We could think of no better person to interview than Carmen Dixon, former PR and Communications Director from LendInvest about her career and opinions on the fintech industry. Carmen started her strategic comms career in-house at Reuters before moving into consultancy with award-winning agency, Powerscourt. She advises fast growing companies and investors in fintech and other tech sectors on their comms strategies, has helped at least 40 tech startups and growth companies with their comms goals and is passionate about story-telling.
Straight out of university I joined the communications team at Reuters. Those first years in a FTSE 100 business gave me a solid appreciation of all that goes into a financial and corporate comms programme that’s both fast-paced and highly scrutinised.
I joined Powerscourt in 2010 where I worked across the technology/media and financial services teams. A number of my clients were venture capital and private equity firms who often introduced us to the startups and growth companies they backed. By the time I moved on, I’d advised dozens of young businesses across many different tech sub-sectors.
In 2015, I went in-house at LendInvest, an online mortgage lending platform, to build their comms function from scratch. I left LendInvest last summer and have since set up my own consultancy offering aimed at helping more tech startups, growth companies and investors achieve their comms goals.
A lifelong love of storytelling. I’ve been coming up with stories since I was able to speak and feel fortunate that I’ve been able to make a career out of it.
Being responsive and staying open to change. To me, good comms are outcome-driven, so having a plan is key. But I think the best comms strategies are those that allow for flexibility, particularly when working with young, fast-growing companies.
Each time I’ve moved into a new role, it’s been a fresh and energising new challenge. When I joined LendInvest in 2015, my first job was to establish the PR function. I got to put my creative stamp on how the company would present itself and develop its narrative for years to come. And all that within a sector (i.e. London fintech) that was itself emerging on the world stage.
From my client experience at Powerscourt, I had a sense of what life at LendInvest might be like. True to form, it was challenging, fast-paced and rewarding. I was working in an environment that was in a constant state of change: the team was growing, new stakeholders were coming on board, the competitive landscape was expanding. The communications strategy needed to be confident and clear, but at the same time open to change. My training in consultancy certainly helped me to be accommodating and adaptable at all times.
Unlike a few years ago, I believe there’s a little less public or media fixation on how fintechs might threaten the incumbent traditional financial institutions. Instead, we’re seeing greater attention around how individual fintech companies compete with and outperform one another. This is creating a sea-change in the way that a lot of fintechs need to communicate with their stakeholders.
What’s more, as the sector matures, many fintechs are seen less as exciting new startups whose mistakes and wrong-turns are part and parcel of the learning experience, and more as accountable, responsible businesses that ought to be interrogated with the same level of scrutiny as their more ‘traditional’, older competitors. That’s making many fintechs rethink how they communicate too. There are many more eyes watching what they’re doing, and the expectation for them to be transparent is growing.
At the last count, I’ve helped at least 40 tech startups and growth companies with their comms goals. What’s staggering to me is how different each of these companies has been. Each one is modifying or transforming their target market in some distinct way, creating new angles, perspectives and stories for a comms person to get stuck into.
Fintech, in particular, intrigues me. The intersection of financial services and technology is extraordinary. It’s a hotbed of some incredible innovation and intelligent thinking, and is subject to heavy scrutiny and regulation. I love how many challenges this combination creates for communications people working for these businesses.
There are a handful of moments seared into my memory of when the huge effort to get a project off the ground has paid off with the sort of success I could only dream of back when it began. Whether it was a great piece of coverage, a notable uptick in business after a media campaign, or just someone saying ‘well done’, those moments make the hard work totally worthwhile.
“Listen first, then decide.” The source is now forgotten but it’s a mantra that’s ingrained in my approach to decision making, both professionally and personally.
The tenacity and confidence of many of the founders I’ve worked with over the years push me to do more and expect more from myself in my own work. They spot opportunities and have the confidence to run after them. They make mistakes, dust themselves off and move on. And they have the skill and character to get investors, employees and customers on board with their ideas. There’s so much to learn from them and apply to my own career.
I never actually planned a career in comms: I applied for a graduate role in advertising and came out with an offer of a job in PR! But to pursue this career, I turned down an opportunity to go into film production. On my more fanciful days, I wonder what life would have been like if I’d followed that path.
I’m told I’ve a knack for mimicking accents. I put it down to speaking several languages, as well as listening and talking for a living.