I was at the Finovate meeting in New York last week.
Finovate is a financial innovation show that originated in 2007 as the brainchild of Jim Bruene of NetBanker and Eric Mattson, CEO of Online Financial Innovations, the parent company of NetBanker, Online Banking Report and the Finovate Conference Series.
If you’re not familiar with the show then you should be, as it’s where you will see tomorrow’s financial solutions today. Oh yes, and you should be familiar with it as I’m partnering with Jim and Eric to launch Finovate Europe next February (book now!).
The show is an interesting concept, designed as a beauty parade to see the most innovative firms in finance. Each firm is handpicked to attend and demonstrate their latest releases and ideas, with regular appearances from firms like Mint. The firms that are chosen to present each get seven minutes on stage to pitch their business. That’s 7 minutes in total, and no slides allowed: just a demonstration. It means that firms need to be crystal clear on their elevator statement and value proposition, something that most firms are abysmal at delivering.
For example, something that really shaped my world of thinking is the Gillette Mach 3 marketing campaign. The campaign is a classical case study in how to get marketing right as the new razor took leadership in nearly every country within months of launch.
Because they summed up the product’s differentiation in six words: “three blades, fewer strokes, less irritation”.
This is a value proposition that, at the time, was hugely differentiated, which is why the razor rocked.
The thing is that it took them eighteen months to get to the stage of identifying the right words for their value proposition.
The problem is that the engineers who design technology products cannot identify how to describe their product effectively. For example, the original elevator statement for the Mach 3 if it were being pitched by a fintech firm, would have gone something like:
“The Gillette Mach 3 solution provides an innovation in sharing through the addition of a highly robust, tungsten steel third blade. This three blades systems is integrated with the latest technology to enable the user to bring to bear the utensil in such a way as to allow fewer strokes to achieve a close shave. The result of the three blades, fixed head integration is truly innovating in that the reduction of strokes to the face ensures the user has less irritation when applying this technology.”
The three blades, fewer strokes, less irritation statement is in there, but it’s hidden and would go amiss.
This is the beauty of the Finovate sessions, in that they ensure firms are both crisp and clear, or they burn and die. The key to the show is that each firm gets just those seven minutes on stage, with no PowerPoint. Just a demo.
It’s real seat-of-the-pants stuff as each firm stands up to make their moment worthwhile and hope their technology works.
That’s not easy, as some of the firms discovered as they showed their wares.
Following their demos, the show finishes each day with an audience vote of the three best firms on the day then, at the end of the show, a small number of companies get best in show awards.
At Finovate Fall 2010 last week, 56 firms demonstrated over two days. That was four sessions each day of seven firms in each session. In other words, we saw 28 demos a day!
My best in show were:
- Bling Nation, who demonstrated a Point-of-Sale (POS) system called Bling Box which shows the frequency of customer visits and the customers’ profile at the POS during each purchase and announced that Fifth-Third, the third largest card processing firm in the USA, is to offer Bling Nation’s NFC contactless sticker system;
- Ixaris, because I know some of the guys in the firm and liked the conceptual framework they’ve just launched that means anyone can use Open APIs to develop card functionality for their business, without having to wait for the card issuing companies to provide it for them;
- Worklight who presented a really easy and simple way to develop device-independent apps, so that anyone can develop once and rollout on all platforms from iPad to iPhone, Android to Blackberry; and
- Billshrink which is a Personal Financial Management (PFM) system that uses wiki intelligence to analyse your credit card statement and show offers from businesses that may be able to offer you better services, e.g. if you paid off your BT telephone bill with your credit card, you might get a statement: “BT tell us that you just paid a quarterly bill and could have saved £25” next to the item when you view the billing online to promote special offers.
On the last point, there were too many PFM firms on show, but there were several new ideas, particularly around targeted marketing and mobile app developments. Meanwhile, the winners of the best in show awards were:
I discounted Dynamics and SecureKey as they are magnetic stripe focused card solutions. They’re still innovative, but not for an EU-based EMV boy.
oFlows and PayNearMe were also off my radar, as they were all about automating paper and offering coupons which, again, for an EU person is a little twentieth century oriented.
Which leaves Betterment and Bundle. Betterment is an investment management PFM tool, whilst Bundle is a social networking money management system that’s a little like Mint.
