Sunday, 13 December 2015

Do Industry Analysts actually know more than you, and what if they don't?


Courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of The Comms Crowd and our resident analyst relations guru - we look at if it's about what you know or who you know...

Mate I'm telling you,
Your go-to-market strategy is all wrong...
When engaging with industry analysts, tech vendors and end users ALWAYS want to know what value they add and whether they can actually provide guidance to help them make crucial strategic decisions.

For some people, the fundamental reason they engage with analysts is to get advice about how to position themselves better (vendors) or which vendor technologies to consider (end users) because they genuinely can’t do so themselves and feel that analysts know more about certain aspects of the industry than they do.

When everything matches - i.e. connection with the right analyst, finding the best time to engage with them during the product life cycle or decision-making process, execution as advised, and progress reviews – we’re all happy and feel the whole process was worth it.

All this depends on:

1. The analyst adding to the knowledge that didn’t exist within the organisation, or did exist but no-one had a good idea how best to utilise it strategically;

2. The analyst using their extensive knowledge of various technologies, implementations and case studies to provide impartial advice and pro-actively guide their clients.

Now, occasionally, we hear “I definitely know more about this industry than XYZ analyst, what value will they really provide? I will be the one educating them!”

Time is precious and it is understandable if someone doesn’t want to waste time talking to analyst they don’t feel are relevant to them. What people should always remember is that it works the other way round as well. Analysts don’t want to talk to people that are not relevant to their research areas or can’t provide valuable information they can use to help advise their own clients.

So if an analyst wants to speak to you, they may not necessarily know more about the industry than you do but they do want to know more about your company, technology, services, GTM strategy, etc.

Fundamentally, you need to see this as an education process. Though you may know what you are doing, you need to get the message out. So, educate the analysts and let them educate the market / tell people about the value you provide.

For a normal briefing, the question to ask is “what gaps in the analyst’s knowledge exist that I need to fill in?” instead of “does this analyst know more than me?”

For consulting / inquiry-type engagements, you can think differently. You want to make sure the analyst you talk to is providing you with the necessary advice related to messaging, market positioning, technology development, etc. What you are looking for is an independent opinion which, given the opportunities analysts have to talk to end users (about deployments) and vendors (about technology solutions), allows them to give actionable advice that you can use.

Sometimes, all they can do is validate what you already know or do. But it is important to have that validation so you don’t get caught up navel gazing. A reality check is always good.

So, do analysts always know more about an industry than you do? No they don’t! But by carefully identifying and approaching the right analysts, you can engage with those (paid or not) that are driving conversations or have an impact on end user technology selection because someone somewhere finds their output valuable enough to engage with them.

Their independence, means people will be more open to them than to you, is something to take advantage of. So don’t ignore the newer / younger analysts – they could be your biggest advocates in years to come.

Interested in more analyst relations insights? You might find these posts interesting too:









Sunday, 8 November 2015

Piggybacking on the headlines

Saddle up!  Piggybacking in PR can be quite thrilling
Comms Crowd team member and PR Pro, Debbie Smith looks at how to 'ride' a current news story to raise your client’s profile...

When you choose to work in B2B technology PR, most of your career is spent pitching to trade press and freelance journalists who specialise in the same area. Unless you’re working for a megabrand such as Microsoft or IBM, you’re not going to have many opportunities to pitch to the national press.
OK, let’s rephrase that – nothing’s stopping you pitching to them, but you’re unlikely to get much response unless your client’s invented a computer processor that isn’t based on silicon or found a solution to climate change. However, there’s a useful tool to add to your PR kit bag: link your story to something that’s already making the headlines, and your client suddenly becomes relevant to mainstream media.

Critical to success are speed and relevance. The link has to be genuine, and you need to act fast. If you’ve spotted the link, you can be sure that another PR will have done so too. But if you get it right, you open up a whole new conversation for your client. Here’s how we made it work for Comms Crowd client, Elliptic.

