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And SWIFT’s next big innovation will be …

The final innotribe piece just finished, with about 300 people watching six groups pitch their ideas to venture capitalists and bank decision-makers from the SWIFT board.

If you’re unfamiliar with innotribe, it’s basically the innovation stream. Teams work through the week on new areas of interest to SWIFT, such as mobile telecommunications, cloud computing and the semantic web, to pitch ideas for SWIFT investments.

This year’s final session opened with Paul Saffo from Stamford University, who also is a founder of the Long Now and has been on our workshop every day looking at Long Finance. Paul is also today’s closing keynote plenary.

He opined that the Long Finance has been a great experience with 100 people from 20 countries contributing seven hours through the week to debate over 6,000 years of thinking from Ancient Sumeria to 2110 and beyond.

I was delighted that he name-checked yours truly too, as the blog about the Long Finance I’ve been posting have so far achieved around 15,000 viewings, which Paul said is a pretty decent eyeful by his standards. Bearing in mind, he’s in Silicon Valley, that was appreciated.

Then it was on to the pitch your lab session.


The first pitch is for Mobile Payments Arena, a platform that brings together mobile, banks, payment service providers and end users in a collaborative venture that’s “better than PayPal”.

This received a lukewarm response from the VC’s and buyers, with Paul Saffo asking them to define “better than PayPal”.

The answer seemed to be: “for the banks, it’s better.”

Paul responds: “but I’m the consumer, I don’t care about the banks. How is it better for me?”


Even so, it still got a 5 out of 10 on the applause meter.

Next pitch is called “Always On”, which I translated as the “Bank in a Cloud”, a banking service that can be white labelled by anyone and offered to their customers, for example, the Manchester United Bank.

The key here is the combination of technology and business knowledge that creates the service, and that it is good for the banks as it allows greater ability to transfer and segment customers.

VCs gave this one a big thumbs up saying that it is “ambitious, and not easy to execute, but a great idea”. The challenge is why would it take year to create. With cloud, it should be quicker.

The answer to that question was that it was a year to create the infrastructure.

Other comments included: “I like the business model innovation that is leveraging your business expertise and thought very highly of this idea.”

The buyers (SWIFT Board) asked what is different about this compared to say, MBNA and their affinity cards.

Response is that it’s banking, not cards.

This pitch got 7 out of 10 from the clapometer.

Third pitch stands up called connexion.com.

The idea is to switch the SWIFT communications cloud to a service cloud.

The idea is that through a cloud service, interoperability and all back end services are handled through their service, and that the costs of banking are reduced as it would move the service from the cost of SWIFT upgrades to no cost for upgrades.

The idea is that this could also be offered direct to corporate, so that they can send anything anywhere, with conversion and management all handled through the services cloud.

It got a poor response from the VCs, as $100,000 to upgrade for SWIFT changes each year is just no challenge: “it’s chump change”.

My own reaction was why would you need yet another conversion service to SWIFT and banks … there are loads out there already.

The clapometer gave it 7 out of 10.

The fourth pitch on stage is called: “Smart Answer”, a semantic web offering that validates and sifts the world online to find socially approved experts in banking and payments.

The idea is to use automated data searching on the web with a semantic engine for structuring, using the best experts and validation of their expertise to offer connections to knowledge.

The result is that whatever question you have can be answered through the service as a banking crowdsourcing capability.

I was thinking that I’m not sure why you would need this when LinkedIn, Twitter et al already offer me this, especially as they are working on the idea of sharing revenue 50/50 too … why should I give them half my revenue for just crawling and connecting me to a client using cheap tech, I wonder?

I guess the key is that they are validating the expertise and making sure that it is appropriate to answer your financial questions … and doubling the expert’s fees to the banks as a result!

This received a varied response from the VC panel. Sean Park offered no money at all, because he’s already got a company that does it.

The key is not that it’s finding an expert on LinkedIn, but having the validation through the social and professional network to endorse that this person is an expert. The challenge is whether it’s achievable although one of the VCs claimed it is achievable as a website called Core already does it!!

This got a vote of 6 out of 10.

Pitch five is called Moneyscope, which began with this great line: “What if I told you your organisations are throwing away vast amounts of useful information worth billions of dollars, and we could turn that garbage into gold, would you be interested?”

That got my attention. The pitch then described how treasurers know how much cash they have, but not where it’s invested, how it’s performing, how much it costs to manage, etc.

I should say that after this pitch, my corporate treasury friend came over and said that basic statement was wrong too. No corporate has any idea of how much cash they have due to fragmentation of their platforms. Interesting.

Their idea is that instead of just sending and receiving SWIFT messages, they go into the cloud and get gold out of the SWIFT messages you place into the cloud by tracking all of the information and adjacent knowledge that goes with that message in real time.

This then gives you real-time analysis of the movements of money, based upon SWIFT messaging, and saves and makes you money by giving you that knowledge to action.

The target user for the service are the treasurers and top executives of the Fortune 1000 firms who they claim have around 150 subsidiaries each, with two employees in each subsidiary trying to keep tabs on their money.

That’s 300,000 people and, through this cloud information service, they believe they would save them about €5 billion a year. Charging 5% of that savings delivers a business with annual income of €250 million a year.

Very good reception from the VCs and buyers, as it’s a technology idea that is “relevant and executable”, and “even if it delivered just 0.5% of its’ promise, it would be €25 million saved per year”.

The issues would be around the multibanked corporate possibly, as if you can’t get the full data view then this is flawed. But it was felt these issues could be overcome as SWIFT said they are actively investigating doing this today, so it’s obviously a good idea!

This got a 10 out of 10 from the crowd.

After that, the final pitch was from Mobilito, which methinks might be related to mobile telephony.

The pitch started by saying that of the $2.5 trillion of transactions per year, merchants pay around $350 billion in costs for card services. Mobilito wants to take 15% of the $40 billion profit that these card firms make per annum.

The way this is achieved is by creating a single global currency that offers zero cross-border charging and transaction costs for merchants that are 90% lower than they would pay with cards.

This is because it’s all delivered over the mobile channel with issuance costs eradicated.

There are also savings on fraud by using the mobile as a second-level authentication method.

So the real bottom-line of Mobilitio is that it becomes a single, global, virtual currency over mobile for the real world, managed by SWIFT and the banking community,

The VC’s gave this a positive but not big endorsement,

They like the fact it’s normalising currency and disrupting the cost base of today’s providers. Hard to get adoption however, as it means winning the banks, merchants and consumers over to this. That’s a tough call but is it that tough?

The real issue they had however, is why would the banks do this because “there are tons of people doing this already, including PayPal”.

If you didn’t see it, PayPal announced this morning that they have launched a global micro-currency partnering with Facebook.

Nevertheless, another VC made the comment that “if the banks don’t get behind a start up like Mobilito, the banks will be COMPLETELY out of this game as PayPal will take the whole space”.

The buyers were resistant as banks are making $40 billion per year from cards. How can you persuade them to give that up?

Answer from a VC: if you don’t, it will happen anyway.

Another 7 out of 10.

So the winner was the treasury cloud information service to provide real-time cash positions globally.

Hmmmm … even with my treasury friends comments, that doesn’t sound that innovative to me … or is it?

Anyways, time for some networking and stuff. And maybe a cloudy mobile phone call using my smart data phone.


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here…

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