In 2022, the corporate reputation of Finance companies saw many obstacles. The year started strong, with countries emerging from the pandemic and businesses grasping the opportunity. But with multiple crashes and headwinds caused by global instability, economic uncertainty and the rising tide of social issues, it became harder than ever for organizations to plot a course of growth and strong reputation.

Discourse around ESG became more nuanced and demanded greater action and accountability from businesses looking to pursue sustainability practices. A challenging macroeconomic climate prompted layoffs at firms of all sizes and multiple scandals in the crypto world caused further crashes.

The latest analysis from the Signal AI 500 highlights how companies adapted to the evolving landscape, who performed better than others and the major trends the Finance industry had to tackle.

View the full results of the Signal AI 500.

The finance conversation is increasingly negative

From the collapse of FTX Trading to scrutiny on ESG and sustainability, the Finance industry saw a great deal of negative moments in 2022. As economic challenges worsened towards the end of the year, the conversation turned to concerns about a recession and subsequent layoffs. Leading banks were met with scrutiny on ESG and Sustainability – some were even fined for misleading statements about green investments, while a senior executive at one firm was shown the door for saying climate risk had been “overstated”.

Signal AI Insight: Finance registered the third largest increase in negative mentions in Q4 at 81%, just after Tobacco and Fashion & Apparel.

Impact investing

Innovation is white hot

Large finance firms continued to build and adopt new technologies in 2022, with the pace of innovation showing no signs of slowing. Mastercard continued to push into crypto while Visa moved further into utilizing blockchain technology. The growth in Open Banking fueled further tech adoption, while advances in AI improved risk management and enabled more personalized products. As the metaverse continued to gain momentum, so did questions about finance in this new frontier, with HSBC setting up a virtual store in metaverse platform The Sandbox.

Signal AI Insight: Six out of the top 10 whitespace topics are in Innovation. These are topics with high positivity but a lower volume of coverage. The top three were Metaverse, UX Design and Corporate Partnerships.

Top 10 Sectors in Partnerships

A silver lining emerges in crypto 

With the high-profile implosion of the FTX exchange, the plummeting value of cryptocurrency and a continued lack of regulatory oversight, it might be tempting to write off blockchain as a passing fad with its brightest days behind it. But while blockchain conversations in the crypto sector trended largely negative in Q4, other sectors in finance fared better. In particular, positive chatter around blockchain in the payment sector grew by double digits, while remaining steady in banking.

Signal AI Insight: Blockchain conversations rose by 11% on average across sectors in Q4, with the exception of finance, where it was down 10% after a peak in Q3. While blockchain emerged as a more negative topic for crypto and financial services companies (greatly due to the downfall of FTX), payment companies won praise in blockchain conversations thanks to a number of product innovations from the likes of MasterCard and Visa.

Quarterly change in blockchain conversations by sector

Everyone is talking about downsizing

The major uptick in hiring seen at the beginning of year didn’t last long. With rising global instability and economic uncertainty, conversation quickly turned to a looming recession. This fueled waves of mass  layoffs, corporate restructuring and hiring freezes. Leading investment banks reported plans to fire staff, with Goldman CEO David Solomon saying: “You have to assume that we have some bumpy times ahead.”

Signal AI Insight: Collectively, finance and tech accounted for 67% of all conversations on downsizing in Q4. However Finance had more positive sentiment than Tech, with a net positive sentiment of 21% compared to just 5%.

Top 15 companies in downsizing conversations
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