Elliptic specialises in security and analytics for the blockchain. The firm was the founding member of the UK Digital Currency Association (UKDCA), and in this role provided input to a Government consultation on digital currencies. Earlier this year we thought the results of that consultation might be announced as part of the Budget a couple of days’ hence. This was an ideal opportunity to link Elliptic to a topic which would be given extensive coverage in the print media and online as journalists analysed every last detail of the Chancellor’s speech – assuming of course that digital currencies were included.

So we wrote a short alert to let key media know about the potential announcement and outline why Elliptic could provide expert comment. The following day we listened carefully to the Chancellor’s Budget speech – but no mention of digital currency. However, an online search led to the supporting papers for the Budget and there it was – the Government’s recommendations on how it proposed to make the UK a world leader in digital currency. We quickly followed up with our key media, providing a link to the announcement and offering comment.

The results exceeded all our expectations – interviews with the FT and the Guardian and several requests for written comment, resulting in 15 items of coverage including City AM, the Independent and the Wall Street Journal. Our client was delighted and so were we.

Opportunities like this don’t come around very often. It’s important to be aware of what’s making the headlines, think creatively and look for new and unusual ways in which you can link your client to a story. It may be straightforward, such as when a former colleague was working on a campaign against workplace bullying for a leading trade union and bullying in the Celebrity Big Brother house hit the headlines. A few media calls later and the client was on Sky News explaining what an individual should do if he or she was being bullied. But even if it’s a more tangential link, remember that journalists have pages to fill every day and may be looking for a different angle to keep the story alive. Why shouldn’t you be the one to provide it?

For more PR tips these posts might prove useful:



Monday, 19 October 2015

Work Experience Kids, sign up for your 15 year old today...

As a mother of a 15 year old boy who is smart, outgoing, focused, funny and almost hard working - I assumed I had a one-in-a-million kid, and was suitably grateful. But having recently attended his school’s work experience review evening, it turns out, he is not a rare beastie at all, just one among many young people today who understand what it takes to get on in this world.

Sam with the Youth of Today...
Elliot’s school is Ark Academy in Wembley, According to Ofsted the proportion of pupils from minority ethnic groups/ whose first language is not English/ who have special educational or physical needs - are all above average – ie your typical London urban state school. In their GCSE year the students have the opportunity to take advantage of a week’s work experience. So last month saw over 180 Ark students dispatched to work in local firms as diverse as car repairs, nursing homes, shops, banks, professional consultancies, trades, education, transport, etc. Elliot had a memorable week with a team of financial advisors, who gave him a fantastic learning experience. 

On the review evening it turned out that Elliot was nominated for an award for being such a great little worker – wohoo. But here’s the thing, over 90 children i.e half the work experience kids had also been nominated for awards by their companies for being exceptional, for being made of the ‘right stuff’ - with many being also offered ongoing paid work or apprenticeships.

It was an extremely heart-warming evening hearing accolade after accolade being read out as the boys and girls were praised for their hard work, initiative, curiosity, enthusiasm, common sense, thoughtfulness, maturity, great personalities and respectful attitude.

We always hear such damning things about the youth of today: lazy, socially inept, deluded, disengaged… We blame social media, gaming, the teachers, the parents, and x factor in our determination to harken back to the good old days when we were all computer illiterate and crippled with low self-esteem.

Seems to me the good new days are just around the corner and I for one could not be more proud of the youth who are set to make it happen.

For more on  nurturing young talent check out:



Saturday, 22 August 2015

Thanks to PR freelancing I’m now part of my local community


What happens when you swap the daily commute and a 100-strong team of colleagues across the UK for the spare room? Something unexpected and inspiring, says guest blogger and latest Comms Crowd member Debbie Smith.
Debbie Smith, when she's not bagging headlines
 - it's munros

When I said goodbye to early mornings at Cheltenham station and trains to PR offices around the UK, one of my main worries (apart from finding work of course!) was whether I’d miss the daily contact with colleagues. According to psychometric tests, one of my characteristics is ‘extraversion’, which means I get my energy by interacting with other people. I’ve always found this to be true, so how could I combine it with a freelance life?

