Differentiate with digital

Some Observations From Finovate Europe

Benjamin Ensor
Vice President, Research Director
February 1, 2011

For the past few years I have watched enviously as the Finovate online financial technology show has gone from strength to strength in San Francisco and New York. So I was thrilled to hear that Finovate was coming to Europe and today I was lucky enough to go along to the show in London.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Finovate, it’s a fast-paced format with seven-minute live demos and pitches from 35 financial technology vendors. It’s produced by Online Financial Innovations, the people behind the excellent NetBanker blog.

The big themes were:

                Money management: Figlo; IND Group;  Linxo; Lodo Software; LoveMoney.com; Meniga; Strands Personal Finance; Yodlee.

                Security: Business Forensics; miicard; SilverTail Systems; SolidPass; Voice Commerce.

                Social Investing: eToro; Hopee (from Cortal Consors); StockTwits; Unience.

                Online and mobile payments: Boku; eWise payo; Mpower Mobile; SecureKey Technologies.

                Online small business banking: Capital Access Network; Ixaris Opn Card Guardian; Liqpay; Xero.

Here are a few of my thoughts from the day:

1)      Innovation is alive and well in financial eBusiness. With 400 eBusiness executives, technology vendors and journalists drawn from across Europe the hall was packed. The real challenge is implementation.

2)      There’s a new generation of digital financial services coming. Technologies like rich Internet apps (RIAs), smartphones and tablets are rapidly changing what executives can deliver through digital channels, and raising customers’ expectations. eBusiness executives need to think through what means for the way they sell to and service customers. The big question is whether you can respond fast enough to keep your customers.

3)      It’s all about data moving into the cloud. Content is becoming modular. In different ways, firms like Backbase, Ixaris Systems  and Tagit are helping eBusiness executives pull data, content, functionality and applications out of existing systems and repackage them intelligently for customers.

4)      I’m struck by a sense that mobile banking security is going to move rapidly up eBusiness executives’ agendas.

5)      I love the format. Seven minutes forces admirable conciseness. What does a technology do, what problem does it solve and show us that it works. It’s a bit like speed dating. You can follow up with the ones you fancy.*

6)      It’s good to see so many European vendors. So many technology vendors originate in North America or, disproportionately, Israel, it’s easy to conclude that European countries don’t know how to incubate technology innovations. Today showed that there’s no lack of creativity, with companies drawn from all across Europe, including Britain, the Netherlands (lots of Dutch exhibitors), Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Ukraine, Iceland, Cyprus and Turkey, as well as from further afield like Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand alongside the North American firms.

7)      There’s a real focus on monetizing online financial accounts. Firms like Cardlytics are using customer data to trigger relevant, personalized marketing offers. We’re all going to get bombarded by offers as eBusiness executives start to act on the firehoses of data they have about their customers.

8)      Nobody has truly cracked how to provide advice and guidance to customers online yet.

9)      Financial advisors should all have tablets. If Finantix has much to do with it, they all will do.

10)   SecureKey Technologies is on to something. I’ve always been sceptical about PC card readers, but using a simple $5 USB drive to turn a PC into a contactless card reader combines simplicity with security to create an authenticated card present payment for remote transactions. I suspect the business case adds up for both banks and merchants too.

11)   Although it was in London, three of the UK’s four biggest banks had just one person at the event. Three of the others didn’t send anyone at all. Barclaycard and Santander sent six each. Hmmm. Perhaps the others are just being careful with taxpayers’ money.

12)   I wish the head of eBusiness from my bank had been there. I’m not sure my bank still has a head of eBusiness.

13)   Laptops are so old hat. Everyone is taking notes on tablets (or on paper). Hardly anybody has a laptop, unless it’s an Apple. I’m not cool.

14)   Nobody smiles on London Underground. I don’t miss the Tube.

Thank you to everyone at Online Financial Innovations.

Benjamin

*In the unlikely event that my wife ever reads this, I should make clear that I have no recent experience with speed dating.

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