Communications in the Age of Crypto – in Conversation with Kraken Exchange

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Martyna in conversation with Robin Van Daalen, Senior Communications Manager at Kraken Exchange

Last week, I spoke with Roopa Ramaiya, Head of Global PR & Communications at Luno, who stressed that more proactive communication on security and consumer protection needs to be a critical part of any PR strategy when it comes to decentralised finance and overarching crypto space – “without this, the ecosystem won’t ever be viewed as credible or viable for the mass market and people won’t trust it.” – Roopa told me.

My next guest seems to share some similar views when it comes to a need for crypto brands to win customers’ trust.

Robin Van Daalen is a Senior Communications Manager at Kraken Exchange, one of the largest and oldest crypto exchanges in the world. I had the pleasure to work with Robin in the past and pick his brain on various things when it comes to communication challenges in the crypto space. Today, I have the pleasure to share some key insights from Robin through this interview with a wider audience.

Before joining Kraken, Robin worked at Edelman where he helped companies develop and execute their financial and corporate communications strategies. He started his career as a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires and later served as a reporter and bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal.

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?

Robin: I’m not sure they can, to be honest. At least not without being willing to make a sacrifice. People increasingly look for companies and brands that take a stand. And when you’re being vocal and outspoken, there will always be people that disagree with you. That’s fine, if you’re willing to accept they might take their business elsewhere.

At its core, crypto is about values that are inherently different from what traditional finance represents. It’s about equal access and opportunity for all. Traditional finance is more about minimising risk and maximising returns for shareholders by deciding who gets access to what.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an either/or situation. We’re still very early for crypto and are just starting to see some real, valuable use cases emerge. So it’s likely we’ll see a gradual transition to this new, crypto-led financial system. But it does mean you 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. But if you embrace it, do you accept you might lose some of your legacy business?

Picture 5-10 years from now: what happens to the firms that aren’t building a strategy to pivot into the crypto & decentralised finance space?

Robin: They’ll find themselves in a situation of managed decline. You can argue all you want about the price of certain cryptocurrencies, but if you don’t recognise the potential of the technology, you’re going to be in trouble 10 years from now. It’s not about picking winners and losers. It’s about recognising how this technology can be used to create superior products and services that benefit people.

There will likely be a convergence between traditional financial services and crypto services. The financial services providers of the future will essentially become the portals through which people manage their financial lives. It’s about being a trusted partner that gives people access to the tools they need in an easy, safe and secure way. It’s the interface through which they interact with different products, educate themselves about the options available to them and get support when they have questions.

Crypto will simply become an integral part of that because it has the ability to enable many of those services more efficiently on a global scale. If you’re a traditional financial services firm looking to keep as many people as possible within your walled garden, you’re simply going to get crushed by the competition that’s emerging. This is already happening, but crypto will accelerate that trend over the next decade.

What lessons can crypto brands learn from fintech & financial services companies?

Robin: In general, I think the crypto industry would benefit from being a bit more modest, maybe a bit more boring even. At the end of the day, we’re talking about people’s finances and I think there is room to better demonstrate the significance of asking someone to trust you with their money.

Across the board, crypto brands could also probably be a bit more mindful of what the dominant perception is and how the industry is being viewed by a very significant number of people. I think banks have learned that the hard way and probably have become too conservative, but finding a balance between being vocal and outspoken and being respectful and considerate is probably a good idea. We’re still at a stage in crypto where we need to educate people. Starting from where they are and taking them along for the journey is probably a better approach than shouting from the rooftop that they’re missing out if they don’t jump on the bandwagon.

And what lessons can traditional finance brands learn from crypto?

Robin: I think that a lot of crypto companies and projects are really good at keeping their audiences engaged. I think that’s partly because they have a more distinct brand profile and their customers and users know what these brands are about. This makes it a lot easier for them to identify with these brands, which creates loyalty and engagement.

Many traditional finance brands have been focused on making sure nobody hates them, not on making sure people love them. This might be anecdotal evidence, but I never meet anyone that tells me they’ve become a customer at a bank because they love what that company is about. They always left a bank because they had an issue with customer

support or because they ran into some other problem. Or because they simply got a better deal elsewhere.

I think that traditional banks or insurers would really benefit from being more vocal on what they care about and explain how that informs how they do business. Sure, it might cause some pain in the short term, because some disagree and leave. But in the long run, you’ll get a lot more loyal customers, employees, shareholders, etc.

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

Robin: I think the world has an environmental problem and crypto has a reputational problem. Crypto has the potential to improve the way we organize our financial system. It can do that in a way that maximizes the use of sustainable energy and minimizes the amount of resources that are wasted. Crypto can even play a larger role in making progress towards a more sustainable future.

It’s obvious the perception is crypto is a bad use of energy and there’s an important role for the industry to change that. I think the main reason is too many people still don’t understand the real value of crypto and the potential it has to drive change for the better. So why is it worth spending energy on? There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to educate people on the importance of crypto. That’s a huge challenge, but also an exciting opportunity. It’s important we get it right. It’s very motivating and a privilege to be able to play a role in that.

Awesome to hear from you on this Robin and thanks for paving the way for comms standards in the crypto industry!

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

  • Next week I will be speaking with Stella Zlatareva, PR Manager at Nexo, the world’s leading regulated institution for digital assets.
  • Want to learn more about Crypto PR? Check Martyna’s half-day workshop on How to PR crypto.

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