To make things more difficult, I’d been commuting since I moved to Cheltenham, which had left me little time to make friends in the area. At one stage I joined a running club, but two weeks later I began a project which meant lots of time in London, so my only friends in the area were those I’d met via my partner.

The answer came from an unexpected and low-tech source – a noticeboard by my local shops, where I spotted a poster for a business talk organised by a group called ‘Cheltenham Connect’. I thought I’d give it a try and duly went along. The speaker was interesting, the people welcoming and I decided to go again the following month. It might help me make new contacts and would at least get me out of the house. The group also organised an informal co-working session in a local café every week, called Laptop Friday, and this helped me put some structure into my early weeks of freelance life.

Fast forward a few months and Wendy, the human dynamo who’d set up the organisation, invited me out for coffee. That’s nice, I thought – and then she sweet-talked into doing their PR! I didn’t really enjoy local PR but – oh well, why not help out for a few months? The first activity I had to promote was a business conference/exhibition, and before I knew it I was exhibiting and helping with event planning too. But it wasn’t all business related; there was a Christmas craft fair, a music festival with bands from the area....and local PR stopped being a chore because I could see the positive impact these events had on the community. They really mattered to the people involved, and they started to matter to me too.

But this was about more than feeling good by doing some pro bono work: I found I’d tapped into a ready-made support community. We swapped information on local activities, bounced around ideas, tipped each other off on new business opportunities and shared lifts to events. You could ask for a second opinion, or discuss something that was bothering you about running a business – chances were that someone would be able to help. If I had a week with no meetings, I’d arrange to meet one of my new contacts for coffee to swap ideas and recharge my extrovert batteries.

The year rolled round and my business grew, but I stayed involved with the group. I’ve become co-organiser of the business event, which has grown every year and now has 200+ attendees. Through it I’ve met a wide variety of people, from our MP and councillors to entrepreneurs running all types of businesses. I’ve also used it to try new things, such as chairing a discussion panel last year (it went really well, so it’s back again this year!).

As I specialise in technology PR, I didn’t expect any of this generate any business, but surprisingly it did. People sent me leads they’d seen on social media, recommended me to designers needing copywriters and passed on work they were too busy to handle. I even swapped writing a press release for attending a course on social media.

Five years on and as well as a positive glow from doing something for the community, I have a local support network I never dreamed of when I first became a freelance. Many of the people I’ve met have also become good friends. Three of us have had operations over the summer and we’ve had practical support and lots of encouragement during our recovery. My partner is continually surprised by how many people I know – and now he’s offered to help out one of the team with dog walking!

So my message to freelancers everywhere is use that extra time and contribute to your community as part of getting that elusive work-life balance right. You’ve nothing to lose except your inhibitions...


If you found this post of interest you may also like:

Freelance glorious freelance - how to survive and thrive on a feast or famine diet
What price freedom - how to price up your work as a freelance PR consultant
Karma, the best client you can have - how being kind in your career, can be good for your business



Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Communicating with analysts via social media – worth it, or not?

Courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of The Comms Crowd and our resident analyst relations guru we look at engaging with the industry analysts via social media channels:


join the conversation
In the ‘good old days’ of analyst relations, things were easy. If you wanted to know what analysts thought about technology, markets or vendors, all you had to do was read their reports or, occasionally, get it direct when they spoke at events.With so many channels for information exchange now, AR teams have their work cut out tracking analyst opinions. This is even more difficult (though I should really say exciting) when you consider all the ‘disruptive’ analyst firms that have sprung up over the past five years.

Many analysts don’t just rely on reports, inquiries and speaking engagements to engage with their audiences. They use social media and, more importantly, use it so naturally that there are significant opportunities to interact with them in meaningful ways. Analysts that use social media successfully don’t see it as a separate project / strategy to what they do. It is simply part of a multi-faceted approach to engagement which fits in naturally with everything else they do, including paid engagements / products.

So the big question for many vendors isn’t, “Should we spend valuable time and resources tracking relevant analysts on social media, and engage with them / their community?”

But, “How do we continue to engage with our important analysts using all the channels available so there is a seamless relationship experience?”

