Fintech Influencer Lists Have Jumped the Shark

Have you ever been ranked as a “fintech influencer” in any of the influencer lists that have been published? If so, then congratulations! You must be so proud.

Be honest, though: Do you really deserve the accolades?

If you honestly answered “yes,” then you’re part of a small group (maybe 15 to 20 people), and there’s a good chance I know who you are.

That leaves literally a couple hundred people who have shown up on the burgeoning list of “fintech influencer” rankings in the past few months.

People who influence practically nobody else. People I’ve never even heard of (and I follow fintech closely). Some of them aren’t even real people (they’re publications or twitter accounts).

Fintech influencer lists have jumped the shark, and I’m going to call out these lists for what they are: Shameless attempts to drive traffic to the list purveyor’s site by publishing nonsense rankings based on voodoo quantitative approaches.

Influencer Lists are Nonsense

There are many reasons why these lists are nonsense, but let’s get down to the most basic and important reason:

You can’t easily measure influence.

Fundamentally, influence comes down to having an impact on one or both of two things: 1) What someone thinks and/or believes, and 2) What someone does.

Very few people in the world of fintech meet the first criteria. Brett King, Chris Skinner, and Jim Marous easily qualify as they have shaped what people think and believe about the current and future states of fintech and digital banking.

Yet, in two recent lists of fintech influencers, neither Brett nor Chris made the list. Why? Because their [fill-in-blank] score wasn’t high enough. As if someone’s Klout, Moz, or whatever stupid social media score you have could measure the impact of someone’s published thoughts and ideas.

The Stupidity of Klout

The over-reliance on the Klout score is the culprit leading to the lack of credibility in many influencer rankings. According to Klout’s website:

“The Klout Score isn’t the average of your influence across all your networks, it’s the accumulation.”

In other words, the more time you waste…oops, I mean spend…on multiple social networks, the higher your Klout score.

Klout goes on to say:

“The majority of the signals used to calculate the Klout Score are derived from combinations of attributes, such as the ratio of reactions you generate compared to the amount of content you share.”

The stupidity of this can’t be overstated. What Klout is saying is that if you tweet the link to someone else’s content, that tweet is considered “content” itself. That’s nonsense.

Bogus Methodologies

Some lists purport to have “proprietary” algorithms for calculating their influencer ratings. But concocting a silly formula without validating the results in the real-world doesn’t make a pseudo-scientific approach a valid approach. One list I’ve seen touts:

“[Our] influencer list is an almost real-time run down of the most important people in fintech on social media, which is automatically updated every fortnight.”

Almost real-time, eh? Does someone’s influence in the world of fintech really vary that much week by week? The answer is no. Frequency (i.e., quantity) of content and/or posting is not what determines “influence” – it’s quality of content and posts. But nowhere does that get captured in any of these rankings.

Why This Matters

If this were all just a matter of ego stroking a group of insecure, overly sensitive fintech types, this post wouldn’t be worth reading or publishing. But there are real-world consequences to these bogus rankings: Conference organizers make decisions on who to hire to speak based on the rankings.

How sad is that?

Lazy-ass conference organizers can’t go out and read the content published to determine who are the best fits for speaking at their conferences. Instead, they rely on bogus lists which are: 1) gamed by people who buy followers or tweet/post incessantly throughout the day, and 2) dominated by people who post no original content.

Final Words

I’m sure there will be people who read this who think I’m just sore that I’m not included on this or that influencer list.

Believe what you want, but I assure you that I couldn’t care less (anymore) about being included. I’m writing this to support the people (many of them my friends) who deserve to be at the top of the lists.

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Check out more of his ideas and research on Cornerstone's Insight Vault. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at @rshevlin.

This article was originally published on May 30, 2017. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. I fully agree that most lists like these (that is, ‘influencer of’ or ‘ones to watch’) are the result of egotistical back-patting (and I say this as someone who’s been on one or two over the five half-decade).

    I’m not sure, though, that the second Klout quote means what you say. I interpreted it as that Kour is measured as some sort of Engagement (over) Content metric, which is much better (but I suppose the fact that it’s open to interpretation is eye-rolling in itself!)

    I do think that these lists tend to be at least a good ‘starting point’ for people who want to get into the space and start reading around the subject. Eventually (usually pretty quickly), you’ll get into the more meaty content by people like Chris and Jim.

    A means to an end, rather than a list of commandments.

  2. Any influencers you had in mind?

  3. Ron,

    Great article. Rather than throw away the baby with the bathwater, I see this more as a call for evolution of the scoring algorithms that rank these lists.

    At Rise ( we provide a platform that powers many of the lists you mention. Each of our customers sources data to power the lists, moderates inclusion and develops their own scoring algorithm to create a ranking.

    In other communities we’ve seen the scoring algorithm (and the release frequency) evolve to take into account what the community really considers to be influence within the specific niche, whether it be regtech, blockchain, or fintech. This evolution often coincides with an increase in scoring transparency.

    It would be great to see evolution of the score algorithms happen in the Fintech influencer space.

    Toby Beresford

  4. Ron, if you are left off any influencer list, I can only hope that my content is strong enough to be similarly left off that list 🙂

  5. Sara-Jayne: I would agree that a list COULD BE a “good ‘starting point’ for people who want to get into the space and start reading around the subject.” The problem, however, is that too many people on these lists don’t actually create content–they simply tweet links to other people’s content. Including them in the same list as the true content creators seems wrong to me.

    Matt: Not sure what you’re asking about. Any influencers in mind for what?

    Toby: I’m not throwing away any babies. I’m challenging the lists to defend their scoring algorithms and methodologies.

    David: If you want to be on the lists, stop writing, and start tweeting and posting on LinkedIn. That’s a much faster path to making it to the top of the lists.

  6. Obviously if the lists were accurate, cafebanking would be at the top.

  7. I barely have influence in my own house.

  8. “Jumped the Shark” is an interesting phrase. I clicked thru’ to the Wiki link and learned that it means “‘Jumping the shark'” is attempting to draw attention to or create publicity for something that is perceived as not warranting the attention, especially something that is believed to be past its peak in quality or relevance. The idiom “jumping the shark” is almost always used in a pejorative sense. It is most commonly used in reference to gimmicks for promoting entertainment outlets, such as television series, that are declining in popularity.” The way I understand it, in short, this phrase means publicity for people past their prime. So, when you use this phrase for these fintech influencer lists, do you mean that the people on these lists have been more influential at some point in the past? Given that fintech itself is losing its steam of late, any publicity for fintech itself – not just fintech influencers – would qualify to be labeled “jumped the shark”:)

  9. I think Ron is concentrating on the “gimmick to attract attention” sense of “jumping the shark”, not the “over-the-hill” connotation. I’ll let Ron explain it for himself though. Either way, I suspect it’s pejorative.

  10. Apologies for using what I think is a US-centric term.

    My understanding is that “jumping the shark” actually emanated from an episode of the 1970s TV show Happy Days in which The Fonz waterskis over a shark (hence “jumping the shark”). It was an absurd thing, and represented how far the show had strayed from its original success and story lines.

    The term is currently used to refer to something that has become absurd, irrational, illogical, non-sensical. Or at least, that’s how I was using it.

    Sorry for the confusion.

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