Sibos and the new digital battleground: Who came out on top?

October 23, 2020

In years gone by you could assess the big winners at Sibos – the biggest event in the calendar for the global transaction banking industry – with the naked eye: which banks had the crowds buzzing around their stands, which whitepapers were in the most hands, which speeches were the talk of the coffee shops.

Take Sibos 2019 in London, for instance. Glancing across the two vast halls of the ExCeL arena, it was clear to see the footfall at Deutsche Bank’s stand (with its glossy look-and-feel and position akin to being the M&S of the high street), the queues for HSBC’s excellent coffee and the clamour for Wells Fargo toy giveaways (for the kids, of course). All rather excellent marketing initiatives that helped drive interest, conversations and, you would assume, business. And you wouldn’t need to sit long in the atrium’s coffee shops to hear someone discussing the plenary speech from Lloyds Banking Group CEO António Horta-Osório on day one of the London showpiece.

With the event going digital for the first time, shiny stalls, fantastic coffee and neat giveaways were not going to work this year. The tactics and the measures of success of the inaugural digital Sibos were always going to be different.

A variety of methods and tactics can help form a clear understanding of an event, topic, news story or brand – with one increasingly valuable approach being the use of digital analysis tools.

So, in this new ‘digital battlefield’, who came out on top at Sibos?

Understanding the landscape

To assess this, we first needed to understand the landscape of Sibos online conversation and news coverage, using the latest analytics technology that can scan online, social, print and TV/radio content across 187 languages. By running a query to capture all content that includes the name of the event (and any potential misspellings – although in this case we’d expect few), hashtags (we saw three or four varieties here alongside the official one pushed by the event organisers) and the official account of the event itself, we were able to establish a baseline of conversation.

We then had to filter out the noise – conversation relating to the event that could muddy our analysis. Take an example: last year, on day two of Sibos, news broke that the UK’s Prime Minister had been deemed to have broken the law by suspending parliament. Such news would have inevitably infiltrated the Sibos online conversation. Interesting? Yes. Important? Yes. But not completely related to the world of transaction banking and our study.  

By going through these steps, we arrive at a comprehensive understanding of all conversation specifically relating to the event, which can then be analysed for key themes, contributors and channels.

Within this universe of conversation (some 7,000 pieces of news or social content), we then ran queries for individual banks to assess their influence and the percentage of the current landscape attributable to them (their “share of voice”). For the purposes of this study, we focused on 40 of the best-known banks listed as attending the digital event.[i]

Share of voice: breaking news and star appeal

Having monitored the entirety of conversation relating to Sibos for the week before and week of the event, it is immediately noticeable, although perhaps unsurprising, that there is a spike in real-time conversation during peak hours (early afternoon in Europe, morning in the US), with most volume falling on the first day (1.8k pieces of news or social content).

Figure 1: Total online content relating to Sibos (28 September – 10 October)

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This helicopter view also confirms the global nature of Sibos with coverage and conversation arising from a variety of geographies, with the top five being US (44%), UK (24%), India (3%), France (3%) and Australia (2%).

So which banks dominated this conversation? By analysing the share of voice of 40 of the most prominent banks exhibiting at Sibos, there was one clear winner: HSBC. The bank accounted for over a third of all social conversation and news mentions (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Top banks in terms of share of voice of total Sibos conversation

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The reason? Its announcement at 11am on the second day of the event that blockchain trade finance initiative Contour has now moved into full live production. The Twitter post garnered 614 retweets and 1.4k likes, reaching a potential audience of 187k – making it by far the most engaged with post over the two-week period. The virality map in Figure 3 shows exactly how the tweet spread through social conversation (the blue dots) and later into blogs and news pieces (the green dots).

And such virality isn’t just good news for HSBC: Contour is also owned by Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, CTBC, ING, Standard Chartered, SEB and Citi.

Figure 3: Virality map of HSBC news post

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We already noted that there were clear spikes in real-time conversation around the event’s showpiece speeches, and this also played a significant role in determining share of voice.

Those banks that managed to secure the primetime “View from the Top” Sibos slots – and filled them with their big names – were able to utilise this ‘star appeal’ to place themselves at the centre of the discussion. Indeed, of the four banks that had one of these slots, three of them broke into our top share of voice list. JP Morgan, ING and BNP Paribas all rolled out their big guns (CEOs Jamie Dimon and Steven van Rijswijk and Chairman of the Board Jean Lemierre respectively), with spikes in conversation relating to the banks closely aligning with the times they took to the ‘stage’.

Of course, online share of voice is not the ultimate marker of success. Even at a digital Sibos, connections, deals and contacts will be made away from the glare of public forums. But it’s a good indicator.

Themes and white (or green) space

Analysing the themes of Sibos 2020 gave us some expected results: a major focus on digital transformation, with a high volume of content including terms such as “technology” and “fintech” and associated terms such as “blockchain”, “decentralised” (a pat on the back once more for HSBC), “cloud” and “artificial intelligence” (see word clouds in Figure 4).  

Figure 4: Word clouds showing key themes emerging within Sibos conversation 

Figure 4

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Perhaps most interesting, however, is issues not prominent within these key themes. While aligning with the conversation is crucial to relevance and exposure, there is also value in assessing the “white space”, by which we mean under-served (yet important) themes or topics. Such white space analysis can help uncover opportunities that are not obvious or identify interesting themes untouched by competitors.

At Sibos, the white space was undoubtedly environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues or sustainable finance. While the event itself placed great importance on this – indeed, the final day was devoted exclusively to the topic of banking for humanity, the impact of ESG and the drivers of sustainable business – ESG (and related terms) only cropped up in 284 online posts (out of the 7,000 total). This paled in comparison to the volume discussing digitalisation and digital transformation (see Figure 5).

We can conclude, therefore, that had banks decided to prioritise this topic within their Sibos marcomms strategies, they may have been able to better break through the noise and own a crucial part of the overall Sibos conversation.  

Figure 5: Total online content by day: Digitalisation v ESG

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All banks can use such analysis to understand their influence and participation level in key industry themes – at Sibos, but also for their communications more broadly – as a baseline for any communications or marketing campaign. Only by having a baseline can you measure progress, take advantage of tailwinds and ultimately judge success.

And with it remaining uncertain whether banks will be unveiling their banners and stands at Sibos 2021 in Singapore once more, there may be even more focus on the success of online communications and marketing activities.

 

For the full data set or individual bank analysis, please contact thomas.morris@finnpartners.com.

 

[i] List of 40 banks assessed for this study: ABN Amro, ANZ, Bank of America, Bank of China, Barclays, BBVA, BNP Paribas, BNY Mellon, Citi, Commerzbank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Danske Bank, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, ING, Isbank, JP Morgan, Lloyds Bank, National Australia Bank Limited, Natixis, Natwest, Nordea, QNB Group, Rabobank, Raiffeisen Bank International, Santander, Saxo Bank, Societe Generale, Sperbank, Standard Bank, Standard Chartered, Starling Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), UBS, UniCredit, Wells Fargo, Westpac.

 

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