Five Questions With…Clare Black, Innovate Finance

We are delighted to have Clare Black as the second virtual guest in our Five Questions series, in which we talk to senior women in FinTech, RegTech and financial markets to hear of their experiences in the current environment, and how they and others need to adapt their marketing and PR activities going forward. As well as discussing the impact of COVID-19 in the FinTech sector, Clare shared some great PR and marketing advice for start-ups.

Clare has been Director of Corporate Affairs & Communications at Innovate Finance since 2018. Working closely with the CEO and board, she is closely involved in defining the corporate strategy and ensuring that Innovate Finance’s external messaging and reputation are upheld.

She started her career in 1994 at Reuters News Agency, working as a commodities reporter and then Editor in West Africa, New York and London. After this she spent 10 years as Research Director at capital markets consulting firm Contango Markets. She has served on the boards of a variety of charities in the visual impairment sector and is currently a non-executive director of UK charity Guide Dogs, where she sits on the Investment and Audit committees.

1) What do you think are the main challenges facing businesses in the FinTech sector in the current environment?

Like almost every other sector of the economy, FinTech has been rocked by the uncertainty that the COVID crisis has created. It has been especially difficult for the smaller start-up companies, who have seen funding drop sharply – over 70% had received no private funding between the start of lockdown in March and June – putting them under severe pressure with regards to cash flow. Exacerbating this is the fact that current Government funding and support schemes are not suitable for early-stage FinTech firms. That said, the UK FinTech sector is nimble and switched seamlessly to remote working practices, pivoting in the crisis by adapting strategy or diversifying revenue streams.

2) Have your own marketing and PR activities changed as a result of COVID-19 – if so, how?

We were about to hold our flagship annual IFGS conference and UK FinTech Week shortly after lockdown commenced. We cancelled IFGS and our whole team worked hard to move UK FinTech Week to a virtual conference spread over 3 weeks. We had a phenomenal response from our partners and attracted a much more international audience, with amazing engagement on social media.

Since then, we have created a resource centre on our website to help our members to navigate the various support schemes and funding available to them. We increased the frequency of our communications – via newsletters, social media, website and also direct calls when necessary.

We saw an increase in our policy interactions with government and regulators, with intense lobbying activities – often in conjunction with other trade associations – taking up much of our time and efforts. It was therefore really important to feed this back to our members and the wider ecosystem, which we do via webinars, roundtables, email and web communications. We also held lots of briefings with journalists, participated in podcasts and tried to involve as much of the senior team as possible to share the load.

3) What do you see as the biggest opportunity for FinTech companies over the next 12 months?

While COVID-19 has certainly put many FinTech firms under pressure, many have thrived, are growing and are attracting investment both domestically and from abroad. Now, more than ever, is the importance of innovation and progress in financial technology truly apparent – and it is clear that the UK is especially well-positioned to demonstrate this. We believe that FinTech has a critical role to play as we emerge from the crisis. The importance of using new technology to support and improve business has become crystal clear. There is little doubt that we will see the speed of digital transformation across the economy accelerate in the months that follow. We fully expect the revolution of FinTech to extend from banking innovation and to take root across sectors such as insurance, wealth management, asset management and pensions.

4) What do you think are the most common marketing or PR mistakes made by FinTech/RegTech businesses?

As a former wire journalist, I know how important it is to get your message across quickly, succinctly and in plain language. Too many firms get bogged down by their ‘tech’ and therefore lose the interest of a journalist, reader or prospective customer almost immediately.

While technology is obviously a key part of a FinTECH firm, the most important thing is the issue it is actually solving, rather than the technology itself. Your future and existing customers are more interested in how your product can help them…save money or invest smarter – they don’t really care about your amazing algorithm!

Avoid jargon and unknown acronyms or industry terms like the plague! If you use statistics, make sure you give context so they actually mean something. Don’t promise the world…

5) What marketing/PR advice would you give a FinTech start-up?

KNOW your audience

KNOW your own voice

KNOW how you fit into your specific sector

PR Advice:

Some things that journalists like:

  • Funding rounds
  • Statistics (to illustrate a trend or wider story)
  • New innovations
  • New business deals
  • Client wins (Recognisable names)
  • Board appointments (Recongnisable names/industry champions)
  • Awards

The media likes thought-provoking ideas or issues that are worth campaigning about. Stories that identify future trends and patterns are generally well-received, as are challenges to the industry and their potential solutions.

Use the media wisely and sparingly. Journalists are inundated with press releases from thousands of start-ups claiming to have invented the next big thing. Case studies or reports/white-papers that back up your claims are more likely to capture their attention. Keep in regular contact with your key journalists, don’t just call them when you have something you want them to publish or write about.

Try new and different things. Experiment and be provocative (within reason); social media platforms are a great place to try this out.

Don’t be afraid to over-communicate during times of crisis and try to form an emotional connection with your customers, clients or prospects – FinTech is celebrated for its customer-first mentality so make sure you communicate this front and foremost.

Marketing Advice:

Make sure your marketing campaigns and initiatives are mobile friendly as your existing and future customers are increasingly likely to use their mobile device to use your product or read your communications.

Use content rather than ads to engage with your audience. Provide them with interesting or useful content that will help them understand how to use your product/service or show them the problem that it can help them solve.

Be smart about how you engage. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your marketing activities – in fact you probably don’t have the luxury of a big budget. Use influencers to spread the word. Use your industry association:  Innovate Finance has an influential voice and excellent social reach. Join us in one of our campaigns, talk to us about how we can help you to succeed and get your voice heard at the table!


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