February 7, 2012
A number of people asked me to repeat my blog post from last year with my impressions from Finovate, so I thought I would.
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.
I was lucky enough to go along to the show in London today. Unlike last year, when four or five themes dominated the day, this year’s exhibitors were more diverse. Among them were:
- Digital payments: CurrencyFair; Ixaris Systems; PayPal / La Caixa; FiServ; Liqpay.com; Luup; and Handpoint.
- Digital banking platforms: Backbase; Mootwin; FiServ; Sandstone Technology; and Service2Media.
- Security, identity and verification: FinSphere; miicard; Ping Identity; and ValidSoft.
- Money management (PFM): Figlo; IND Group; and Meniga.
- Small business banking: BCSG; Kabbage; and TradeShift.
- Social investing: eToro; and iBrokr.
- Direct investing tools: DCisions (Investor Bee); and Nutmeg.
- Merchant-funded rewards: Cardlytics.
Here are a few of my thoughts from the day:
- There's plenty of innovation in digital financial services. This year’s show was even bigger than last year, with over 500 eBusiness executives, technology vendors, venture capitalists and journalists drawn from across Europe. That's a good sign for those of us who work in digital financial services.
- I still love the format. Seven minutes forces admirable conciseness. What does a technology do, what problem does that solve, and how does it work? Sometimes I can’t quite figure out how some companies make money though — which makes me think I’ve missed something.
- The new generation of digital financial services is upon us. Technologies like smartphones and tablets have changed what executives can deliver through digital touchpoints, and continually raise customers’ expectations. eBusiness executives need to think through what it means for the way they sell to and service customers. Firms like Backbase, IND, Mootwin and Sandstone are developing beautiful interfaces.
- Not one exhbitor was trying to solve a problem in insurance. Not one innovation from insurance? Leaving aside the insurance jokes, that seems astonishing. (I thought it was a deliberate focus, but the Finovate team told me there just aren't many companies with insurance innovations bashing down their door to exhibit).
- Some of the problems being solved are a lot bigger than others. Firms like BCSG and TradeShift will make a bigger difference to the economy, by helping small businesses survive, than any number of prettier interfaces (however much I happen to like the more elegant interfaces).
- Online banking has been one size fits all for too long. Backbase, Sandstone and Figlo all demonstrated interfaces that customers can tailor to suit their own requirements.
- We heard less about big data, analytics, open APIs and the cloud than I expected. Probably too much detail for a seven-minute pitch. Firms like Cardlytics demonstrate the power of applying intelligence to data. Content will become modular as firms like Backbase and Ixaris Systems help eBusiness executives pull data, content, functionality and applications out of existing systems and repackage them intelligently for customers.
- Although the event was held in London, the British banks were once again notable mostly by their absence. While innovative European banks like ABN Amro, BNP Paribas, ING, La Caixa and Rabobank all had half a dozen or more people at the event, most of the British banks had only one or two. Barclays was the exception. A disappointing showing.
- Surprisingly few firms were focused on the opportunities presented by tablets, particularly to improve collaboration between customers and advisors. Wipro was an exception. Nobody has truly cracked how to provide financial advice and guidance efficiently to mainstream customers yet.
- Nobody mentioned Near Field Communication (NFC) or contactless payments.
Thank you again to everyone at Online Financial Innovations for putting on such a great show.