Some Observations From Finovate Europe

For the past few years I have watched enviously as the Finovate online financial technology show has gone from strength to strength in San Francisco and New York. So I was thrilled to hear that Finovate was coming to Europe and today I was lucky enough to go along to the show in London.

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.

The big themes were:

                Money management: Figlo; IND Group;  Linxo; Lodo Software; LoveMoney.com; Meniga; Strands Personal Finance; Yodlee.

                Security: Business Forensics; miicard; SilverTail Systems; SolidPass; Voice Commerce.

                Social Investing: eToro; Hopee (from Cortal Consors); StockTwits; Unience.

                Online and mobile payments: Boku; eWise payo; Mpower Mobile; SecureKey Technologies.

                Online small business banking: Capital Access Network; Ixaris Opn Card Guardian; Liqpay; Xero.

Here are a few of my thoughts from the day:

1)      Innovation is alive and well in financial eBusiness. With 400 eBusiness executives, technology vendors and journalists drawn from across Europe the hall was packed. The real challenge is implementation.

2)      There’s a new generation of digital financial services coming. Technologies like rich Internet apps (RIAs), smartphones and tablets are rapidly changing what executives can deliver through digital channels, and raising customers’ expectations. eBusiness executives need to think through what means for the way they sell to and service customers. The big question is whether you can respond fast enough to keep your customers.

3)      It’s all about data moving into the cloud. Content is becoming modular. In different ways, firms like Backbase, Ixaris Systems  and Tagit are helping eBusiness executives pull data, content, functionality and applications out of existing systems and repackage them intelligently for customers.

4)      I’m struck by a sense that mobile banking security is going to move rapidly up eBusiness executives’ agendas.

5)      I love the format. Seven minutes forces admirable conciseness. What does a technology do, what problem does it solve and show us that it works. It’s a bit like speed dating. You can follow up with the ones you fancy.*

6)      It’s good to see so many European vendors. So many technology vendors originate in North America or, disproportionately, Israel, it’s easy to conclude that European countries don’t know how to incubate technology innovations. Today showed that there’s no lack of creativity, with companies drawn from all across Europe, including Britain, the Netherlands (lots of Dutch exhibitors), Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Ukraine, Iceland, Cyprus and Turkey, as well as from further afield like Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand alongside the North American firms.

7)      There’s a real focus on monetizing online financial accounts. Firms like Cardlytics are using customer data to trigger relevant, personalized marketing offers. We’re all going to get bombarded by offers as eBusiness executives start to act on the firehoses of data they have about their customers.

8)      Nobody has truly cracked how to provide advice and guidance to customers online yet.

9)      Financial advisors should all have tablets. If Finantix has much to do with it, they all will do.

10)   SecureKey Technologies is on to something. I’ve always been sceptical about PC card readers, but using a simple $5 USB drive to turn a PC into a contactless card reader combines simplicity with security to create an authenticated card present payment for remote transactions. I suspect the business case adds up for both banks and merchants too.

11)   Although it was in London, three of the UK’s four biggest banks had just one person at the event. Three of the others didn’t send anyone at all. Barclaycard and Santander sent six each. Hmmm. Perhaps the others are just being careful with taxpayers’ money.

12)   I wish the head of eBusiness from my bank had been there. I’m not sure my bank still has a head of eBusiness.

13)   Laptops are so old hat. Everyone is taking notes on tablets (or on paper). Hardly anybody has a laptop, unless it’s an Apple. I’m not cool.

14)   Nobody smiles on London Underground. I don’t miss the Tube.

Thank you to everyone at Online Financial Innovations.

Benjamin

*In the unlikely event that my wife ever reads this, I should make clear that I have no recent experience with speed dating.

Comments

Thanks for this useful

Thanks for this useful summary.

Regarding your point 8, do you think that people are getting serious about providing financial guidance online now? I had a look through some of the supplier websites but didn't see much of it.

Mark

Providing financial guidance online

Mark

Thank you for your comments. We've written quite a lot about providing financial guidance online in our published research (which you can reach on our site if you are a client).

It's been technically possible to provide good financial advice online for some years now. The challenge is two-fold:
Firstly, when people seek advice they are actually looking for both recommendations on what to do and reassurance that they are doing the right thing. Computers can't deliver human reassurance.
Secondly it's very tricky to do it well. Human-computer interaction design is tricky, and the more complex the interaction the harder it is to get right. Different people want very different levels of advice.