  • First of all, we all need to understand that we have moved on to a time where social media is seen as part of normal day-to-day activity. It is, for many people, now simply a channel to engage with followers and/or communities where information sharing, recommendations and online reviews are fundamental parts of decision-making processes. If you still need to have a meeting to decide whether to have a social media strategy, you’ve missed the boat! So, in answering the key question, you have got to make sure you have the right reasons for doing so and realise that it can’t simply be a case of following analysts on twitter. A well-executed and comprehensive AR program will include many traditional elements (i.e. briefings, inquiries, speaking engagements, white papers etc.) but will also have adequate resources to track analyst conversations on social media. More importantly, there will be a willingness to engage with analysts via social channels by sharing useful information or providing comments that add value to conversations taking place (without the hard sell). 
  • Secondly, it means getting a better understanding of how end users or key decision makers use social media to help them engage with analysts and make purchase decisions. This is hard, really hard! Though the actual decision to select a particular IT vendor may never be known, engagement within relevant communities can sometimes give an indication of the views that end users have regarding particular technologies (though you have to look beyond the beliefs of die hard fans for specific ones such as the Apple fanzine), and analysts’ reactions to these views is important to understand what they think needs to be addressed.
  • Thirdly, you have to accept that social media engagement with analysts will not necessarily result in their endorsement of your products / solutions. More often than not, you open yourself up for scrutiny and possible criticism which means being prepared to address community concerns in ‘real time’ just to maintain any credibility. Think crisis management on speed!
  • Finally, the social media experience should give companies more information on the analyst they engage with, and form part of the wider intelligence they gather about analysts, including their views on the market and trends they see in the market.
We shouldn't really be talking about social media for AR any more. We should think of it as seamless, multi-channel AR where we curate information from multiple sources to build better pictures of analysts and develop mutually
-beneficial relationships with them.

If you found this post interesting you may also like:

How to ensure AR programmes deliver to the bottom line

Monday, 6 July 2015

A Saturday job - the perfect way to kick off your PR career

Want to work in PR? Better start working then...
Never under estimate the value of the work ethic
when it comes to plotting your fabulous career in comms

Latest UK government research, showed that the number of students with Saturday jobs/part-time work is somewhere around half of what it was just ten years ago. In 1997, 42% of 16-17 year old students were working, in 2014 it’s down to 18%. 

This is why: “When asked about the main reason for not combining work and study, the results of the survey indicated that personal preferences and the desire to focus on study was the dominant reason (55%), while the previous concerns relating to local labour market issues and the lack of flexibility from educational providers appear less influential (16% and 9% respectively). Thus, although there was a general prevalence of potential work opportunities available to young people, the overwhelming desire to do well in their studies was the main reason for not combining earning and learning.”

This was also my experience as the ‘resident’ visiting lecturer at Westminster University for its BA in PR and Advertising, where very few of the first year students were combining part time work with their studies.

To my mind if this is down to personal preference, then this is a mistake. If you want to work in the industry, you need to get an internship or two; if you want to get an internship or two you need to prove you already have a work ethic, and know what it means to work pretty hard doing rather dull stuff for not very much money at all. Those students that can already demonstrate this, by doing whatever it is: stacking shelves, cleaning cars, wondering out loud if you’d like fries with that – have already proved they can get up to an alarm, park the ego, roll up the sleeves and get the job done – which at this stage in a young person’s career is way more important than being able to wax lyrical on the theory of… well anything at all really.

I believe, those that are choosing the linear approach, to study first and intern after are missing a trick, while those that still believe they can walk straight out of uni into a permanent PR role will be able to reflect on that notion at their protracted leisure.

On the other hand, those students that are pushing themselves already, taking on Saturday jobs or part time work and applying for internships, even in their first year of study are giving themselves every advantage. Not only are they becoming more employable by the day, but their PR studies are going to make a whole lot more sense, once they have seen theory applied in practice.

So for me, working with the first year Westminster students was a fantastic opportunity to provide them with the basic skills they need to understand what a PR internship entails. By working on key requirements, from monitoring media, to building press lists; undertaking research to basic writing skills, we focused on how best to prepare and execute an internship role with professionalism and maturity.

