4 November 2010

The bankers are back in town

Actually they were back in Amsterdam last week, where they attended SIBOS, the biggest global gathering of financial services providers. And SIBOS was in a happy mood this year. Officially, there were 8,700 participants (an impressive 3,200 more than in 2009 when SIBOS took place in Hong Kong), 209 exhibitors and 175 speakers. All of them were positive and upbeat, you could see a lot of new business coming through and media interest was lively, with more than 100 journalists in attendance. Everyone was keen to agree that cloud computing changes the way banks operate, Basel III actually means something this time and that the Germans should finally stop complaining about the European payments system Sepa because it's too late now.
SIBOS also was in an appy mood. You could see a number of onsite demos such as peterevans' Simply app, the UK's first self-execution stockbroking application, and quite a few people predict that this is just the start of a new era. And some were right in saying that when you see such amazing apps, all the non-virtual stuff is suddenly much less exciting. SIBOS 2010 also debuted its first dedicated panel on social networking. Needless to say the room was packed. As conservative as it is, the industry has started talking about new media at last, and it'll be interesting to see how things develop over the years to come.
You could say that SIBOS is an indicator of the health of the banking industry, and this year it appeared in rude health. According to official records, 4,518 full week passes were sold for SIBOS 2010. With each full week pass coming in at 2,800 EUR, this is some very nice revenue for SWIFT, the conference organiser. But we know it's worth it when you get something out of it. And everyone got something out of it indeed: participants got a feeling of optimism, exhibitors got plenty of leads, speakers got plenty of attention and cab drivers got away with their random pricing of fares.

30 June 2010

Is social media really worth it?

Undoubtedly, social media is increasingly seen as a useful additional PR, advertising and sales channel. In 2010, for the first time in 25 years, Pepsi didn't run a Super Bowl ad in 2010, but focussed on a $20 million online Cause Marketing campaign instead. Dell has reported it generated $6.5 million of sales over Twitter, Sony Vaio's Twitter account has generated over $1 million in sales, and Blendtec's YouTube campaign led to a five-fold increase in sales.With social media activities starting to pay off for corporates (after all, they're free), they also become more attractive for investors. Paul David Hewson (better known as U2.0's Bono) and his private equity firm Elevation Partners have just acquired 5 million shares in Facebook for $120m, following the purchase of 2.5m shares for $90m in November 2009. Until now, private investors have pumped more than $830 million into Facebook which is by far outperforming Zynga (the Farmville game maker who has recently seen another funding of $147 million, bringing total funding to $360 million), Twitter ($160 million) and LinkedIn ($103 million).Looking at current market evaluations, these investments make perfect sense: Facebook is valued at $14 billion, Zynga $2.6 billion, Twitter $1.5 billion and LinkedIn $1.3 billion. Estimated advertising revenues for Facebook in 2010 are within the region of $1.1 billion to $2 billion. Twitter (so far) makes money by partnering with Google and Microsoft, and is currently testing advertising options. The value of Twitter is now estimated at more than $1.5bn (it was already valued at more than $1bn before it had generated any revenues at all).So the answer to the question seems to be a straightforward yes. Social media does make money and people do like Facebook & Co. Investors do invest and do make money too, and the market valuations are reasonable, given the platforms do the right things and do things right. The poster announcing the movie about Facebook sums up the current climate of self-confidence: you don't get to 500 million friends without making some enemies. If "some enemies" become "many" because of an overload of commercialisation or privacy concerns however, there might still be trouble ahead.