And, yes, I think a couple of dozen eBusiness executives worldwide are thinking seriously about how to use technology to provide financial advice to mainstream consumers. If they can crack it, you can be sure that others will follow suit.

I didn't list all the Finovate exhibitors in my post. There were a couple of other exhibitors yesterday like HelpMyCash (www.helpmycash.com) that are working in this area, as well as established firms like Distribution Technology.

My colleagues Bill Doyle and Alexander Hesse are both planning to do more research in this area in the next few months.

I hope that helps.

Benjamin

Benjamin, Thanks for your

Benjamin,

Thanks for your response - I think you're right about those being among the key challenges. It will be interesting to see how the govt sponsored cfeb here in the UK manages to combine self-help tech and telephone support to add that human element. From feedback I've heard, even adviser support over the phone is not meeting the need for reassurance you highlight.

I recently read a nice description of the consequences of getting automated financial planning wrong... similar to providing people with a "do-it-yourself surgery" kit.

Regards,

Mark

Hi Ben, great and very

Hi Ben,

great and very interested post, I'd be curious to know how many Italian Banks were there.
Walter

Italian banks

Walter

My impression was that four or five Italian banks were there. There was a good mix from across Europe.

Benjamin

Hi, Is there a reason for not

Hi,

Is there a reason for not mentioning Striata and AcceptEmail? They could well be qualified under online & mobile billing.

I also don't entirely agree with your comment on a good mix from accross europe', in my opinion few folks from Scandinavia - presenting and scouting - and eatern europe also under represented.

thanks,

Matthijs

Online and mobile billing

Matthijs

Honestly, no, there's wasn't a specific reason for not mentioning them. I wasn't trying to be exhaustive and didn't think billing was one of the big themes of the day. I thought both were very interesting -- indeed, from a technical point of view I thought Striata and AcceptEmail were two of the most innovative.

For eBusiness executives at non-financial services firms, particularly utilities and telecoms firms, these technologies have obvious benefits.

I know we will write more on these, and other, technologies in our research over the next few months.

You are right that there weren't many people from Eastern Europe. I did see several Scandinavian banks -- like Jyske and Nordea -- at the event. If the event had been held in Stockholm or Budapest I'm sure there would have been a different mix.

Benjamin

Reflection financial industry

Benjamin,

Great write-up. I'm sorry to hear we did miss each other to shake hands!

Regarding the reflection of the financial industry at Finovate: what we absolutely missed is innovation for the insurance industry. Despite the fact that Finovate claims to focus on the financial industry as a whole, and the events are described as following: 'Finovate is designed to showcase the most innovative new financial technology products and ideas', it was predominantly about banking/investment solutions. Isn't there any company focussing on innovations for the insurance industry, or is the Finovate organisation not targeting them (enough)? The only companies that showed something that's directly related to the insurance/advisory industry IMHO were Figlo and Finantix. Didn't you miss it? What's your opion here?

I also missed the tablet solutions: the only demo we've seen was Finantix (we will show our iPad app @ Finovate Spring US ;-): although we all know it's the way to go, it surprised me that we haven't seen them more at FinovateEurope.

Please, let me know your thoughts.

Albert van den Broek, CEO Figlo Worldwide

Innovation in insurance

Albert

Likewise.

I can't speak for Online Financial Innovations, but I suspect there were two reasons why there wasn't much insurance innovation on show:
1) Americans and Europeans often define 'financial services' differently. To many Americans, financial services is banking + brokerage. Insurance is a different industry. To Europeans, by contrast, financial services is usually seen as banking + investing + insurance. Bancassurance is common in Europe, and rare in North America (Canada has some regulatory barriers).
2) There's less obvious consumer-facing innovation in insurance because the interaction frequency is lower. I don't think it's a co-incidence that many of the innovations are in high-frequency activities like payments, transactional banking and stock investing. There's less activity in mortgages, fund management and insurance because customers touch these products less often, so the problems are not felt so acutely and the rewards for innovation are perhaps less. I think there is innovation insurance, it's just not all customer facing.
But I agree, it would be great to see more!

My colleague Ellen Carney has written about many technology innovations in insurance in our published research, so she's my best source.

Judging by the number of eBusiness and technology executives with tablets, I think we'll be seeing a lot more.

Best regards,

Benjamin

Good read!

This is a good read,I really find this topic very interesting,I like the way how you write this post I find it so clean and easy to understand.I will definitely visit here again to stay updated with this topic and see also the opinions of others on this interesting topic.Thank you for this great read! Cheers!