BiG AFRICA SUPERSHOW – SPEAKER INTERVIEW
(South Africa).- Christina has over 25 years’ experience in the betting, gaming and gambling industry. Starting out in the pre-dotcom era, she has a career spanning land, internet and mobile, cross all aspects of betting and gaming operations, holding senior roles with some of the world’s best-known brands (such as William Hill and Virgin) and responsible for managing multiple business disciplines, functions and teams across a range of channels, products, customers, and jurisdictions, including regulatory compliance and money laundering.
Christina: That’s correct. Kelly Kehn and I co-founded the not for profit All-In Diversity Project last year. The world around is changing rapidly and with it the expectations and aspirations of the employees, investors and customers of the future. Generation Z or the i-Generation will have fundamentally different expectations to previous generations. Not just in terms of diversity and equality, but also expectations around work-life balance, parental leave, life goals and key drivers behind choice of employer. For example, did you know that according to recent research, the next generation is willing to take a 35-50% pay cut if it means being able to work for a company that mirrors their values and beliefs. This is especially important for those sectors with reputational issues to contend with, such as the gambling sector. Those companies who have relied on paychecks and financial incentives to keep people in the past are going to be in for a shock.
The generational shift starts to kick-in from 2020 which means we need to start thinking and acting now. If we can’t attract the next generation of workers, we’ll struggle to understand and service that same generation of customers. What used to be able doing the right is now about reputation, revenue and risk.
We want to provide the global betting and gambling sector with a platform for discussing the challenges we face, as well as being a central resource for all things diversity, equality and inclusion related. Our lead-out initiative is the All-Index – an industry survey which measures EDI across the global sector. If fact our very first Q3 2018 Interim report is out this week.
We’re supported by some of the world’s biggest brands as well as regulators, responsible gambling groups and industry associations. We believe in equality of opportunity for all, and anyone who wants to get involved or find out more go to https://allindiversityproject.com.
You have mastered many disciplines in the gaming sector over the past 25 years of your career, are there any more that you hope to add to your wealth of knowledge?
Christina: I’d say being open to learning new things is the single most important piece of advice I would give to anyone – myself included. It allows us as individuals, but also as companies (which are essentially a group of individuals working together) to continue to grow, develop and innovate, and in doing so to stay relevant.
The last couple of years I’ve tried to get my head around blockchain and cryptocurrency, AR/VR, machine learning and AI and its application in our world. Right now, I’m working on expanding my knowledge around EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) practices and I’m finding it fascinating. For example, did you know that in parts of the US maternity falls under disability laws, or that Malta has a law saying that companies with more than 20 people should ensure that 2% of their employees are persons with a disability or that the next generation of fathers want the same rights as mothers in terms of paternity leave and pay. It’s interesting in itself, but even more so when we look at it in the context of a growing US betting market and Malta’s position as European gambling hub.
You will be instructing masterclass on extending player life-cycles at the BiG Africa Supershow, can you give us a few teasers as to how gaming companies can retain players and extend product life-cycles?
Christina: It really is all about understanding your customer and knowing what they want before they do, and understanding that who they are, how they behave and what they want changed over time. The customer in Africa is no longer the ‘mug punter’ chasing the 10 accumulator jackpot – far from it.Today’s African punter is savvy, value driven and can probably give the likes of sportradar and Opta a run for their money when it comes to stats.
Also customer demographics change and evolve over time. The way in which an operator acquires and retains a customer in their 40s is very different to how they attract and keep a customer in their 20s.
How you attract, and continue to engage in a way that evolves as the customer does, therein lies the challenge.
You recently spoke at the Scandinavian Gaming Show in Sweden, are there any parallels between the Scandinavian and African markets?
Christina: Whether it’s Sweden, Africa, America or Australia, the reason people bet is to win. This may be in the context of an entertaining experience, watching or attending a game, or going to a casino with friends, or pitting their wits against the bookie, but at the end of the day the aim is to win money. In that respect all gaming markets are very similar.
Are there any parallels between Sweden and Africa? In some ways yes. Both have populations that are obsessive about football and like betting, both are relatively new to a regulated domestic market, and both have a strong desire to protect customers from gambling harm. In other ways less so. Sweden has been exposed to the European gambling market for a long time, so irrespective of the maturity of the regulated domestic market, customers are more experienced and have had access to forms of gambling in a way Africa has not yet. Things like online slots and bingo – but this will start to change as 5G starts to impact on connectivity and data costs. We are also on the cusp of new technologies like voice and VR gaming which will also help to homogenise the global gambling experience.
Gaming is becoming more and more competitive each year, what advice would you give gaming sector professionals to give them that competitive edge in the African market?
Christina: It’s getting harder, and not just in Africa. There are a number of products which have not yet engaged the African customer, but as technology and connectivity gets better, things like slots and even poker could start to take off. There is also that untapped audience which most of the African operators have yet to engage – women. Things like bingo and slots sure, but also betting – and not just entertainment and specials markets. More and more women are getting into sports and football so providing them an environment which allows them to get involved could be interesting.
Being the first to find the next big thing is always helpful, but really new things which truly engage lots of people are hard to come by, so find a way of adding something new to an existing product such as early cash out, build builder or selling a stake in a running on bet – not quite an exchange but something I do with fellow bettors all the time.
The final and most obvious thing is to just treat your customer properly so that they don’t want to go anywhere else. This could include bonuses, promotions, enhanced odds or pay-outs, merchandise or tickets to games – or it could just be a good experience.
What do you look forward to by being a part of the 6th Annual BiG Africa Supershow?
Christina: Seeing how the market, the operators and the customers have evolved and grown in the last 12 months. Africa is one of the places that is still growing – economically and technologically – with more and more countries exploring the opportunities that a regulated market can bring and that’s always exciting. Most of all, and as always I look forward to catching up with old friends, and hopefully making some new ones.