Games of buzzword bingo and comparisons of on-stage role-play to 1980s’ pornography acting…today’s comments on Twitter prove that it takes guts to face the sometimes cruel Finovate crowd. But if you want to measure the current beat of banking, wealth management, insurance, and startup hearts, there’s no better place than Finovate. Here are a few reflections on Finovate Europe 2016:
Robo-advice is all the rage. Just when blockchain made it into a Dilbert cartoon, it disappeared from the Finovate stage. The only mention of cryptocurrencies was during Ledger’s presentation of its “hardware wallets for decentralised applications” (bitcoins, basically). This is not a bad thing; Forrester advice is to maintain a healthy level of scepticism. Finovate isn’t the place to prove blockchain’s purported capabilities. We’ve also moved away from personal finance management (fondly called PFM), mobile payments, digital wallets. If you want to be in vogue, you now need to pay attention to digitising investment strategies, biometric authentication and contextual engagement. Apart from the international-payments startup Valuto, this year’s Best of Show winners (Capitali.se, DriveWealth, SwipeStox, EyeVerify, IDscan) all fall under the first two themes.
At least two dozen accelerators and incubators have been launched by financial services firms in the last two years. I believe that in five years’ time, most of these corporate accelerators will have disappeared. Why? A fully-fledged, multi-startup accelerator is expensive to run. The cost of searching, selecting, and providing seed investment and support for startups could easily reach $1 million a year. Many accelerators aren’t focused enough on customer problems or business objectives to deliver return on that investment.
So why are so many banks, insurance, and wealth management firms eager to loosen their purse-strings? Some want to identify and co-opt future disruptors, others are looking to startups for innovation. There’s been a palpable change of tone in discussions of digital disruptors in retail financial services. The ubiquitous stories about voracious startups that want to eat incumbents’ lunch have been replaced by tales of successful collaboration. Financial technology startups deliver innovation, established firms bring customers, and together they live happily ever after.
Having just watched 72 demos at FinovateEurope, I can confirm that digital financial innovation is alive and kicking. Over the last couple of days, I have seen a number of inspiring solutions to deal with some of the most difficult problems facing financial services today. The main themes at Finovate this year included simplifying and lowering the cost of payments, improving authentication and customer onboarding, using data to generate new value for personal and business bank customers, and making bankers more productive and efficient through, for example, artificial intelligence technology.
Digital executives at financial firms are taking note – the audience was packed with executives from Europe’s main banks. And rightly so. To be innovative, banking executives need ideas, data, technology, software development skills, design experience, and change management support. Often, they can't source these components internally in a timely and cost-effective manner. Partners such as innovation agencies, systems integrators, startups, adjacent firms, and even competitors can help them add capabilities quickly. This is prompting the rise of ecosystems of value – a key feature of digital business transformation. By utilizing partners' digital assets, ecosystem participants are able to hone their products and services fast and furiously — in essence, out-innovating the competition.
With the press overhyping 3D printing, virtual reality, and Bitcoin, it’s hard for CIOs to track the startup trends impacting business today. Below are two trends we see startups and their investors focused on, and a future trend we expect to gain interest in the next 12 to 24 months that CIOs should care about.
Self-service business models disrupting industries. Startups are coming up with creative ways to reengineer cumbersome analog business processes with technology. Uber uses cloud, mobile, and analytics to recreate and bypass parts of the taxi/private car value chain. It connects customers directly to drivers, and uses data and analytics to make more efficient use of vehicle capacity. Other examples of startups developing new approaches to old industry processes include Oscar in health insurance and Simple in retail banking. What’s next? As 3D printers and connected products become more mainstream, and digital is further embedded in the physical world, we’ll see entrepreneurs apply self-service to new markets. Sols hopes to shake up orthotics by allowing customers to customize and print custom-insoles on 3D printers.
Holiday season musings: One of the biggest differences between the US and Britain is the great British pub. And recently I’ve been wondering about the connection between the pub and innovation.
It seems to me that Britain produces a surprising amount of innovation per capita (no doubt someone can point me to some research on this). Why do so many great innovations come from this small island?
Could it be that the great British pub has something to do with it? It’s clear that a great many innovations are nurtured and developed through the interactions between people. And the pub has always been place for social interaction. For me, one of the facets that distinguishes a great UK pub from an American bar is that it’s relatively easy to sit next to a complete stranger in a pub and strike up a deeply philosophical conversation about something of great import; in a bar, it’s almost impossible to strike up a conversation with anyone you don’t already know unless it’s related to the local sports team.
Assuming my premise is correct that there is some causative effect between the traditional local pub and innovation, what will happen to innovation in Britain with the demise of the local pub. Will we see a reduction in great innovation from the UK?
What happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas. I was out at BlackHat with other members of the Forrester team over a week ago (seems like yesterday!). It was two jam packed days of popping into briefings, guzzling copious amounts of green tea, and meeting new people and learning new things. In general, I like to keep an eye and ear out for startups to see what’s bubbling up, and came across a few at BlackHat:
Co3 Systems. Co3 Systems* help to automate the four pillars of incident response (prepare, assess, manage, and report) and break down responsibilities and response to ensure best practices are followed along with compliance with regulatory requirements. They just updated their security module to include threat intelligence feeds from iSIGHT Partners, AlienVault, Abuse.ch and SANS, and recently rolled out an EU data privacy and breach notification update to the product. I’m a numbers nerd, so when they let me play with the solution, I immediately started running simulations that estimated the cost of a breach.
FileTrek. FileTrek provides visibility and transparency into where data resides, how it’s being accessed, moved, used, changed, and shared between people, devices, and files. No, it’s not DLP. It’s more like the mother of all audit trails that takes context and sequence of events into account. That way, if someone who is supposed to have access to data starts to do things with it beyond what they normally do, FileTrek will flag it as suspicious activity.