Can’t tell you how proud I was to hear back from some of the students already, who not only have got out there and secured PR internships but have been asked to stay on for the summer in a paid capacity.

PR is a great career choice for those that are prepared to work for it – and a Saturday job could be just the place to start.



Monday, 18 May 2015

When it comes to AR - does size matter?

Guest post: Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead for The CommsCrowd .asks, when it comes to conducting an industry analyst relations programme, does company size matter?

 Analyst relations: do you have to be big to be clever?
I’ve had the privilege of working with every type of technology company - from mighty household names, to hungry start-ups. While many may differ, the goal is still the same for their AR programmes – they want to make sure they are on the radars of relevant analysts that cover their technologies and, hopefully, fall into conversations analysts have with their clients.

In a previous post, I covered building meaningful relationships with analysts even if you don’t pay them. The key perception that vendors need to overcome is that they must have large budgets to be on the analyst radar. Well – that is just not true. Here is why:

For super large vendors – AR programmes are normally multi-faceted (especially if there are different business groups that need to build a story that shows they are fully integrated with each other, and where the vendor needs to show growth in multiple markets). More often than not, there are opportunities for numerous engagements with analysts as there is a lot to update them on. Occasionally, analysts are writing reports looking at key vendors and they need to keep in touch to make sure they represent the vendor properly. Basically, there are more opportunities to build comprehensive AR programmes that have an impact on the bottom line.

At the other end of the scale are the start-ups.... yikes, where do you start? Actually, you start by first finding out what you’re passionate about and what problems you are looking to solve. You may not have the budgets larger vendors have, but you’re doing something interesting (hopefully) and touching people they probably don’t want to or can’t, and making your clients’ lives better. Crucially, you can be mavericks as you don’t have to defend vested interests or fight internal political battles that sometimes happen at larger vendors.

Working it
Whether you have large or small resources certain basic principles apply for an AR programme to succeed. These include:

· Doing some homework on your messaging to make sure you are absolutely clear on what problems you are actually solving and what solutions you have to help clients. You really need to make sure there actually is a problem you are solving;

· Identifying who actually needs your solutions and ideally, or if you’re lucky, finding out more about their decision-making process to see how they use analyst research to select technology solutions;

· Finding out which analysts are covering the technology solutions you provide, and tracking their research plans and speaking engagements;

· Using multiple communication channels, including social media, to amplify your message and get people to follow what you say as you drive or contribute to relevant discussions. If you’re a start-up - be provocative. You have no time for timidity;

· Taking the plunge and speaking to the analysts you’ve identified;

· If you’re lucky enough to have analysts interested in speaking to you, take on board their feedback and make sure they see you addressing any concerns they have raised.

So, those are the basics. You really can’t do much more if you’re a smaller vendor simply looking to start engaging with analysts. That is a good start! You just need to be realistic about the frequency of interactions you have and depth of programmes possible. If you are a start up with 15-50 employees, you will not have the frequency and depth of engagements a mega vendor has, but you can still make waves. And analysts will speak to you if you’re willing to accept that they will not promise quarterly updates or publish a report four weeks after meeting you.

As you get bigger and perhaps have larger budgets, your challenges as an organisation will change. There are more opportunities for competitors to hit back at you and you have to show you can continue to grow and defend yourself from all the FUD competitors will throw at your clients or prospects.

Now you can start thinking about more commercial relationships with the analysts – white papers, subscriptions, speaking gigs or event support. And be sure any feedback is integrated into your internal market intelligence, and that sales / marketing teams benefit from the enhanced relationships.


If you’re careful, you will have made sure you’ve used the interactions with analysts to identify who actually impacts your target market and can actually help you (without compromising their independence). While respecting the analysts and how they work, you can make better decisions about which paid engagements to plan for and how these help your wider marketing and sales teams to do their jobs more effectively.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Fintech trends, analyst industry round up part 2

Guest post: Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead for Comms Crowd collates industry analysts predictions for fintech for insurance, China and the cryptocurrency eco-system.

