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The best of innovation in finance: #finovate

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.

Why?

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:

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 …

Credit Sesame

credit sesame on stage – win xp demo!

nutshell: credit sesame is a web portal for seeing how to manage your debt / credit and find savings

BillShrink

billshrink – personalised recommender through javascript of savings on tv, gas etc by studying your bank/cc statement in realtime

billshrink – tx by tx analysis in RT – nice

billshrink online developers on yodlee's open API platform

Yodlee

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 🙁

ACE

ace demoing investment portfolio mgt system and portfolio placement service. Dull

FIS Payments

fis – bill payments mgt service with simple agg interface called a 'bill rack'

fis really nice widget based money mgt, not just bill mgt

fis partners will billeo and so all billing and paying dead simple

Wonga.com

my mate errol from wonga on stage (sponsors blackpool fc)

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

Kiboo

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

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

SapientNitro

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

Optirate, Inc.

now optirate: "the expedia for fin tx"

optirate have a rate concierge for the rate tarts … Just a rate rape service?

CashEdge Inc.

next up cashedge: 6% of online users are using P2P tx for 1.5 payments / mth avg $330 / tx for emailing bill payments eg alimony!

cashedge 20% of tx are next day payments to optimise pay flows

Silver Tail Systems

silvertail systems "fighting fraud for paypal and google" and ING Direct covering 11m consumers now on stage

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

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

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

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

now H&R block … already a taxing pressie, and another yodlee partner

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

SecureKey

securekey up now – finally not PFM but 2FA to ensure CNP online is avoided by having cardholder present (use PayPal instead?)

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

Backbase

backbase saying all banking is the same … yea, bit like every meerkat looks the same but they're all different

no – now backbase saying they're different based on gartner magic quadrant's … they've lost me already

Hidden Levers, LLC

hiddenlevers start with "how do you know what happens to your portfolio if there's a collapse in Europe" – as if that could happen

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

Kony Solutions

kony solutions "write (change) once, run everywhere platform" used by citi allows apps to be developed to run on all app devices

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

Standard Chartered Bank

real innovation from a 159 year old bank? Maybe from StanChart's Breeze for #ux

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

Finsphere

Finsphere demonstrating pinpoint, their antifraud system for first time ever in public

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

oflows start by waving paper docs around and saying branch 2 process takes 6 weeks – "there is no escape from paper island"

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

guardian analytics immediately attack eastern europeans as all cybergangsters … it's US sites that generate the most phishing

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 Exchange

receivables exchange on stage and seems to be about working capital and einvoicing – chosen by inst investor and WSJ as 2010 pick

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, Inc.

worklight now here and looking similar to kony – develop once, deploy everywhere – no manicure in sight yet, but are showing code

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, LLC

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

finally the last session of the day is kashoo – guzenteig

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, Inc.

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 LLC

mortgagebot launched powersite mobile august 13th but didn't train users to keep head out of way when demonstrating app on camera

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 Mobile

blaze mobile showing mobile sticker NFC payments

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 Inc.

dynamics on stage and showing world's first dynamically programmable mag stripe cc – change PIN or card # with each swipe

dynamics announce partnership with Citi where you can easily select to pay on a card with rewards or credit – 2G.citicards.com

Ixaris Systems, Ltd

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

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

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

Seeking Alpha (SA) have 3.5m unique visitors (HNW investors) & move from news to trades with investing apps platform launch today

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 

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

paynearme for Gen y live at amazon and Facebook allowing non-card users to pay using tokens (topup cards) with barcode

paynearme allows you to pay cash for purchases online by buying tokens/barcodes from 7-11 for non-card Gen Y-ers

Outright, Inc.

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

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

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, Inc.

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

Capital Access Network, Inc.

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

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

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

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, Inc.

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)

Emue Technologies

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

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 Labs

last session – 49 firms down, 7 to go and Strands first

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, Inc.

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 Inc.

segmint is a customer segmn tool that generates targeted mkting based on "key lifestyle indicators" (KLIs) from bank tx analysis

billFLO

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

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 Wealthcare

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

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

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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  • Thanks for the mention, Chris. Finovate certainly is a unique conference and it was fascinating to be in a room with so many fintech innovators. I see a huge opportunity for a symbiotic relationship between banks and entrepreneurs to deliver really meaningful innovation. As your previous post (If payments are free, who pays?) suggested, banks must now focus on services that enrich their transaction processing business: I’d argue that the most effective way to do this is to collaborate with those pathfinders i.e. entrepreneurs that can connect them with niche or sector specific opportunities, and who can devise truly innovative solutions that are unconstrained by legacy systems. Bridging the two is what Ixaris Opn is about.

  • Great coverage. This is an excellent snapshot of the Finovate show. And thanks for the mention of Kashoo.com Online Accounting.