As fintech influencers have become an established category, a number of organizations have produced rankings and tried to measure influence. A prominent example is Onalytica, whose Top 100 Fintech influencers list analyzes “topical authority” via social engagement.
I wanted to see how we could see if that influence extended beyond social media to the broader financial world. The best way of measuring influence might be a detailed polling exercise of senior financial services decision-makers. In the absence of a polling form, my shortcut was to see how often Onalytica’s top 100 influencers have been quoted in the FT or Wall Street Journal using the outlets’ search functions.
The results were interesting: 61 percent of the top 100 had not been quoted in either paper of record over the last four years (likely ever). Only 16 percent had been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, with 35 percent quoted in the Financial Times. (Some were quoted in both).
The three in five unquoted influencers include some surprisingly prominent names which I won’t call them out here. They – probably rightly – believe their absence is the FT’s failing, not theirs.
Some of those do appear include Brett King, Chris Gledhill, Chris Skinner, Anne Boden, Charlotte Crosswell, Simon Taylor, Neira Jones, Tom Blomfield, and Dave Birch. Those that are quoted skew heavily to those with executive positions at challenger institutions and fintechs. Independent influencers get much less airtime.
What might this mean? Here are some hypotheses:
- The FT and WSJ are behind the curve at identifying and covering new types of influencers in fintech. Fintech influencers are simply too new a phenomenon to show up terribly strongly as yet.
- Fintech influencers talking to each other in an echo chamber. There's noise on Twitter, but with the lack of interest of mainstream media reflecting the underlying reality.
- The list is imperfect and doesn’t capture the right people, and is too dependent on Twitter interaction. (It should be noted most of the top names also appear on similar lists.)
- Influencers don’t care much about traditional media and don’t go out of their way to cultivate journalists. They are influential through different channels such as social media networks and events.
- Influencers in executive positions in financial services and cannot act as broad commentators on industry issues – there’s no time and the topics too sensitive.
- Both sources of influence, and media coverage, have become much more fragmented in financial services and fintech, as in most fields. There are simply many different circles of influence, and the fintech world and major media don’t overlap all the time.
- The FT and the WSJ are simply not attributing as many quotes to third parties as they once did
Let us not forget that while journalists and bank CEOs are homogenous groups, fintech influencers have a much broader set of day jobs. Some are senior executives of challenger banks, or founders of sizeable fintechs. A few are journalists. Some are consultants at large consultancies (and thus have constraints as well). Some are “professional” influencers, in the sense that they are authors, speakers and independent consultants.
This exercise shows just how hard it can be to define online and offline influence. Particularly in areas like retail banking, payments and trading, non-traditional influencers can now exercise real influence on VCs, business partners and B2B customers.
While I make no firm conclusions on the worth of this or one other ranking set, one thing is clear: Marketers and communicators need to develop our thinking about how we can best measure the influence of non-traditional influencers, and then structure and develop credible ways of engagement. This means using all available and relevant data on social media influence in particular, without, in doing so, falling into the trap of overweighting the tangible at the expense of the vital intangible of quality.
Andrew Marshall is Cognito’s vice chairman
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