Highwire’s Top Fintech Predictions for 2020

From large financial services institutions like Mr. Cooper to disruptive financial technology startups like BlueVine and Credit Sesame, at Highwire we work with companies who are shaping the future of financial technology. We’re also in touch with journalists on a daily basis who cover everything in the financial commerce world, which gives us a unique perspective on the industry. While no one can say for sure what the future will bring, we do have some predictions for the coming year based on the latest trends and research.

As with all technology, fintech is evolving so fast that it can be hard to keep up. If you’re wondering what you can expect from fintech in 2020, here are our top four predictions:

  1. Banks, Banks, and More Banks

We’ve seen many tech startups launching banks in 2019, and this trend shows no sign of abating in 2020. With companies such as BlueVine working to power the next-generation of small business banking, it’s no wonder the booming fintech industry has been pegged as the ultimate bank “disruptor.” These startup banks tend to focus more on the consumer by giving them tools at the touch of a button, such as mobile credit cards. Big banks have even spent upwards of $8 million investing in digital technology, hoping to keep up with the small fintech banks in that regard. Expect to see new entrants with even more convenient features chipping away at big banks’ dominance. 

  1. Open Banking is Coming

Just because the U.S. is not subject to PSD2 doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be a push from consumers for banks to provide easy access to their data – in an effort to maximize the value that they get from their banking companies. In fact, 94 percent of FinTechs are already considering how open banking can enhance their current services. Look out for new and innovative API-based services from both banks and fintech startups in the next few years on both sides of the pond, with more tools designed to benefit the customer.

  1. Loans: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Americans’ insatiable demand for credit won’t slow down anytime soon. With fintech companies changing the way in which consumers access lending options, expect new loan products, as well as continued strong demand for existing products, in 2020 and beyond. The fact of the matter is, these fintech companies offer lending in a way that is different than what we’ve seen from big financial banks and institutions, including more perks and savings, alternative lending methods, and fast approvals with funds available sooner than later. Of course, all bets are off if there is any regulatory/legislative change to crimp demand. 

  1. More Fintech and Bank Partnerships

With robust growth in the private sector for the better part of the last decade, some sectors of the fintech market fear a slowdown and possible downturn in 2020 – and how we would react to that. That said, the continued consumer distrust of the traditional financial services and banking industries will most likely continue, and the demand for new, innovative, more convenient, and consumer-friendly services will continue. Of course, most of those offerings are built in partnership with fintechs, so we’ll see them continue to partner up with banks in 2020. 

What do you think? Will fintech thrive or dive in 2020? We’d love to hear your predictions. Leave your thoughts in our comments section below. 

Approaching Sensitive News Cycles Without Guns Blazing

Today’s media landscape can be an intimidating place. With top headlines touting sensitive topics like geopolitical warfare, the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, and industry competition, it’s easy to see why many organizations shy away from entering the conversation. But not all sensitive subjects need to be scary to broach from a communications perspective. 

In fact, our security practice recently had noteworthy success inserting commentary from clients into the media conversation surrounding Iran’s speculated cyber warfare retaliation on the U.S., following the death of a prominent Iranian military general – an incredibly sensitive topic by all accounts. By leveraging strategic, forward-thinking insights surrounding the news cycle, the Highwire team was able to strategically secure coverage in publications like Fortune, AP, Recode, The Hill and Financial Times that positioned subject matter experts as industry thought leaders.

Taking a deeper look at best practices when it comes to approaching sensitive subjects, here are a few of our tried and true tips and tricks for dipping your toes in the contentious media landscape without being too controversial.

Play to Your Strengths

In order to craft compelling commentary, you need to first identify your company’s tie to the story at hand. Inevitably, there will be hundreds of other companies that are attempting to connect their thoughts to the exact same story. Pinpoint a way that you can offer a unique perspective to cut through the noise.

There are many ways to do this. One example is playing up the thought leader’s background and how it makes him or her an expert on the topic at hand. In the recent Iran cyber threat news cycle, we leveraged a spokesperson’s involvement with the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee to establish authority on the topic, which led to a briefing and coverage in The Hill. 

Another approach is to take advantage of specific technology considerations and news elements at play. For example, one of the biggest concerns in the Iran-U.S. cyber tension story was phishing and other social engineering tactics being used against government employees – a media and thought leadership gold mine for any phishing expert! 

Leveraging relationships with influential media who know your business and respect your brand is also key. Many times, coverage is earned as a result of an ongoing relationship with a reporter. If you’re apprehensive about getting your message out there, run it by a reporter that you trust before disseminating your message widely.

Compelling Commentary Doesn’t Need to be Negative

Part of the reason our clients had such success in securing placements around the Iranian-cyber warfare news cycle was because we were able to work with our clients to strategically craft commentary that was compelling, without inciting fear, uncertainty or doubt.

Often when we have clients who are apprehensive about commenting on sensitive stories, it is because there tends to be a premonition that compelling commentary needs to be negative and controversial. This is not true. 

