Highlights from Finovate Europe: Good ideas have no borders
It’s about the experience, not the technology.
Finovate conferences are a great way to gauge the pulse of the fintech industry, revealing both trends and breakthroughs in emerging solutions across the financial services spectrum.
The format rewards efficient design as well as a crisp message: In seven minutes on stage, presenters must demo a live product or working prototype without the aid of slides or video. Across two days of fast-paced action, attendees can assess 64 solutions hoping to cut through the clutter of a frantic fintech marketplace.
The latest European installment, which drew 1,200 attendees to London in mid-February, offered a particularly intriguing perspective for stateside players.
Given the launch of UK Open Banking in January 2018, the agenda included a healthy dose of companies aiming to help financial institutions meet the new mandate and capitalize on the business opportunities it generates.
Here are a few key takeaways from a thought-provoking event.
More use cases, less pigeonholing
At every Finovate I try to assign presenters to one of several buckets to determine which solution categories are drawing the most market focus. Usually I can corral them into six to eight broadly defined clusters, such as customer onboarding, identity/security, wealth management, etc.
These categories again had their fair share of activity, but I had a much harder time reducing February’s presenters to such confining definitions. I interpret this as a positive sign the market has matured to a point where fintechs no longer tout broad technologies but have refined their use cases to address specific pain points and client needs.
It’s about the experience, not the technology
An example of the above: “Robo advice” and “conversational commerce” have been hot topics for the past couple of years, with startups like Clinc and Abe.ai demonstrating impressive capabilities in voice recognition and intuitive chat.
The technology, however, is increasingly taking a back seat to customer communications. After all, the “robo” aspect is merely a means to an end.
In fact, if executed properly the client shouldn’t even notice the presence of a machine. On this front I was particularly impressed by Glia, a communications platform that discerns user behavior and seamlessly transfers between channels (chat/voice/video) to optimize the satisfaction/cost equation.
Good ideas have no borders
New York City-based Glia was one of seven U.S. companies that made the trek to present at Finovate London, and the sole American entry to bring home the audience-voted Best of Show prize.
The eight winners were nicely spread across six countries. Two of my favorites were Crealogix (Switzerland), whose TimeWarp prototype provides an animated time-series view of what-if personal financial management analysis, and Launchfire (Canada), which “gamifies” training for front line staff, encouraging compliance by turning an often dreary task into an engaging interaction with a competitive twist.
Dorsum also earned one of my votes, owing in part to the best elevator pitch I heard at the event: its mission to “bring the Spotify experience to wealth management.”
A “Bank in a Box”
Although the U.S. has no regulatory mandate driving open banking, credit unions may still benefit from the innovations it’s driving across the pond.
Firms like Five Degrees, NDGIT, and ABC Tech are creating solutions that leverage an “app store” paradigm allowing financial institutions to select from various third-party modules to support functions like lending, anti-money laundering compliance, online banking, etc., to stand up a new entity in short order.
This approach could be an option for credit unions eager to roll out new functionality but hamstrung by core system limitations.
It will be interesting to watch whether these same themes hold when Finovate returns later this year to San Francisco (May 8-10) and New York City (Sept. 23-25).