Martyna in conversation with Roopa Ramaiya, Head of Global PR & Communications at Luno
When I asked Ava Labs’ Partnership Marketing Manager, Xochitl what lessons can crypto brands learn from fintech and financial services companies she told me that they do a far better job in making their campaigns relatable: “They put users and their life experiences as the campaign focus rather than their services. (…) Crypto brands still tend to make their products the centre of attention rather than the users.“
Today, I am honoured to have yet another, brilliant woman participating in my five-part series on best practices in crypto PR with a focus on financial services and fintech brands potentially looking to pivot into the crypto/web3 space.
Roopa is an award-winning Head of PR and Communications currently overseeing global PR at Luno, a leading cryptocurrency platform recently acquired by Digital Currency Group (DCG) which was listed as one of Time magazine’s most influential companies. She has more than 15 years of experience in PR, communications and public affairs with a focus on technology and financial services.
Prior to Luno, Roopa held roles at HSBC and Barclays and has spent the last few years helping to scale high-growth technology companies like Zendesk and King.com.
We’ve seen a real mix in terms of how vocal fintech & FS brands are when it comes to communicating their stance on crypto. Why do you think this might be and how aggressive should brands be when it comes to proactive communication?
Roopa: The majority of mainstream media coverage still focuses on crypto being a speculative asset class (at best) - this coupled with the swings in the debate around regulation across the globe and most recently intense market volatility will mean that (understandably) many brands are either holding back on a bold public stance or biding their time as the space matures. On the flip side, those companies who jump in purely for the purposes of being ‘relevant’ or as a marketing ploy will not be doing themselves favours in the long term.
The complex regulatory and tax framework coupled with an internal lack of understanding, whilst figuring out where crypto fits within a product is a lot to navigate. While more FS brands incorporate crypto in response to what their customers are asking for, it’s no surprise we are seeing a mix in how much brands are willing to say they are ‘in it’ whilst weighing current vs future levels of customer demand. As we work through the journey of taking crypto mainstream, we must remember that however the space evolves the need for building trust, education and confidence in the industry will never change and there is an opportunity to own that narrative. How can we do money better?
There’s a generational divide between crypto-native millennials and perhaps some of the stakeholders in traditional finance. People like Warren Buffett, one of the most respected investors in the world, hate crypto. So how do you see traditional finance firms engaging with the crypto natives without alienating older generations?
Roopa: The million bitcoin question! Put very simply, the place in which you are coming from both in terms of your background as well as where you physically come from in the world is going to have a huge impact on the value and the potential you see in crypto (and in anything else in fact). Traditional finance firms are going to need to strike a balance. A lot also depends on how strongly they are incorporating crypto into their product set.
Whilst being careful not to generalise that these represent the view of all older generations - in the case of Buffet, along with his core arguments that crypto has no tangible value and he doesn’t view it as a real currency, he has also said "I get in enough trouble with things I think I know something about. Why in the world should I take a long or short position in something I don't know anything about?” - so he has admitted he doesn’t really understand it. Which, again without generalising too heavily, might be relevant for a chunk of the traditional finance audiences. If you don’t feel you have a need for something, why would you try and understand it? Whereas, the crypto native millennials come facing a host of reasons that would make them more compelled to embrace an alternative.
In terms of comms - regardless of where their audiences sit on the spectrum, a focus on the ‘why’ and access to reliable info is going to be important because like it or not the digital economy will shape the future of money in some way and that isn’t going away.
What lessons can crypto brands learn from fintech & financial services companies?
Roopa: I’ve worked in both traditional finance and crypto so I can speak first-hand here! I think the biggest thing is the focus on security - without this, the ecosystem won’t ever be viewed as credible or viable for the mass market and people won't trust it. Financial Services and fintech invest so much in this area and crypto companies face a perception problem which ranges from them having a lax attitude to financial crime and at worst, actively enabling it. In turn, this will make for more positive conversations with regulators. It’s still a grey area in my opinion in the way crypto companies are talking about it.
Some other areas would be on how talent is fostered in the space, accountability on marketing spend (I know this from my years in banking!), and more focus on product-market fit rather than trying to be the quickest on a path to domination.
And what lessons can traditional finance brands learn from crypto?
Roopa: I think the big one here is constantly needing to think creatively to tell your story and given the pace at which this industry moves, thinking on your feet!
The other thing is the drive to educate - which for most crypto companies is becoming part of the fabric of what they do. For traditional finance companies, there is a lot of assumption that a trusted brand means being a trusted guardian too but how many people actually understand how money works?
One last question, picture 5-10 years from now: what happens to the firms that aren’t building a strategy to pivot into the crypto & decentralised finance space?
Roopa: I think those companies that don’t embrace crypto and decentralised finance (DeFi) in some capacity, risk being left behind and losing ever savvy groups of their customers. Remember that crypto is a store of value and DeFi is a broader application of how tech will be used to create a new financial ecosystem. We may see a sliding scale in how much either of these things is built into strategies.
I think right now a lot of companies are in the ‘experimental’ phase and 5-10 year mark we will see these ‘experiments’ become more concrete features.