Insights + News

Things we Heard and Lessons Learned at Boston Fintech Week 2023

October 18, 2023
By: Tylor Tourville

Members of BackBay’s Fintech group were in attendance at various panels and sessions for this year’s Boston Fintech Week.

According to the event website: Boston Fintech Week, presented by Fintech Sandbox, is a collaboration between Fintech Sandbox and the broader fintech ecosystem and startup community. What started as a grassroots gathering has grown into a full week each year when the global fintech community gathers in Boston.

The overarching theme of Boston Fintech Week, now in its 6th year, was exploring the “revolutionary technologies and financial infrastructure transforming the fintech landscape,” and from our perspective, it did not disappoint.

Below are a few insights and takeaways for PR and marketing professionals from the members of the BackBay team that were there on the ground.

Fintechs need to “embrace the grind” and keep mining for good stories to tell

The harsher economic realities of today definitely colored a lot of the sessions and panels throughout the week, and for good reason. But I think it also showed how the fintech industry overall can stand to benefit from going through a bit of adversity.

One panel in particular discussed the growth trajectories of fintech startups in the current economic environment compared to just a few years ago. Raising money is becoming more challenging as VC and PE firms tighten their standards and more closely scrutinize business models. Achieving, or improving, profitability has quickly moved to the forefront for many fintech firms against this backdrop.

In one fintech founder’s words, “it’s been a grind,” especially after near historic funding and growth figures we’ve read about over the last several years. To keep their long-term goals intact, whether it be a strategic acquisition or going public via an IPO, fintech leadership is moving to a bootstrapped mindset with an intense focus on the fundamentals of growing a business – gaining and retaining as many paying clients/customers as possible.

I thought this prevailing sentiment would put a damper on the tone of the session, but it was quite the opposite. And after thinking about it for a bit, this makes sense. Most entrepreneurs have faced a range of adversities in growing their companies and understand market dynamics and the need to adjust business priorities. So, while ambitiously chasing that next funding round and growing their company’s valuation, many are also turning inward to focus more of their energy on building and improving their companies. I think the result is that we will see many companies come out on the other side stronger than before.

Takeaway for PR and marketing pros: For marketing and PR professionals working in the fintech space, I would suggest that they embrace the grind. Budgets may tighten, so we may see some clients scaling back on some of the flashier and more expensive initiatives, but a back to the basics approach could serve many companies well. This means working alongside account and product teams to mine and bring to light customer success stories, sharing company news and perspectives, and finding new ways to produce proprietary insights based on aggregated and anonymized client data to generate earned coverage opportunities.

– Tylor Tourville

State of the IPO market

A number of sessions were dedicated to current trends in how fintech startups are scaling their businesses and fortifying themselves against future economic headwinds. Fintechs farther along in their maturity continue to focus on solidifying their positions and positioning themselves up for their future goals. For a good number of these companies, those future plans include going public.

Consensus among speakers across multiple sessions was that the IPO market is primed for a revival in the next 24 months, especially compared to a “miserable” stretch over the last two years. Some panelists said they are seeing interest from companies “dusting off plans” to prepare to take their companies public.

The main lesson gleaned from this is that as a fintech founder hoping to go public, you need to examine and likely refine your vision and messages. Knowing the needs of your customer base and honing and articulating your strategic vision in a compelling way will be a key ingredient for success in dealing with the scrutiny that comes with being in the public markets.

Takeaway for PR and marketing pros: A fintech upstart panelist commented they’ve invested a lot in PR and that it has had a significant impact on investor interest. The company is now top of peoples’ minds because they are in the press regularly. This sentiment speaks to the value that earned media still plays in our industry. Building a cadence of diverse storytelling tactics to take to the market, whether it’s hard news, proactive story seeding, or reacting to the news of the day, still plays a vital part in crafting and maintaining a company’s reputation and standing in the industry.

– Caryn Brownell

Fintech-bank relationships under the spotlight

Fintechs working in the banking space, either by directly competing – or partnering – with financial institutions, figured prominently in discussion topics throughout the week.

For example, one of the panels I attended was presented by the Massachusetts Division of Banks, our state’s regulator for banks and non-bank entities. According to their data, they have seen a steady increase in fintech licensing applications over the past five years.

Trending themes in Massachusetts applications show that emerging fintechs are focusing increasingly on improving customer experience through personalization, utilizing data driven insights for lead generation, streamlining processes through automation, leveraging the cloud, prioritizing security and privacy, and providing mobile access for users. These offerings are in part why roughly two thirds of banks have entered into fintech partnerships in recent years.

These trends, and the uptick in fintech partnerships, are not just seen in Massachusetts and in payments-focused fintechs; they have taken hold globally and in fintechs serving all types of customers and financial institutions.

As with any partnership, fintech partnerships offer a myriad of benefits and new functionalities while also introducing risk. Solid risk management and compliance with federal and state regulations when entering into a fintech partnership allow the financial services industry to mitigate risk while continuing to prioritize innovation.

Takeaway for PR and marketing pros: Our fintech clients work hard to be innovative on behalf of their clients. The panel was a good reminder that, for any fintech, being able to articulate the value they bring to their partners and customers, both in terms of innovation as well as adherence to the highest risk management standards, should be the backbone of any messaging that supports the firm’s broader PR and marketing program.

– Olivia Leslie

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