I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which must be one of the more thought-provoking ways anyone in digital financial services can spend two days.
Here’s my perspective on the lessons from the event for digital financial services executives:
More people are focusing on the small business opportunity. There were far more companies proposing to help small businesses manage their finances this year, in numerous ways from access to capital through to document storage and expense management. I was particularly impressed by the work that Efigence and Idea Bank have done to help Idea Bank’s small business customers manage their finances.
Automated financial advice for mainstream customers is edging closer. For years, Forrester has talked to its clients about the huge opportunity, and pressing need, for financial firms to use software to automate the production of financial advice. A growing number of firms are trying to solve this problem from one angle or another, including Money On Toast, Vaamo, Your Wealth and Yseop. Perhaps the best quotation of the event came from Elizabeth Farabee at Yseop: “A banker doesn’t sell the customer the best product, but the product he knows best.” Automating the manufacture of advice can fix that.
It's still early in the mobile investing game, but with investor expectations rising and substantial business at stake, digital wealth management teams know they must improve their portfolios of mobile sites and apps. To help, Forrester developed the Mobile Wealth Management Functionality Benchmark. Early this year, we published our first scorecard of five global leaders. We found that:
E-Trade and Fidelity lead with strong account information and transactional functionality. Both firms excel in the presentation of portfolio information. E-Trade enables clients to see their portfolios' historical performance charted against major US stock indexes. Fidelity's visual display of balances, holdings, and market summaries is best-in-class. Most firms miss the opportunity to use graphics to let investors visualize their portfolios.
Cortal Consors, TD Direct, and Merrill Lynch all exceed minimum standards. Cortal Consors in France and TD Direct support a wider range of products than US firms because European investors often invest beyond their home market. Merrill Lynch, the only full-service firm tested, makes it easy to reach a rep.
Opportunities to improve include mobile-optimized websites, research, and ease of use. We believe that most firms will arrive at a mobile strategy that includes websites optimized for delivery through mobile devices. But none of the five firms we reviewed offer mobile-optimized websites. None offer stock screeners or in-depth research reports through their smartphone apps. None offer ease-of-use features like contextual help.
I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which has rapidly established itself as the leading European retail financial technology event of the year. This year’s event was bigger than last year’s, with 64 exhibitors spread over the two days.
Here are my impressions from the two days:
Innovation is hard and usually incremental. Our expectations are so high. It’s easy to sit in the audience and think ‘I’ve seen something like that before’. It’s a lot harder to develop truly new ideas, let alone build them and market them. Innovation is necessarily incremental, moving into the adjacent possible opportunity as my colleague James McQuivey puts it (see him explain it on video here). True invention is extremely rare. As James puts it in his new book, “The most powerful ideas consciously draw from and incorporate elements that were being developed by others along the way, ultimately generating the best outcome in the shortest time at the most efficient cost.” That’s what makes events like Finovate so useful.