MD Consulting is excited to launch the Five Questions series of blogs in which we talk to senior women in FinTech, RegTech and financial markets about the impact of COVID-19 on their business and how companies in their sector can tailor their PR and communications strategy to their best advantage.
Our first virtual guest is Emma Davey, Chief Commercial Officer of the Futures Industry Association.
Emma began her career as a journalist and editor, joined London Metal Exchange in 2007, where she was Business Manager: Membership and Business Development, and moved to the Futures and Options Association in March 2009 as Director of Membership and Corporate Affairs. Following FOA’s merger with FIA in 2016, Emma became Senior Vice President, Global Communications, and was promoted to her current position in March 2019.
1) What do you think are the main challenges facing FIA member companies in the current environment?
Uncertainty is the biggest challenge across the industry. The industry coped well with extreme volatility at the start of the pandemic, which illustrated that, in the main, the system worked as it is intended to, even at a time of stress. But now, as we look forward, the impact on the global economy means that there is a more cautious approach to many areas of business.
2) Have FIA’s own marketing and PR activities changed as a result of COVID-19 – If so, how?
In the early days of the pandemic, we had to be reactive to developments – cancelling our major industry conference just a week before it was due to take place, for example; creating resources on our website about latest developments related to the crisis, such as regulatory responses and changes – including how regulators and market infrastructure would treat key financial staff working from home; and keeping our members and stakeholders informed of our decisions around in-person meetings being cancelled and so on.
As time went on, we became more strategic in how we approached delivering value to our industry. That included ensuring regular programmes of webinars; more frequently updated content on our website; more communications to members in the form of email campaigns. All of these increased our output.
We are now rolling out the rest of the year’s events and member engagement calendar with virtual programmes offering enhanced marketing and ‘networking’ opportunities.
3) What do you see as the most important role for trade associations like FIA in the next 12 months?
Our mission remains unchanged – to support open, transparent and competitive markets, protect and enhance the integrity of the financial system, and promote high standards of professional conduct. We do that by fostering a community within the industry and being an advocate for its priorities. Given that part of how we achieve that is through in-person conferences and other events, we will continue to adapt our offerings during the pandemic. We have found that while the majority of our community is working from home, they have relished the opportunity for dialogue presented through virtual, video conferencing and webinars. Our attendance across all of these has been higher than it would be typically. The fostering of community, coupled with being a valuable source of information, will be key parts of our role as a trade association over the coming 12 months.
4) What do you think are the most common marketing or PR mistakes made by technology businesses in the futures industry?
From a personal point of view, my pet hate is when firms are not clear about what problem a technology service is designed to solve. Firms and PRs will use words like ‘solutions’ without saying what the product does in reality. The rise of FinTech has also created issues. Many confuse ‘FinTech’ as a label with ‘start-up’. There are many FinTech – ie financial technology – firms that have been operating for decades, but they may not be using some of the newer technology such as AI, cloud or distributed ledger. That doesn’t mean they are not providing a valuable service, of course. But ‘FinTech’ is a bandwagon that many have jumped on without clearly defining their offering. For example. the futures industry has yet to fully embrace blockchain. In many cases there has been an assumption on the part of the vendor about how the industry operates and the reality is that the technology is often a solution looking for a problem, rather than the other way round.
5) What advice would you give a start-up wanting to establish itself in a crowded marketplace?
Identify and clearly articulate the service you offer; the problem it is seeking to solve; and find a champion, or champions, within the industry. It is a competitive market and senior figures within the industry are constantly sold to but lack the patience or time to understand the value of the offering. That should be for the technology firm to make clear. If you can demonstrate genuine value in addressing either operational efficiency or offering a competitive edge, that will make the pitch much easier. Financial institutions need to see that if they buy a product it will either save them lots of money, or will make them lots of money!