler sad.

Financial services providers like Citi gained experience of negative public sentiment during the last recession. And building up positive connections, Skyler asserted, is a long-term endeavor that requires finding the right path and staying the course.

“You can take a dip pretty quickly,” he said. “When we measure things … this [positive] stuff is built up over time,” he said. “So, I don’t think you’re going to see, quarter to quarter, huge swings.”

Sourced from WARC