Rather than write-up the 56 firms that demonstrated last week, there is a great blog that covered the whole show from Bryan Derman at Payments News. Other cool posts about the conference include:
- Marketing Tea Party, written by Ron Shevlin: the Top Five Reasons I Liked Finovate Fall 2010
- FINOVATE FALL 2010: Demo Performance Scores and Reviews
- Net Banker: Finovate Fall 2010 Best of Show Winners
Alternatively, for those who like tweets, here’s my twitterfeed from the event last week:
Day One, Session One
I'm here at #finovate fall 2010 - with excellent jetlag which is why I'm tweeting at 5 a.m ...
nutshell: credit sesame is a web portal for seeing how to manage your debt / credit and find savings
billshrink - tx by tx analysis in RT - nice
billshrink online developers on yodlee's open API platform
yodlee's open API allows acct agg to broadcast into twitter and FB, like blippy, but secure
yodlee built smartypig style capability as social savings module in demo
a financial apps store is yodlee's ambition but v few developers today (and nicking smartypig in demo when they're here :(
fis really nice widget based money mgt, not just bill mgt
fis partners will billeo and so all billing and paying dead simple
wonga e2e loan app on iPhone, Android and net
wonga claim to be EU's fastest growing tech firm
wonga very short term loans at leg breaking interest rates lol .. but if you need $500 for 2 days, the place to go
apple demo (no microsoft!) - like it already
oh shoot - kiboo CEO not familiar with Apple i/f - bring back microsoft
kiboo crashed and burnt - what was it? Something to do with mum & dad giving kids money easily online
kiboo ceo gets 2nd chance
kiboo educating about money eg top 5 things about managing money @ college incl videos etc integrated with PFM for students
kiboo timed out
best of morning in order of pref - billshrink, fis, yodlee
Day One, Session Two
billfloat is a US wonga - interestingly both presented by south african exec leaders
billfloat also partner with billeo, and credit.com - allows risk profiling using RT 180 data point view
billfloat, serving 20 million consumers, uses a duck logo to show how you can float your bills and not drown
sapient nitro & geezeo research - 80% of consumers want PFM apps from existing fsi
sapient nitro & geezeo - all about PFM targeted marketing - like FB or google ads but based on how you spend and pay
sapient nitro & geezeo - targeted and personalised PFM marketing across all channels - email, mobile, FB, net etc
now optirate: "the expedia for fin tx"
optirate have a rate concierge for the rate tarts ... Just a rate rape service?
cashedge 20% of tx are next day payments to optimise pay flows
silvertail - got a forensics tool and use an online magnifying glass just like Sherlock Bones
silvertail $500m in online money muling just in usa 2009
toumetis mobile PFM, aggregation, filters, expense mgt for CEO's with smaller fingers than this one - watch the fat finger apps
toumetis highlighted by RIM as offers payment agg on mobile for iPhone, iPad, Android, Playbook and Blackberry
toumetis is also a yodlee partner
bundle.com "provides socially informed money mgt" - your friends spend year money for you ;)
bundle sounds too similar to mint for my liking - looks good though
best of second session: silvertail, geezeo, toumetis
Day One, Session Three
betterment "are here to change the way you invest" - another PFM tool for trading - too many PFM sites was complaint a.m.
betterment "the average investor should be continually rebalancing but don't because it's a pain in the ass" - they wipe that pain
H&R block ... yet more PFM - now integrating tax widgets into online banking
H&R block ... It's clear that IRS to these guys means Internet Refund Service with seamless online banking deposits from the USGov
ah, securekey designed to stop bank disintermediation to paypal et al by simple tap and go card using USB card key and RFID chip
securekey so it's just a tap & go USB key to prove cardholder is present
no - now backbase saying they're different based on gartner magic quadrant's ... they've lost me already
hiddenlevers are full of oneliners: "scenarios - we call it the 'eye opener'" - shame as their tool is good - algo for day traders
I hated the hiddenlevers presenter's schmooze - but their tool is all about hidden economic data leverage for retail investors
nice to see the first mobile demo today from kony solutions where the presenter has had a decent manicure
Best of third session are securekey and kony because they are NOT PFMs
Day One, Session Four
stanchart integrated pfm with online banking ... maybe not so innovative after all but 'of its time'
stanchart at least show nice crossover between online PC and mobile and tablet ... demo needs better manicurist though
pinpoint is a consumer service and uses mobile gsm, tx patterns etc - it's free for main cc, or $6.95 per mth for all
sends consumer an alert via email or txt if card is used and mobile is somewhere else, eg if mobile @ home and card used instore
oflows solution - give branch manager an iPad! Wow - tried that and customers nicked them (see my wine list entry from Saturday)
oflows - simply get rid of paper by using the interweb thingy on iPads and PCs ... is this that revolutionary?
