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Innovating on a sinking ship

I’ve already given some reflections on last week’s innotribe meeting in my write ups of Metro Bank and Fidor Bank.

Now, for a more general write-up, I’ve taken the inputs of Kosta Peric, the SWIFT innovation group leader who runs innotribe; the innotribe start-up details; and the input of participating company Allevo; to put together my own summary of the whole thing.

The first thing that struck me is what a strange choice of location: the Titanic Museum.

Titanic museum

Are banks sinking so fast?

Will only a third of the bank’s passengers survive?

Has all the money in the world iced over?

Well, no.  As Kosta Peric puts it:

When Matteo Rizzi (@matteorizzi) of Innotribe, the curator for the Belfast event, suggested this venue, I thought it was genius. I think that the financial industry is going through a dramatic change, fueled by technology and social media. The “too big to fail” ships in the industry are facing dangerous waters ahead.  Like the Titanic was. Innotribe@Belfast was about understanding what is happening, co-creating solutions and planning ahead.

And it proved to be an interesting venue in its own right.

Opened in March 2012 at a cost of £100 million, many Irish residents were wondering why the hell the government was sinking os much money into a shrine for a sunken ship when they could be investing in the economy, jobs, education, health or something else.

Well, the government isn’t as stupid as it appears, as they seem to recognise the global interest in the story of the Titanic.  The forecast was 400,000 visitors in the first year of opening and the museum has already had over 100,000 visitors per month.

Add to this the amount of souvenirs that tourists were buying in the souvenir shop, and it looks like the Titanic museum will be great success.

It also made a great backdrop to the conference.

First, the museum is the size of the Titanic itself and then, when inside, you feel like you’re in the upper deck reception. 

Titanic conference room

Just like Leonadro DiCaprio and Kate Winslett in the film of the same name.

This upper deck became our home and conference room for two days, with lots of interesting presentations.  Apart from the two already mentioned from Metro Bank and Fidor Bank, there were great exchanges between other panellists and participants including:

  • Andrew Davis, Head of e-Commerce Strategy and Innovation, HSBC;
  • Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland  Minister for Enterprise, Trade and  Investment in Northern Ireland;
  • Damian Richardson, Head of Change Services, RBS;
  • Gautam Jai, Head of Client Access at Standard Chartered;
  • Kartik Kaushik, Head of Business Development at Citi;
  • Laura Merling, VP for development platforms at Alcatel Lucent;
  • Linda McLaughlin Moore, Treasury Services, JP Morgan;
  • Mircea Mihaescu, Head of Innovation, Sberbank; and
  • Steve Van Wyk, Group CIO for ING.

Good dialogue around innovation all around, best summed up by one panellist who said: “the trick is not to get the elephant to dance, but to make sure that it is facing the customer with its eyes and not its ass”.

Lol brilliant!

After a day and a half of panels and interviews, workshops and dialogue, the event ended with the innotribe start-up challenge.

This is a program that is not dissimilar to Finovate, although it does have a few differences.  For example, innotribe offers investment of up to $100,000 in the winners.  It also differs in allowing each participating company six minutes to present followed by Q&A, rather than a pure demo for seven minutes; and participants don’t have to pay to present – they are selected on merit alone.

So this proved interesting with two parts to the challenge: the first for firms under three years old, and the second for more established companies who have a new innovative program they want to present.

In the first category, there were ten firms:

  • Crowdcube, an equity-based crowd funding investment platform.
  • Digital shadows, a B2B cyber monitoring service that continually assesses an organisation’s attack service
  • Digital Vega, an electronic trading platform for Foreign Exchange Options on one of the largest OTC derivatives markets.
  • ECO2Market, a one-stop-shop for anyone looking for in-depth market intelligence, quantitative data and analytical tools for environmental finance
  • Fundingoptions,  small firms access to the right finance products and providers.
  • Kantox, a Web platform which allows companies to directly find counter parties to match and net their future cash-flows.
  • Nimbus Core, they facilitate a significant and sustained increase in the number and demographic of people trading stocks and shares
  • PhotoPay,  smartphone camera based  paper bill data extraction, allowing very simple payment
  • Platform Black, instant finance as a fast, flexible, selective alternative to lending from the banks or traditional invoice finance
  • Sein Analytics,  a data-centric cloud application for analysing asset- backed securities (ABS) and loan portfolios.

And, of these, one was selected as best-in-class – Digital Shadows – and will present in a final showdown at Sibos Osaka in October alongside winners of the start-up challenge at the other regional innotribe events (yes, they’ve other meetings in New York and Singapore). 

In the more established category of firm, five companies presented:

  • Fiteq, fraud-fighting solution proactively protects cardholders’ data by providing dynamic authentication, unique for each transaction made by each cardholder.
  • GBR, helps solve the phishing problem
  • Mii Card,  a global “digital passport” for the consumer that proves you are who you say you are purely online and in real-time
  • OpenGamma,  the new standard for Quantitative Finance  based on an open-source approach
  • ValidSoft,  securing mobile banking and mobile payments, using innovative telecommunication network data and voice biometrics

And the winner was OpenGamma.

Full Program Guide to the Innotribe Startup Challenge

All in all, an interesting meeting of minds and ideas, with other companies joining the Belfast session including Anthemis, Bank of Ireland, Bottomline Technologies, Cisco, Citi, HSBC, IBM, Oracle, Raiffeisen, Royal Bank of Scotland, Shell, Société Générale, Standard Chartered Bank and State Street Corporation,

I look forward to the next innotribe at Sibos, and give thanks to  the innotribe team – Kosta, Mela, Martine, Nektarios, Matteo, Dominik, Greet, Peter, Innes, Muriel and Jenna – for making it happen.

Kattobase! as they say in Japan.


About 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...

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