Gonna be a scorcher for fintech
Before we get too far into March, I thought I’d follow up my previous predictions by continuing to look at what analysts think is in store for the rest of 2015. I’ve also given myself a bit more time to get information from calls, reports or announcements made during February.

One topic that is hot right now - insurance. If you’re like me, insurance rates seem to shoot up every year. But if technology is being used to make the insurance industry more cost effective (and, hopefully, pass the lower costs on to us), what are the key things to look out for in 2015.
Focused on the US insurance market, Aite Group predicts a new trend which will inevitably be widespread elsewhere – personal risk management. Key things to look out for include:

1. Smartphones enable next-generation risk management capabilities

2. The Internet of Things and sensor fusion technology contextualize risk

3. A personal data backlash creates monitoring opportunity

4. Insurance learns to share

5. Digital marketing platforms socialize

6. Core applications cloud compute

7. Risk-scoring models sell life insurance

8. Health insurance transparency reaches ubiquity

9. Health insurance payments go mobile

10. Docs demand denial-management data

Here in the UK, the key trends are 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 (my take!) – we’ve not reached the health insurance penetration rates you get in the US, but there is a lot that vendors and clients will learn from the US experience.

For those interested in China, Kapronasia has looked at the top 10 China banking and capital market trends, plus the top 10 Asia digital currency trends. Key ones that jumped out for me include:

1. Wealth management will continue to be a key product area – with a growing elite class, this is inevitable especially as a growing band of rich Chinese look to pass their global wealth to heirs while minimising tax.

2. Chinese financial institutions move away from foreign vendors. Now this is big news. Over the past few years, the strategy for vendors looking to get into China has been to partner with local firms / individuals who can help navigate the bureaucracy that existed. It looks like Chinese firms are starting to build up the expertise needed to deliver many of the services that local financial services need, so foreigners will struggle to make in-roads. Value-add will be a premium for winning new business.

3. Overall digital currency regulation in Asia will not be positive. Trust is a hard thing to win, and digital currencies in Asia will be something the regulators look on with suspicion until they know more about them – and their potential for fraud. Basically, more money for analysts, consultants and lawyers that can help vendors and firms navigate what could potentially turn out to be a big, fat mess!

For more capital markets predictions, Greenwich Associates doesn’t just have 10 trends to watch, it has 15! Where do I start with these predictions, you just have to read them. The one I think will result in big structural changes (though all of them will) is number 7 – the unbundling debate in European equities will rage on. ESMA and the FCA have proposed a complete unbundling of all research advisory services including corporate access. Blood will be shed getting this sorted – and the buy-side firms will seriously have to think about how they access and use research to deliver value to clients.

Finally, what about Bitcoin? There are two sources I’d like to draw on regarding this.

First of all, let us look at Aite Group’s report in December 2014. This, controversially for some, came up with an interesting hypothesis. Bitcoin, as we know it now, might not exist in the future but could evolve and provide the platform for new laws and forms for cryptofinance within the financial services industry. The ‘Napster-came-before-Apple-and-Amazon-and-Google’ comparison might be something we look back on in a few years time.

Secondly, Juniper Research has published a report on The Future of Cryptocurrency. Whether bitcoin or other current forms of cryptocurrencies exist in 5 to 10 years time, Juniper predicts that although crypto-transaction volume is likely to increase in 2015, value should decrease 58% throughout this year to approximately $30 billion. It believes that despite the drop in bitcoin values, it is a great tool that can be used to improve the payments ecosystem.

Taking the Aite Group and Juniper Research reports / predictions together, it all makes sense. Crypto-currency transactions are in their infancy. With sensible regulation, sound storage and custodian services of cryptocurrencies, enhanced fraud protection and education, 2015 might just be the start of something really exciting.

Both the predictions above and those covered previously will drive the need for advice from the industry analyst community. There is so much change happening in fintech and a huge need to incorporate new things with old, creaking legacy systems, CIOs will have to prioritise with care.

Happy days!

