In the hot seat:
Ryan Weeks: Fintech Correspondent at Financial News
- Ryan learned the trade of the fintech beat at AltFi the finch startup publishing house founded by David Stevenson. He joined after university as the founding editor which grew over five years.
- The staple diet for Financial News has been the capital markets operations of the banking, trading and asset management industries. FN’s fintech coverage had reflected this but it has since evolved with Ryan’s arrival. In addition to the fintech angle to bank trading FN now covers: digital banks, digital lenders, online robo-advisers, crytpo, digital assets and blockchain.
- The focus of the coverage is not retail product launches but the corporate angle – hirings, firings, fundraising, partnerships with big banks and quirky angles.
- Fintech is not as structured as the other beats beholden as they are to key diary items like the big bank results. Ryan is under no pressure to churn content and will only write articles if they are justifiable. He does have one weekly column called Fintech Files, which is distributed as an email newsletter to 10,000 subscribers at midday on Tuesdays. He tends to work on this on Fridays as this tends to be a slow news day and any stories tend to be kept over to the following week. A bit more comment based/humorous that the average online story. An ideal scenario would involve a relevant snippet which you can build on. Last week’s column was based on a conversation with hedge fund grandee Stanley Fink about experienced players joining finch boards.
- Fintech files also has a 400 word summary of the sector and aggregates links to relevant articles.
Financial News coverage and timings:
- Financial News’ output is divided between the website and the newspaper which goes to press on Fridays and comes out on a Monday.
- 10 am Monday meeting: pitch for the front page the week after – need to be good stories/controversial/exclusive/will hold for a week. Front page editors are the editor and deputy editor.
- Time-sensitive material is pitched to online editors or they commission the team to cover breaking issues.
- Features are worked on throughout the week for Mondays.
- One of the two key features types is “Audience with”, a personality-based profile similar to “Lunch with the FT”. 1,000 words placed high up the paper with a cartoon style portrait alongside. Ryan has recently done a series of interviews with the heads of the online banks.
- The other feature type is 1,500 words on your beat. Ryan is currently writing one on central bank digital currencies.
Interaction with PRs:
- Ryan doesn’t mind being called. Often it is the easiest way to get to the crux of what a story is about. He might always suggest sending a succinct summary by email after.
- Characteristics that might make a story stand out include:
- Who’s involved – stories with a human element are more compelling.
- Demonstrating a project has serious commitment
- Showing traction
- FN is very particular about the sort of stories it runs and he tries to give a reason why something won’t run with FN if possible.
- Ryan won’t ordinarily meet people if there wasn’t a prospect of it leading to something can be developed.
- Certain PRs really know their client’s market and add extra intelligence beyond their clients’ interests and he tends to return to these contacts.
- Exclusives are very important for FN.
- Commentators can be helpful if they are problem solvers, responsive and prepared to weigh in.
- Key fintech conferences: St Moritz Crypto event (policymakers and regulators), Innovate Global Summit (consistently bring the right people together), Altfi Summit, Paris Fintech Forum, HMT roadshow.
Hot topics and issues:
- Institutional uptake of digital technologies and blockchain.
- The provenance of the funding that props up the sector. Ryan wants to understand where the money is coming from that is going to the large fintech companies.
- Consolidation of distribution systems.
- The culture at fast-growing firms – what’s going right and wrong.
- Fintech and Brexit especially talent acquisition. Will the best engineers still come to the UK.