We continue to talk with Ingka Group leaders to understand how we are creating a better IKEA and a better everyday life for the many people. This week we sat down with Leyre Azcona Munarriz, Head of Financial Services. Leyre speaks about the changing ways of serving customers and explains the steps taken to make financial services more accessible for a broader base of customers.
How do you create a better IKEA for the many people every day?
I am a privileged person. I grew up in a beautiful city, San Sebastian, within a loving family. I had the opportunity to have an education, go abroad to study and work within what I felt passionate about. I am very much aware, however, that this is not the reality of many people. That the many people cannot always choose, be included, or even be considered.
Climate change, a pandemic, economic inequality, and wars are reducing the choices and opportunities for people even further. To create a better everyday life for the many people has, to me now, a stronger purpose than ever.
Financial services is a new area for IKEA, and therefore it is not free of difficulties, but it is also filled with amazing co-workers, that challenge us to be better and dare to try new ways to support our customers and reach out to more of the many. This is the power of togetherness. Together we dare to create a better IKEA for the many people every day.
Finance is the key for many customers to unlock all those choices that today are not available for them. I am a true believer that IKEA can make a difference, not only by ourselves but also influencing others in the industry to create a movement that can, with values, say YES to more of the many.
Right now we are testing and trying financing solutions that can help our customers create their dream homes on their terms. Following an investment in Ikano Bank last year, together we launched financial services in IKEA UK with a new digital application process making it easy for customers of all financial situations to apply for interest free loans – whether they’re shopping in store or online. We are so happy to see that customers appreciate both the financial service and the digital solution, making it easier to create a better life at home.
What are the main challenges retail leaders are facing and how are you addressing them?
In the last few years, we have experienced a pandemic, a world supply chain disruption and war, with dramatic effects on people and organisations. I have a strong belief that how we face these difficult situations define who we are as leaders and organisations.
The impact on customers cannot be underestimated, and we need to always consider this and act with empathy. When such disruptions happen, the already established ways of serving our customers are not necessarily valid anymore, forcing us to change and transform in the unknown with speed.
Change can be a challenge but a constant we do have at IKEA is that our vision and values will guide us and help us navigate in the unknown. Leading by example is one the values that guides me, because it is about walking the talk; it is not about asking others to do something, it is about empathy, understanding what it takes and daring together.
In terms of how we serve customers, it is an opportunity to learn and become better as it triggers our creativity and, if we choose so, reaching for the best we have in us.
We have transformed from offering financial services only in store and become more accessible to the many by offering an omnichannel solution across web, app, store and remotely. This was a result of the pandemic but we have since accelerated and learnt quickly.
What trends do you predict for our retail market?
In uncertain times, home is more important than ever. We have come out of the pandemic in most countries, with a situation of high energy prices, global supply chain challenges and a war, creating an inflationary scenario that will dictate trends going forward.
The customer focus on the cost of living is increasing while customers’ dreams remain. Inspiration and solutions that help customers with their budget, such as financial services, will increase in importance going forward. In the same way, the acceleration in digitalization continues to grow, where physical and digital meet in a symbiosis that will continue even more strongly.
What would your best advice to young, aspiring leaders be today?
In my experience, being humble enough to accept that there are many things you do not know and having the curiosity to see what is behind a door takes you to amazing places and adventures that you might not have ever thought of. I learnt to surround myself with those who are different to me and have a different background than mine; it has helped see things through their eyes and perspective and understand the world a bit better. I have tried to surround myself with those that know more than me and learn from them and grow with them.
I would encourage them to pay attention to the people around them, be empathetic and act when action needs to be taken. Remember that others will watch you and learn not only from what you say, but from what you do and from how you make them feel, and so lead by example.
It will not be easy, things might not happen the first time, you might not always be understood, and you will make mistakes, plenty of mistakes. However, be persistent, and keep working for what you believe. Learn from all of that and make it part of your growth journey. Share what you learned and keep learning from others, always.
Take care of your health and take care of the ones around you. Do not let targets, goals and deadlines oppress you or your team, use them as tools that help you progress in the right direction. They are there to help us but should not make us feel small. And when in doubt about which direction to take, follow your heart, it is where you keep your values.
Be yourself, enjoy the feeling of helping and seeing others grow, that is the whole point. Be proud and keep it in your heart. And finally, always make sure to have fun and laugh. It is a journey, and it is on us to make it memorable.
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