If you found this interesting you may also like: 

How to ensure AR programmes deliver to the bottom line
- Part one
- Part two
- Part three

Or you may want to peruse our analyst relations whitepaper which is a summary of the above three blogs and can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Why tech startups and PR freelancers are a winning combination

Year Four of being a freelancer:
A present for me? You shouldn't have!


Perhaps freelance years are like dog years, for I’m starting feel like I’m in my freelance prime! Four years in, and, as they say on those talent shows, ‘it feels like this is my time’! Oh why’s that then? Well I’ll tell ya.

Tech in general and fintech in partciular is finally hot! After some 20 years of apologizing for working in a sector of which nobody has ever heard; countless conversations explaining what I do to those whose eyes glaze over in the time it takes  to say ‘enterprise-wide trading systems’ - all of a sudden our sector is hot! Ya baby!

Not only is our sector hot, my home town for some 30 years, London, is fit to burst with tech startups and I do love a startup – always have! Not for me the 200 page branding guideline bible, the 83 slide PowerPoint on our ‘core’ USPs. Where’s the opportunity to add value to that (other than rip it up)?

I love the pace, the energy, vibrancy that comes with  young tech companies. They are brave, bold and, my lot at least, quite audaciously brilliant. But it’s always struck me, that at the point a young company needs the most care, nurturing and attention to its comms, is just when it can least afford it. Sometimes, that's not a good fit for a standard agency, where there can be an expectation mismatch, (a big PR budget for a small company is still a small client for a big PR agency). But it’s a great fit for collaborations and small networks of specialist freelancers like The Comms Crowd. Freelancers by our very career choices have often rejected the status quo and defined ourselves as fellow disruptors.

Another great thing about working with young tech companies is the absolute lack of formality. This suits me down to the ground, I want to use my time helping that company do smart comms, not validating how smart I am. Decisions are quick, turnarounds fast, reporting is a spreadsheet in google docs and emails are brief, often littered with typos from both sides. Witness recent email exchange, informing client CEO that we had secured media interest from a noted publication.

ME – OMG We’ve got Forbes!
CEO – F*** yeah!

And of course when you work in a hot sector, in a hot city, with hot clients, you get to talk to media that you have never had the temerity to approach before, but that, it turns out, are really just like us, if you have a decent story to tell. And call me a easily impressed but for a long-toothed B2B fintech PR to be suddenly talking to the nationals, is just really rather cool!

So yeah, in this the fourth year, I find myself, in the right place, with the right business model at the right time - happy freelance birthday to me and the crew, being four rocks!

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy:

Happy freelance birthday to me - I am one!
Happy freelance birthday to me - I am two!
Happy freelance birthday to me - I am three!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Hot Fintech trends for 2015 - analyst round up part one

What are the industry analysts predicting for retail banking, risk and FX?

Guest post: Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead for Comms Crowd puts together a digest of analyst insight on fintech trends in 2015.
What's hot in fintech?

Traditionally, this time of year means predictions – when wise industry analysts predict the key IT trends for the next 12 months or so. Kudos to analysts willing to stick their heads out! So, at the CommsCrowd we thought it might be helpful to summarise analyst predictions for 2015, specifically, the financial services technology industry – one of our sweet spots.

It’s going to be a series of posts as there is much to cover, this one looks at retail banking, risk and FX. I’ve decided to start by pointing to a number of articles that I feel provide a really good overview of the predictions within specific sectors of financial services for 2015, to which industry analysts have wholly or partially contributed.

Caveat - some analyst firms still have predictions webinars coming up so maybe I jumped the gun a bit (e.g. Celent). However, if you know of other predictions that should be read, please feel free to share these. I definitely don’t claim to have scanned all the key predictions out there – so share away.