guardian analytics remind me of a firm I used to deal with called quova (I think?) - and Sophos et al - all about catching malware and man in middle, in browser, money mule attacks etc - nice but not new and I wonder how effective it is too - no stats given
receivables ex also factoring - selling monies invoiced and due in future to buyers today who can release funding (not einv)
receivables ex so it's trading receivables (invoices) under auctions to get money today (seller) and discounted dues tmrw (buyer)
worklight now on iphone4 demo - index and middle finger cuticles are looking dodgy
worklight showing some nice analytics and can see it yourself at their finovate worklight.com site (if btwn Kony and WL, WL win)
but Kony's nails are better
SmartyPig are here with PhilanthroPig - give your money away and feel good about it
RT @netbanker: SmartyPig has taken in $600m in deposits for BBVA; launching PhilanthroPig today, fund-raising portal with unique "pig style"
kashoo - bless you - launching their small biz accounting fin mgt tool for iPad with synching to web today
end of day one and final session winners are receivables ex, worklight and finsphere (pinpoint)
Day Two, Session One
thwakk bringing second life / stagecoach island to the financial masses - avatar gaming 3D learning
thwakk have created modoh island for any bank to encourage gen Y to learn - and they got a cheer too!
mortgagebot finds best mortgage deals online and on a mobile - ideal for foreclosure victims and subprime sales
mortgagebot's powersite mobile "get a new mortgage while on the beach or at the football game" ?? Or just enjoy the beach/game
blaze links payment into other apps like FB to show blippy style social payment tx sharing
blaze then show mobile payment apps using amex or contactless for buying cinema tix etc - see mobank for similar
blaze mobile wallet used on avg 7x a day - great demo and worth a look
dynamics announce partnership with Citi where you can easily select to pay on a card with rewards or credit - 2G.citicards.com
ixaris now showing their stuff - open API platform called OPN allows payments app development to all using Visa, MC etc
ixaris case study of aramex who wanted to run single use prepay card for shop & ship but were told too complex - no issue for OPN
just entered functionality required to OPN and then get embeddable code - took just 2 weeks. Nice Ixaris demo
plantly, created by the Pitaru brothers, is "a risk aware investment tool that aims not to suck"
Plantly is actually a visualisation tool for portfolio risk mgt for investors
ClairMail allows comprehensive mobile fsi comms, eg just txt B to yr bank and it sends back yr balance info
but the real power of ClairMail is 24*7 fraud mgt & x-selling
problem is that ClairMail are trying to link in RT to the 'Bank of Trust' and the bank has crashed!
text 'protect' to '21534' to see ClairMail anti fraud video
best of first session would be Ixaris, Blaze Mobile and Dynamics in that order
Day Two, Session Two
Seeking Alpha integrate Morning Star Research via API + Zacks, Trefis, etc all as invest apps on SA homepage
Seeking Alpha's typical user is an 8 feet tall cardboard cutout G-man type called John (Doe?)
fiserv EIPP EBPP - haven't used those acronyms for ages but better than PFM
fiserv platform Zash pay enables EIPP and EBPP for PFM - there, I said it
paynearme allows you to pay cash for purchases online by buying tokens/barcodes from 7-11 for non-card Gen Y-ers
outright integrates with paypal etc and does tax reporting and more seamlessly for small biz fin mgt
outright working with H&R Block - new partnership announced today
kapitall presenting with a strong french accent - will the audience get it or are they biased and prefer freedom fries?
kapitall investment portfolio modelling tool with really nice interface they call 'playground' - play with stocks
kapitall also incorporates social investing capability. Nice. Should be Facebook or similar though (seemed 2 b proprietary)
activepath showing secure email banking ... not sure folks use email anymore though ... need banking widgets in FB and twitter
activemail show the bank statement moving from the online bank to active email / gmail ... again, email = spam so I'm not keen
leadfusion showing visualisation tool for 'guided selling' rather than some listing and text-based selling approach of past
leadfusion is all nice graphs and colours for comparisons of financial products and stress that this really helps 'guided selling'
Best of second session: Seeking Alpha, Leadfusion, Kapitall
Day Two, Session Three
final run-in and then best in show award. Capital Access Network up first, talking about SME lending.
