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SWOT Analysis 101 for Financial Services

June 20, 2024 (61 min read)
A SWOT analysis gives you information on where you stand in the market compared to your competition.

How well do you know your individual financial services competitors and the competitive landscape in which you operate? When it comes to putting together useful business intelligence, SWOT analysis is an important piece of the puzzle. 

SWOT Analysis is a common way for businesses in financial services to assess how they stand up to their competitors. By assessing each element of SWOT--strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats--you can see how you measure up against other businesses in your industry, and you can determine next steps to take your business forward. If you're diving into this analysis for the first time, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

As with many things in finance, good SWOT analysis starts with good business intelligence research. That's why the experts at LexisNexis have put together this SWOT 101 guide. We'll break down how to look at your strengths, weaknesses, market opportunities and threats to your success--and we'll show you how research with Nexis can help jumpstart your analysis. 

The four elements of SWOT

Financial services organizations can—and should—conduct SWOT analyses on both their own organization and their competitors’ companies. Without this foundation, you won't have a good understanding of the place you maintain in the market and areas in which you can grow, and potential risks you may be facing.  

SWOT analysis groups the information gathered through research into four categories. The first two are considered internal factors, while the last two are considered external factors.

Internal factors, strengths and weaknesses, are inherent to your organization. What is your customer base like? How is your team setup? How do you form your messaging? These are all questions that you can answer internally and can set you apart from--or keep you behind--your competitors. 

Conversely, external factors, opportunities and threats, are things that impact your organization positively or negatively that you have less control over. These are things like market condition, rising cost of materials, or global events such as conflicts or pandemics. 

Let's go a little bit deeper into each category. 


Your strengths are competitive advantages over rivals. For financial firms, this may include:
- Unique products/services (e.g. specialty lending, tax planning)
- Brand reputation and client loyalty  
- Strong financial position and growth trajectory
- Seasoned, credentialed advisors and portfolio managers
- Proprietary investment strategies or models
Analyzing your core strengths - and those of competitors - illuminates where you excel and how to leverage those advantages

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Weaknesses are disadvantages or limitations. For financial services, these could be:
- Gaps in your product/service lineup
- Geographic coverage limitations  
- Underperforming client acquisition and retention
- Compliance issues or high employee turnover
- Insufficient capital or operational inefficiencies
Understanding weaknesses highlights areas for improvement by learning from competitors who outperform you in those areas. These findings can help you prioritize where to implement changes to support your organization. 


External opportunities are positive market trends you can capitalize on, such as:
- Emerging client segments (e.g. millennials, retirees)
- New investment products, digital tools (including AI for finance) or fintech innovations
- Regulatory changes creating new business opportunities
- Economic conditions driving demand for specific services
Staying ahead of opportunities allows you to pivot proactively and seize first-mover advantage before competitors, making strategic decisions for your business growth


Threats are external factors that could negatively impact your business, like:
- Disruptive new competitors or non-traditional players 
- Economic downturns reducing investable assets
- Increased regulatory scrutiny or compliance costs
- Cybersecurity and data privacy risks
- Talent wars amid advisor shortages
Anticipating potential threats enables you to mitigate risks and ensure business continuity during turbulent periods.

How to conduct SWOT analysis research

Now that you know what you're looking for in a SWOT analysis, you can start to do your research. Here's how to start: 

Determine your business goal 

Align your SWOT scope to specific business goals, e.g. assessing competitors for a market expansion, evaluating M&A targets, identifying fintech partnership opportunities, etc. Once you have a clearer idea of your goal, you can target your research to these objectives. 

Put together your resources

Where are you pulling your data from? You might have internal data you are using, or you could be licensing an API set to conduct opposition research. Gather all of the data you need to address the business goal you determined in step one.

Additionally, you'll want to assemble a team who can offer a complete perspective for your analysis. Ensure you have perspectives from key stakeholders like advisors, portfolio managers, marketing and more.

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Conduct your analysis

Using a SWOT table, answer questions in each category. This could be done in a brainstorming session and encourage all members of the team to participate. At this stage, you're looking for ideas, so your team should be encouraged to share. You'll later refine these ideas into your business plan, but this stage is all about the ideation. 

Streamline your findings

Once you have done your initial brainstorm, whittle your ideas down into useable themes. Again, you don't want your focus to be too broad because it's unlikely you can attack every angle. Focus on the one or two findings that best meet your initial objective. 

Develop your strategy

Now that you have your insights, you can create a strategy to meet your original goals. A good strategic plan will make use of all members of the team to prepare for any potential challenges as you put your plan into action. This is particularly important to mitigate outside threats and be ready to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. 

MORE: How market and competitive intelligence has changed in the digital age

Start your SWOT analysis for financial services 

Conducting a SWOT analysis for your company is a great starting point, but doing competitive intelligence research on a competitor’s value proposition, positioning, and product differentiators will take your preparation to the next level.

This type of information typically can be found by reviewing a competitor’s website, particularly the about page, product pages, and blog. But when it comes to having a complete picture, you also need to conduct additional research to provide more context within each of the categories. With Nexis® for financial services, you'll have easy access to the tools that can help you uncover valuable business intelligence for your SWOT analyses.

  1. Current and archival news—With more than 40,000 news and business sources and an archive going back decades, Nexis allows you to track mentions of your brands or your competitors’ over time—providing insights related all four areas of the SWOT analysis. In addition to print, broadcast and web news sources, Nexis covers press releases which can provide insight into competitor strategies, such as announcements about new products or expansion plans. Industry and thought leader blogs are also available, offering a glimpse into current and emerging trends, like the rise of FinTech, as well as other issues impacting the financial services industry.
  2. Company and executive information—In addition to providing fast access to company financials and details on key executives and board members. Nexis for Finance also features corporate hierarchies, which can be used to understand how companies are related, even when company names are different. You can also follow mergers and acquisitions activity in your industry, so you can see where a consolidating of “power” may pose a threat in the future.
  3. Regulatory data—Nexis aggregates compliance data from governments and enforcement agencies, ideal for organizations in the highly-regulated financial services industry. This allows you to identify potential compliance threats based on newly introduced regulations or follow enforcement actions to understand regulators’ expectations.
  4. Customizable reports—With Nexis, you can quickly generate company profiles in a click. These reports include a snapshot view of a company, news about the target company, corporate hierarchy, financial, competitive, and stock information, as well as analyst reports, related legal information, and patents, trademarks and copyrights.

And because Nexis brings together all this critical information in one place, you can accomplish research more efficiently with the confidence that comes from knowing you’ve tapped into high-quality, reputable sources of information.

Conducting a SWOT analysis helps you understand all the factors to be considered when developing strategic plans, as well as enabling agile decision making over time. By understanding where your organization stands at any given moment, you’re able to adapt and make the most of opportunities while mitigating risk. Do you have the tools you need to conduct research with confidence?

Request a trial of Nexis today to get started with your SWOT analysis.