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The cancellation of this year’s Sibos – scheduled for October in Boston – wasn’t just another event cancellation. This single-handedly removed the centerpiece of the marketing calendar for dozens of companies.

A huge focal point for the industry is now gone – making it harder to get attention for new products and developments. Salespeople will miss relationship building and soft marketing opportunities that come with days on the showfloor and nights out on the town, to showcase brands to a large but tailored audience. The challenge now for these companies is how to re-imagine and move forward in light of the cancellation. 

We’re thinking how best to fill the large gap in marketing activity the cancellation of Sibos creates.  And what’s true for Sibos is equally true for other major finance industry conferences whose immediate future looks uncertain.  Here are ten considerations:


Audit your existing content and planned campaigns.  Be brutal about what now doesn’t work well in the Covid-19 recovery phase.  Clear out what doesn’t work.

Listen to clients and re-research your audiences, especially your senior buyers.  Their behaviour may have changed more in the previous six weeks than the previous six years.  Spot how their digital footprints are evolving, and think about using social attribution tools in your marketing funnel. Listen to clients, but recognise they are not going to give you all the answers at present.  They are also trying to work things out.  Don’t let lack of firm client feedback lead you to inaction! A hyper-digital marketing world gives data a major role, but in B2B don’t let data overwhelm common sense. Work out what data works for you and how you mesh it with understanding of your most important audiences.

Spread your campaign sensibly. Physical Sibos concentrates a huge amount of marketing activity into a week (which means some get overshadowed).  You can now spread that over a number of months, but that means starting right now and keeping to a flexible plan.

PR and content

News is different. Some channels (Evening Standard, City AM) are heavily challenged by the new environment, while others (long form news) are flourishing. For both brand communications and product marketing, the pricing environment for paid digital is quite volatile, creating some opportunities to test new things cheaply.

Content continues to reign.  Road test your thought leadership content with external parties to see what is credible. Use some consistent methodology: can your company or category be perceived as credible on this content; does it beat the “so what” factor; and does it relate to client pain points and ultimately your service offering.  An additional simple test is whether the FT, or your leading trade outlet, would give this editorial coverage – if not, is it really going to stand out as content on an owned or shared channel? 

Consider partnership marketing.  Most organisations, beyond the largest banks, asset managers and management consultancies find compelling thought leadership really hard – content is either too generic, or too narrow, or too obviously bought-in.  Think about non-competitive firms that would be natural partners and give content, virtual events and outbound marketing more oomph.  Single company content/events can look weaker than in a physical form at Sibos, where atmosphere, alcohol and relationships all play more of a role.

Digital marketing and events

Wade into virtual events – carefully. The virtual Sibos that SWIFT is planning will be fascinating and well worth exploiting.  SWIFT is very committed to it going well, and open to ideas.  Just as showcasing your expertise on topics helped secure Sibos speaking platforms in the past, consider how you could convey to SWIFT your expertise and flexibility to be an active part of virtual Sibos.  Make sure you promote your own virtual Sibos “fringe programme” – either the same week or indeed the week before – a series of connected events and content that make you stand out.

Spokespeople matter more than ever. Remote working and remote marketing make it natural to focus on written and visual content rather than oral communication - but credible voices on broadcast or video make you stand out.  Consider how to communicate your brand personality and messaging more powerfully through your best speakers and best communicators.  If they are busy speaking one on one to reassure clients at this time, get some feedback and use new ways to make sure your best people are heard by all your targets.

To that end, reassess the strengths of your spokesperson bench.  Consider adding more junior front-line staff given the fact that in the public sector and “key workers”, front line staff are all over the media.  There are safe ways to promote millennial talent to your advantage. At the same time, use your CEO more actively than before.  Without the platform speeches at Sibos or similar events, he or she needs more consistent promotion.  But it must be consistent and authentic.

The cancelation of Sibos is an inconvenient wrench thrown into oftentimes elaborate annual plans. With the whole industry facing the same problems, there is both more sympathy and willingness to explore ways to connect. 

We’ve already started working with clients on planning through a conference-less year. Please get in touch if you’d be interested in having us going through this exercise with you.

Andrew Marshall is Cognito’s vice chairman