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Welcome to the Financial Services Labs Report from Zignal Labs, your latest dive into the issues currently driving conversations in FinServ. A year ago, we were in the throes of the first wave of the COVID pandemic. The bottom had dropped out from under the economy, shuttering businesses everywhere and sending the unemployment rate to new heights. With broad swaths of the population suddenly reluctant to spend or invest, financial services companies faced major challenges.

A year later, things are different. Though the pandemic hasn’t gone away, we, as a society, have started to adapt and learn how to function around the virus. This has potentially created new opportunities – including in communications and marketing – for finance companies who may well have been on the ropes this time last year. Today, we’re using narrative intelligence to uncover those opportunities.

Keep reading as we dive into key questions like:

  1. How has the financial services conversation changed over the past year?
  2. What factors might complicate these trends?
  3. How can companies go one step further with narrative intelligence to truly capitalize on these changes?

Learn more about narrative intelligence for Finance companies on our Financial Services Industry Page.

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COVID Loosens Its Grip on the Conversation

We started our investigation in the Financial Publications profile in the Zignal platform. This profile tracks dozens of keywords and phrases related to financial services and the economy across digital and traditional news outlets, as well as from social media posts – primarily from the official Twitter accounts of news outlets and the subreddit r/Finance.

Within this conversation, we then looked at mentions of 28 key finance-related issues. Some of these were issues of perennial relevance, like “lending” and “mortgages,” and others were more timely, such as “Brexit” and “Joe Biden.” Our first goal was to see trends in mentions of one issue in particular as it pertains to finance: the coronavirus.

“In recent months, “coronavirus” has come to occupy a much smaller share of mentions within the overall Financial Publications conversation.”

What we found was that, in recent months, “coronavirus” has come to occupy a much smaller share of mentions within the overall Financial Publications conversation. From June to December of 2020, it occupied 34% of all combined mentions of the 28 issues within the conversation, while so far this year it has only occupied 20%. (We chose June as the beginning of the timeframe because that was when the initial surge of “coronavirus” mentions associated with the beginning of the pandemic died down. We felt that including this surge would have inflated the number of mentions in a way that would not have accurately reflected the prevailing level of conversation around the virus.)

Coronavirus mentions in Financial Publications, June to December 2020

Mentions of “coronavirus” related to the Financial Publications conversation, June – Dec. 2020.

Coronavirus mentions in Financial Publications, January to March 2021

Mentions of “coronavirus” related to the Financial Publications conversation, Jan. – March 2021.

Of course, a reduction in mentions of “coronavirus” does not, by itself, signal that the financial services industry has put the pandemic behind it. It’s more of a trend of interest that may, or may not, signal a renewed focus on investment across the consumer and business landscape. To further prove this out, you’d have to look at what issues are filling the void. 

In this case, the void created by the drop in “coronavirus” mentions has not been filled by a rise in mentions of “lending” or “investment” or another issue that would signal more activity for the industry. Instead, the issue to see the biggest rise as “coronavirus” fell was “Joe Biden,” which, as seen in the chart above, went from barely registering in the second half of last year to constituting 18% of mentions so far this year. And given President Biden’s strong regulatory posture compared to his predecessor, it’s not clear whether this jump in mentions signals new opportunity for the industry or simply a new challenge.

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Changing Attitudes Around Finance

To answer this question, we expanded our investigation beyond simple number-of-mentions analyses and started analyzing sentiment as well. Importantly, we also broadened the conversation beyond media publications to include more social media posts from individuals. 

Watch: An executive at Prudential Financial talks disinformation and getting ahead of threats.

Looking at the conversation around three prominent finance-related topics – investment banking, Nasdaq, and Banking ESG – we found a clear pattern: Positive sentiment around each of these topics has notably increased over the past several months. With COVID mentions down and positive sentiment around finance topics up, it started to seem a bit more clear that the consumer and business landscapes are warming back up.

Investment banking historical sentiment

Sentiment around “investment banking,” Jan. 2020 – March 2021.

Nasdaq historical sentiment

Sentiment around “Nasdaq,” Jan. 2020 – March 2021.

Banking ESG historical sentiment

Sentiment around “Banking ESG,” Jan. 2020 – March 2021.

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Next Steps: Digging Deeper and Reaping the Benefits

What we’ve shown in this analysis just scratches the surface. How can financial services companies use narrative intelligence to dig deeper, gain a clearer picture of opportunities presented in the data, and capitalize on them through effective communications targeted at interested audiences?

Here are a couple of ways to start:

Keep tracking

It’s important to remember that one snapshot of data alone doesn’t tell you much. Trends emerge over time. In the coming months, pandemic-related mentions may continue to decline, and there may be a rise in mentions of issues that clearly signal a renewed interest in investment. Narrative intelligence can illuminate those trends in real time.

Drill down

The conversation around finance – both in content and tone – is changing. But where is it changing, and how? Use narrative intelligence to look into which geographies, industries, and media sources are driving this trend, and to identify any influencers. This is the key to channeling your messaging toward the right audiences.

COVID isn’t over, but the narrative landscape is showing signs of possible opportunities for financial services companies. Savvy use of narrative intelligence can make you the first to see those signs – and to capitalize upon them. 

Take a look at the Zignal Narrative Intelligence Cloud.

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This analysis was conducted using Zignal’s “Banking & Investment Industry 2021” environment. To uncover trends, we tracked mentions of 28 key issues within our Financial Publications profile over two separate time periods. When evaluating sentiment to form a picture of consumer attitudes toward finance, we focused on conversations around investment banking, the Nasdaq, and banking ESG.