Industry Awards – Are they worth winning?

It’s long been our view that the only awards in the financial industry really worth winning are the ones that don’t come with any strings attached. Next time a salesperson emails you asking to pay $10,000 for a table at an awards ceremony, think twice [click to tweet]. There tends to be an inverse relationship between the cost of attending these events and the pedigree of the award.

There’s also another truism – those awards that have been around the longest have the most kudos. Take a look at the Risk and IFR programs, both of which have been flourishing since the 1990s. What they share is the principle of disassociating the winners of the awards with prior advertising or sponsorship – or at least they used to. Unfortunately, even these granddaddies of the awards business have in some cases soiled their reputation a little in their dotage.

It’s easy to bash publishing houses for taking advantage of industry egos and the desires of marketing departments to make a mark with the C-suite. But the problem runs much deeper than this, and is in fact, more of an issue around the evolution of content more broadly (a topic for another column). Magazines, as they used to be called, are simply looking to survive in a world in which not only awards, but news, information, insight, commentary and sponsored editorial have blended into one indistinguishable mass for most people. As a result, there is mostly no price premium for quality. This is a problem for us all.

So, given the degradation of much of the financial media, are industry awards worth winning? [click to tweet]. Strangely enough, yes. There remains the allure of an “award-winning solution,” and a string of awards logos across the home page of a website does have an impact. Ironically, in an environment in which even products seem to have become homogenized, these tokens of recognition are retaining much of their value, albeit for different reasons than in days of old.

Awards nowadays should not be seen as a reflection of good works, or honorable endeavors, something to be proud of but more cynically as marketing tools that help sell a product. To be fair, this is not new. Many of us have been paid for helping financial institutions pitch reporters for awards for many years. Indeed, the value of awards is reflected in the time invested in winning them. The only difference in recent years is that the pay-for-play aspect of the awards business has become virulent.

So when you collect an award, look around. The true test of the validity of an awards ceremony is what proportion of the audience are from firms that are not collecting an award? If everyone there is from a firm picking up a trophy, you were probably best spending the night at home with your family and having it shipped to you. No, that wouldn’t work, because unless you paid for a table in advance, you wouldn’t be getting the award in the first place. Silly me.

Image courtesy of AscensionDigital at

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