Comms in the age of crypto: In conversation with Nexo

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Martyna in conversation with Stella Zlatareva, PR Manager at Nexo

My last (but most definitely not least!) guest in this five-part series is Stella Zlatareva, PR Manager at Nexo, the pioneer of crypto-backed credit lines and one of the leading regulated digital asset institutions.

Stella has been a part of the company’s comms team since 2020 and plays an instrumental role in managing Nexo’s in-house media relations. She also supports integrated PR, marketing, and social media campaigns for the firm. During her career in traditional finance and journalism, she covered global merger and acquisitions (M&A) trends. With a penchant for writing and a Political Science degree, Stella believes blockchain is the edge of a new social and cultural frontier and crypto finance – a present-day Enlightenment. 

When asked about proactive communications from not crypto-native brands, Stella explained: “For most, it’s a race to “who announces anything crypto-related first” but there’s rarely any significant product development action beyond a public statement and a headline.”

Robin Van Daalen, Senior Communications Manager at Kraken Exchange who was my guest last week went on to share some advice here: “You (companies) have to make a clear decision on what direction you’re heading in. Do you embrace crypto and what it stands for? If you’re just adding another service to your offering because you see demand, that’s not going to work.”

Stella shares her perspective on this topic, banking in Metaverse and more during our discussion. 

We’ve seen a real mix in terms of how vocal fintech & FS brands are when it comes to communicating their stance on crypto. Why do you think this might be and how aggressive brands should be when it comes to proactive communication?

Stella: I feel like most companies are testing the waters before going ankle-deep in crypto. As an observer, I can rough out several types of approaches. One of the archetypes is the regulatory cautious institution — can’t blame them for wanting to be 100% compliant. Another one is the brand that wants to stay on-brand and is struggling to fit crypto into its narrative — good and poor examples abound. For most, it’s a race to “who announces anything crypto-related first” but there’s rarely any significant product development action beyond a public statement and a headline. Lastly, a big chunk of the players are simply taking their time figuring out their strategies and some are reaching out to us for advice which is a promising sign of the synergy potential.

There’s a generational divide between crypto-native millennials and perhaps some of the stakeholders in traditional finance. People like Warren Buffett, one of the most respected investors in the world, hate crypto. So how do you see traditional finance firms engaging with the crypto natives without alienating older generations? 

Stella: While I don’t necessarily disagree about user demographics, most of my crypto friends’ parents who are in their 50s and 60s are frustrated with the traditional financial system and approach us for advice on how to invest in digital assets. The fact that they need us to make their foray into crypto is a vocal sign that there is a bigger problem — a very acute need for all kinds of bridges and onramps to introduce people on the fringes to blockchain-based finance. 

By contrast, the products and services that traditional banks offer remain largely unchanged for the past 150 years, so people are comfortable with them. So, the role of exchanges and intermediaries in a world where wallets are decentralized is to serve as a bridge: a trustworthy, friendly and intuitive one, and to create the blockchain equivalents of traditional finance (aka TradFi) products through networks and partnerships with institutions that people know and trust. Not to toot our own horn but the Nexo Card is a perfect example of the above-mentioned hybrid model where a crypto company operates alongside the traditional players (Mastercard) to bring a product that speaks to everyone, regardless of their crypto proficiency or lack thereof. 

What lessons can traditional finance brands learn from crypto?

Stella: In crypto, it’s very hard to remain relevant, even for five years. But the space is filled with companies with big dreams and life-changing ideas and the readiness to fail and reinvent themselves. This resilience will catapult some of the crypto players of today –– I won’t name names 😉 –– into the S&P 500 in the not-so-distant future. 

Now that DeFi slowly makes its way to the mainstream, there’s a new generation of “neobanks” built on DeFi rails. How will fintech claim its place as a mobile-first and branchless alternative to banking?

Stella: To be mobile-first, or VR-first, that is the question. When the team and I think of the alternative banks of the new economy and Nexo’s place in it, there’s one prevalent concept – the “meta bank.” Creating a full-fledged bank in the metaverse is one of our ambitious goals and that’s why we’ve been heavily investing in MetaFi — the intersection of the metaverse, web3, and decentralized finance through our in-house investment arm. This bank would cater to every single individual or institutional financial need and more — it would be an entry point into a world of art, science, and community projects — a whole new economy and a whole new society as an extension of physical-world activities. This vision is just a glimpse into the tons of amazing opportunities this still-niche space is capable of building. 

One last question, do you think crypto has an environmental problem or communication problem?

Stella: Earth has an environmental problem, not crypto. That is unless you’re referring to the industrial production of edible flesh that ends up at Bitcoin-themed steak dinners. There’s way less justification for the energy intensity of large-scale animal farming than there is for the creation of sovereign money.

Still, there is a parallel one can draw between the environment and comms: it takes a long time to make a positive, sustainable impact. To me, crypto comms are a new science of alternating traditional PR and community building. As a comms professional, it’s your duty to be as transparent as humanly possible and inform your community before anyone else or they’ll simply leave or become less involved. In futurespect, building a vibrant, responsive community is a long game and I’m happy to play.

And that’s a wrap! Thanks so much for being my fifth guest on this series! Glad to have some incredibly talented experts in this space who raise the bar when it comes to communication excellence in the crypto, web3 and DeFi space!

Enjoyed this interview? If so, follow Stella on LinkedIn.

●This was #5 interview in this five-part series, the previous interviews can be found here:  

●Want to learn more about Crypto PR? Check Martyna’s half-day workshop on How to PR crypto.

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