The digitisation and disruption of retail bankingThe first article, if you have not seen it already, is a whopper! Top 10 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions for 2015, The Financial Brand:
  1. Using Customer Analytics to Drive Contextual Experiences
  2. Expedited Deployment of Digital Delivery
  3. Mobile-First Design
  4. Increasing Digital and Social Selling
  5. Mass Market Acceptance of Mobile Payments 
  6. Focus on Security and Authentication
  7. Industry Consolidation
  8. Enhanced Customer Incentivization
  9. Investment in Innovation, Incubation and Uncommon Alliances
  10. Increased Impact of Digital Disruptors
So what caught my eye? Apart from specific analyst comments, it is the massive interest in, and inter-linking of, digital, personalisation and mobile. I imagine we’ll see lots of waves being made as banks fight to win/keep customers and look to make their multi-channel experiences seamless, enjoyable and secure.

Oh, and Apple Pay. Trust them to put a spanner in the works!! Ovum is just one of many analyst firms that have a view on how this will change the payments landscape.

Align that spine
But, every now and then someone highlights the ‘old world’ stuff that needs to be sorted out. Check out Four big bank tech trends for 2015 by Chris Skinner. Good old core banking systems renewal is, reluctantly, hanging in there as a major target for investment against ‘newer world’ entries like cloud, analytics and incubators. Banks have to get their spines in order and renewing core systems is a nasty job (probably why CEOs don’t like doing it).

Invest in risk or risk failed investments
If you like going deep, deep, deep undercover in the risk world, IDC Financial Insights’s Worldwide Risk Management 2015 Predictions is a good bet. What do they say?

1. Risk data aggregation, analytics and reporting consumes 75% the CRO agenda in 2015.
2. Led in part by big data solutions, fraud and financial crimes analytics will set global financial institutions back US$2.8 billion for software and services by 2016.
3. 30% of top compliance functions introduce a technological means, business processes, and metrics to manage and minimize conduct failures.
4. Institutions increase investments in risk culture through enterprise education by more than 15% in 2015
5. Industry clouds disrupt legacy risk operations and contribute to 10% reduction in KYC and other compliance costs by 2016.
6. Virtually all CROs will be engaged in credit risk modernization initiatives through 2016
7. By 2016, threat intelligence security services market will growth at 20% CAGR, with consulting services leading the growth.
8. To meet the demand for convenience, by 2016, 10% of mobile-initiated commerce will be biometrically secured, and password usage begins to show signs of decay.
9. By 2017, with workable boundaries of regulation at state and federal levels, financial institutions find their role in crypto-currency clearing.
10.Through 2016, operational risk spending will grow at 8% CAGR, almost 2 times the average growth rate for all IT industry spending.

What got me, first, is the eye-watering $1/2 trillion (really) IT budget for risk across all financial services and, second, the fact that this is still increasing. Risk management, with all the accompanying regulatory, human, technological and political pressures will be a big issue in 2015. Industry analysts that focus on this area will be VERY busy as the need for advice to navigate this really complex area continues.

Cloud, big data and analytics are entrenched topics for discussion now – and in 2015, the vendors that catch analysts’ eyes will be the ones that actually deliver solutions to mitigate risk across these three areas and not simply have aspirational messages.

FX - up your game plan
What about some capital markets-specific predictions? I’ll stick to FX. We all know regulations and FX-fixing seemed to dominate headlines as 2014 closed.

FX-MM magazine has a brilliant overview of what Aite Group thinks will be happening in the global FX market in 2015. There is a lot to digest but I’ll highlight a couple of things. First, tier 2 – regional and national – banks will need to up their game in various areas to compete effectively with tier 1s. Second, as pointed out by Javier Paz, banks looking to broaden their capabilities will need to carefully manage crucial relationships with FX technology firms, brokers and venues. I predict a queue to analysts that can help vendors and/or banks deal with all these issues – and this is just FX!

Self-fulfilling prophecies
These predictions will, to some extent, dictate what analysts are interested in. And if they are really interested in something, it is because there is a demand for their insight. While I have not covered all the fintech predictions possible in this post, it is clear that things like regulation, mobile, customer experience, cloud, big data and analytics will be top of mind in the industry.

The key thing many banks and vendors have to do is to find the right analysts to help delve deeper than the predictions outlined and actually get insights that give them a competitive advantage.

Look out for predictions post #2

If fintech is your thing you may also find the following of interest:
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