The best way to get involved in a story is to provide a unique perspective (as aforementioned) and offer a solution to the problem at hand. With this news cycle, we were able to leverage executive commentary that was forward-thinking and offered a suggested outcome based on expertise and insights that had been gained from witnessing similar incidents play out in the past. 

Don’t Force it if it Doesn’t Fit

With all that being said, perhaps most importantly, you should never feel like you have to comment on a topic if it’s not a fit. Journalists are looking for sources that have a direct tie to the story at hand and who add a new point of view to the discussion. If the expertise and connection to the story is a stretch and your spokespeople are simply sharing more of the same thoughts as other sources, it’s best to sit the news cycle out. 

Uncertainty can be a scary place, but so is inaction. We find that some of our most compelling results are gleaned as a result of proactive outreach, or outreach that would not have occurred unless inspired by a direct tie to a story or reporter or news cycle – and that’s regardless of industry. 

Anything else that we missed? Feel free to let us know at secleads@highwirepr.com, and let us know if you’re attending RSA! We’d love to connect with you.

Demystifying DevOps: Lessons for the PR World

One thing that really jumped out at us in the decade we’ve spent working with our B2B clients is that DevOps practices are not just for those who think in code. They’re largely applicable to the creative PR work we do on a daily basis. We share such similar workflows, that we couldn’t help but pick up a thing or two along the way (and call out some bad habits to avoid).

So, let’s start a new project request…

Conceptually, DevOps is a way for developers and operations teams to work more efficiently with one another. But there’s a notion that seamless workflows can be achieved via an application, and while DevOps tools will help expedite project release cycles, it’s a means to a broader solution. Ultimately, the purpose of DevOps is to get each team to anticipate the others’ needs, resulting in quick product development, and fewer errors, while still being secure.

Likewise in PR, we’re working with a number of different teams that must function the same way in order to make accurate and timely decisions. Being successful at this requires a synchronized effort that doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

By merging the following into your existing account structures, you’ll be on the path towards DevOps readiness.

I. Make To-Do Lists a Responsibility for Everyone

While to-do lists are useful for personal purposes, when they’re extended to a group of people, to-do lists become stale faster than bread. Typically, one owner makes themselves responsible for updating key action items for everyone which goes unappreciated and is unrealistic long-term. These documents get lost and the attempt at organization gets squandered despite the best of intentions.

Instead, make it the responsibility of everyone to update priority grids. And, so it doesn’t take away from other work, have team members engage with the document in the simplest ways possible. To ensure regular engagement, color-code and highlight within the document to signify priorities and project status. The tagging function in Google’s Suite can be a useful feature as well. Just remember to be flexible in the format because what works for one may not for the whole.

II. Schedule Review Sessions with/for Key Stakeholders

This may seem like overkill, but any sort of structure that can be applied to a revision cycle will get assignments out the door faster. Whether it’s a plan, pitch, or new business deck, once you’ve completed your specific portion, schedule half-hour windows for key stakeholders to review said work and a fifteen-minute debrief for them to impart their feedback.

In doing so, you’ve removed the element of chance from the equation. No longer will you need to ask “has this been reviewed?” and “what needs to get changed?” because it’s already been baked in. Using this method, projects can be shuffled up the ladder seamlessly and without delay.

III. Explore Slack integrations

If you’re using a messaging platform, like Slack, you’re aware that it’s a breeding ground for lost correspondences. That quick DM often goes unnoticed and projects assigned there are left floating in the wind without an owner. This compounds a negative stigma around Slack that it can’t be used for mission-critical client activities, and even worse, gets thought of as a secondary means of communication.

Common practice says use email for everything, but Slack specifically, has a plethora of useful integrations geared towards project management. And truth be told, email is not much better at keeping things organized (unless you’ve unlocked the “inbox zero” achievement).

Consider installing Marker annotated screenshots, Tettra internal Wikipedia, Trello collaborative to-do list, and Google Drive for tracked changes at a moment’s notice as ways to augment Slack for a greater purpose – to consolidate one-off disparate applications.

Since elementary school, we as humans have largely struggled with projects that rely on us working together. Project members operate in silos (doing too much or too little independently), tasks get repeated when groups don’t clearly specify priorities/deadlines, and most often, nothing gets done outside the confines of classroom walls or scheduled library get-togethers.

These bad project habits from our youth have carried over into workplace environments. As software development adopted DevOps, PR must derive its own response to the same problem – whether that’s DevOps or another buzzword.

I. For developers, this is otherwise known as issue tracking. The most common use cases include: tracking tasks and work statuses, elaborating on new code implementations and accepting support requests or bug reports.

II. If you’ve heard the word scrum thrown around that is this in practice. Although it was initially tied to software development, scrums are starting to be explored under different contexts.

III. In order to get DevOps right, it requires a single solution that accomplishes all 7 phases of a release cycle. Slack as a core tenant for an agency would eliminate the need for individualized repositories that meet very specific needs. If used correctly, Slack could create one single truth.