Capital Access Network's new underwriting module for SME lending - everything on one screen to ensure QC annd predictive risk
Capital Access Network can change terms on a deal by deal basis with dashboards and refresh every night for all workflow, mktg etc
Unience from Spain showing a professional investors social network - sounds a bit like hedgehogs.net
actually Unience is more like stockpicks combined with hedgehogs.net for social investors- combine with Seeking Alpha 4 total soln
bling nation showing Blingbox - a POS that shows freq of customer visits etc with each sale and links with FB twitter etc
bling nation signed agreement with fifth third bank - bringing offline knowledge to POS - these guys have great potential
micronotes showing app for targeted marketing based on coupons & cash in exchange for participating in surveys from retailers/bank
banks earn $1m a year for every 50,000 customers who opt-in to micronotes finapp via their bank
pageonce - I think this is today's first PFM ... but a mobile app with >3m users after just 4.5 months and #1 finapp on iPhone etc
pageonce bills app is unique to MS Win7 mobile ... which is why demo of bills app isn't working - REBOOT
pageonce studied alerts and find 85% of users receiving overdraft alerts avoid fees!
pageonce studied alerts and find 85% of users receiving overdraft alerts avoid fees! (what about the other 15%? Oh, they're broke)
now emue tech from Oz ... emue ... surprised not called kangarooo
like dynamics emue offer battery card for pin on card authentications and OTP gen
card fail if any error in pin & OTP exchange = card unusable
matchfund focused upon educational banking for ma and pa to get junior up to speed (see kiboo too)
matchfund gives junior challenges like 'what car would you buy? Why? What price?' - gets coin rewards towards prizes 4 each challg
ma and pa see jr's answers to matchfund q's, and can then see how savvy or stupid jr can be and assist towards prizes if want to
Best of this session: bling nation, pageonce, matchfund
Day Two, Session Four
strands offer great PFM tools and using calendars with colour codes for budgeting along with other visualisation tools
Strands allow multidimensional analysis based on categories user defines, eg how much do you want @ end month determines budget
jack henry & associates (JHA) has several lines of biz incl iPay. Demonstrating Profitstar and Optimizer which is "FM for the FI"
jha profitstar synchs across PC-mobile to "help fsi's take decisions faster" - basically PFM for bank managers
segmint is a customer segmn tool that generates targeted mkting based on "key lifestyle indicators" (KLIs) from bank tx analysis
billflo on stage ... anything like billshrink or billfloat or billeo ... little bit but it's cashflow for SMEs
oh nice, billflo showing use of mobile camera to capture bills an receipts into Cashflow system
billflo is cash mgt for sme's - not like billeo, billfloat, billshrink etc therefore
Plastyc demo "the power of a bank account in your phone" which is not that powerful because wifi is slow here = avoid live demos
plastyc showing mobile checks ... coming from Europe I'm confused ... what's a check?
Plastyc show power of small buttons on phones make it difficult to do mobile banking unless with faster wifi and smaller fingers
fis get a second slot, this time to show how healthcare and fin mgt come together for wealthcare
final session is showing up these tech firms - fis ask us to watch a video but we can't hear it - should know better
fis healthcare & fsi records on mobile, so that if you're run over doc can see whether you can afford to be operated on or not
final dem from mfoundry showing check deposit with iPhone.. yawn, USAA, BoA, Chase already there (do they use mfoundry - shld say)
mfoundry SVP Carlo looks like a grown up Joe 90 - or is it Brains from thunderbirds? - great glasses but can't see his strings
best of final session: Jack Henry - I can't name more than one because I think I'm finovated out!
best of show for me - bling nation; Ixaris; worklight; billshrink
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.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...