Finovate highlights: The year of the olive branch?

Highlights from Finovate Fall 2019

Most of the fintech companies at the event sought to partner with financial institutions.

October 15, 2019

It was refreshing to hear a tone of cooperation emerge from the Finovate conference stage in late September.

Most of the fintech companies presenting at the event sought to partner with financial institutions, far outnumbering those boasting of ambitions to vanquish the incumbents.

Moreover, an unusually high number explicitly mentioned a desire to go to market with credit unions. The sentiment seems to be reciprocal: Multiple recent studies show the share of U.S. financial institutions willing to partner with fintech firms having swelled to a majority.

Over the course of two days, Finovate brought 75 live demos—no slides or videos permitted—to an audience of roughly 1,500, strictly enforcing a 7-minute presentation limit. The curated solutions addressed a vast array of industry needs, delivered by presenters ranging from startups to established firms.

A few trends and takeaways are worth noting. Solutions targeting the needs of baby boomers (retirement planning) and generation Z (financial education, college planning) were particularly well represented.

On the security front, the focus seems to have shifted from the arguably impossible task of preventing data breaches, to optimizing remediation efforts after a perhaps inevitable breach.

Meanwhile, the still-hot field of artificial intelligence (AI) is undergoing a rebranding of sorts—as XAI, for Explainable AI, addressing the market’s (and regulators’) desire to demystify the underlying process.

Glia was one of the nine audience-selected Best in Show winners, building on the accolade it earned at the 2019 CUNA Technology Council Conference. The firm offers omnichannel, digital-first customer conversations optimizing channel use based on context and preference.

Glia counts two credit unions among its “dozens” of financial institutions in production.

These Best in Show winners, each of which expressed interest in financial institution distribution models, struck me as particularly intriguing:

• College Aid Pro looks to unravel the complexity of the college financing process, layering on assistance with admission information as well.

To date, such solutions have been marketed primarily through the financial planner channel. But College Aid Pro is targeting bank and credit union relationships, emphasizing the benefit of cementing the institution’s status as the go-to source for financial advice, even if the resulting educational loans may not ultimately reside with the institution.

• Zogo was a particular crowd favorite, perhaps in part because its founder, a current Duke University undergrad, was also the conference’s youngest presenter.

Targeting the hot-button issue of financial literacy across the youth demographic, Zogo has gamified the process through app-based learning, leveraging leaderboard motivation and drawing upon more than 300 “bite-sized modules” created by Gen Z members and vetted by Duke professors.  

• Pinkaloo aims to increase the stickiness of mobile banking apps by providing a white-labeled control panel to manage charitable giving, residing within a member’s credit union experience.

Launched in 2017, the company believes its solution meshes particularly well with millennials’ stated desire for a commitment to corporate citizenship.

• BlytzPay aims to leverage the popularity of texting as a communication vehicle, applying it to bill payment and allowing merchants to engage directly with customers without the need for an app.

Bills can be delivered via text message embedded with a pay button. According to the company, most late bill payments stem from forgetfulness rather than a shortage of funds.

The olive branch has been extended. It’s now up to credit unions to determine which of these solutions could help resolve their top-drawer issues, and to respond accordingly.

GLEN SARVADY is managing partner at 154Advisors.