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The Best of Fintech: Finovate Fall 2017 Recap


Finovate By the Numbers

Total presenters: 73

Number of companies presenting on each topic:

14 — Security
12 — Investing
9 — Lending/Financing
9 — Digital Retail Banking 
8 — Marketing
5 — Customer Support
4 — Application Process/Onboarding
4 — Digital Business Banking 
4 — Payments
3 — CRM
1 — Charity

Several companies, including ebankITSamsung, and Sensory showcased facial recognition technology, and others such as Trusted Key used blockchain technology for added security. SpyCloud won Best of Show for their ability to flag users whose data has been compromised via leaks, which seems especially relevant given the recent Equifax data breach.

Stash Invest appeals to first-time investors (a demographic that makes up 86% of their customer base) and teaches them the basics of investing. Overbond connects potential bond investors with bond markets, "like Match.com meets Bloomberg." Voleo won Best of Show with their social trading app, which lets users connect in groups to make investment decisions.

PromonTech enables users to apply for mortgages within a mobile app and gives lenders access to more than 300 income calculations so they can get a more accurate view of who's really qualified. AI Foundry gives mortgage applicants a self-service digital portal where they can see loan type, product type, and document status updates. Mortgage Cadence c
onnects users with customer support in real time via live chat, moving the application process forward.

Digital Retail Banking Features
MX presented AggregationChallenge.com, the first attempt to track the success of account aggregation across different providers and showcase which providers are most effective. Since aggregation is a critical component of becoming the primary financial institution for users, this study can help you know how to make sense of the industry. Finn.ai ties third-party products such as Facebook Messenger and Alexa to the digital retail banking experience.

Many marketing platforms were directly tied to analytics dashboards. The analytics dashboards serve as a way to get insight into the user base while the marketing platform provides the ability to create personalized offers. Insight & Target from MX provides banks and credit unions with this ability. Optimove lets bankers 
run A, B, C tests and create microsegments to reach small groups of potential buyers. 

Customer Support
Uniken elimates the need for obtaining personally identifiable information via phone calls, automatically verifying identification for users calling the contact center. SaleMove enables users to r
emain in the same dashboard even if they switch to audio instead of text chat. The user can also immediately switch from text chat to video chat.

Application Process/Onboarding
When a user opens an account, Digital Onboarding 
sends a text message with a link to the banking app and a link to connect to the support team. They also create a drip campaign so users are constantly clued in to what they need know when they need to know it.

Digital Business Banking
pens up new business banking channel and allows the bank to leverage any third party projects. CyberProductivity provides help with invoicing, payments, cash management, and more for SMB banking.

Best of Show winner Jiffee turns any merchants' phone into a payment terminal, eliminating the need for small businesses to buy separate hardware to receive payments. Nanopay 
provides a way to reduce cost, offer a better experience, and remove risk on cross-border payments, which is a much needed service since banks paid $172 billion last year doing cross-border payments.

Relationship Planner, a mobile CRM, creates leaderboards to help managers instantly see how employees are doing at reaching their goals. Bpm'online allows anybody with credentials at the financial institution to use the CRM and see user profiles and help them with their banking needs.

Best of Show winner Sustainably gives users the option to donate a bit of money to a cause they care about. Each purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the extra change goes toward the cause. So spending $28.86 in gas would result in a 14 cent donation. It's a way for financial service companies to easily add a charitable component to their business.

Thought Leadership

This was the first year that Finovate included a thought leadership component in their conference, with presentations from analysts, thought leaders, fintech executives, and bankers. Since the presentations followed different tracks, we didn't get to see everything, but we'll include some of the highlights below.

Analyst All Stars
Dan Latimore from Celent said their data shows that "the customer experience is the differentiating product" and as a result financial institutions should focus above all on customer satisfaction. Alyson Clarke from Forrester said that over the next ten years, change will happen at a faster pace than ever before and that financial institutions should move from being data rich to being insight driven, from being siloed to connected, and that they should more fully embrace APIs. 

Jacob Jegher from Javelin Research urged bankers to not overlook the importance of Baby Boomers, who still drive the most revenue at financial institutions. Jim Marous from The Financial Brand demonstrated the power of voice assistants, showing how they'll weave banking into the daily lives of users in a seamless, effortless way.

Ron Shevlin from Cornerstone Advisors said that financial institutions should embrace a platformication model, which he outlines here. Kevin Morrison from Aite Group said that banks must do a better job of integrating the digital experience with personalization. Stessa Cohen from Gartner said, "The fintechs and banks that transform banking will enable digital empathy." And James Wester from IDC said that digital transformation is all about process and strategy rather than adopting a particular technology.

The Future of Fintech Regulation
Keith Noreika, Acting Comptroller of the Currency, talked about the need for regulators to balance the increased efficiency of technology with cybersecurity. He said the number one worry for regulators is cybersecurity, and regulators need to do a better job of co-ordinating to fight cyber fraud, which gets more complicated as technology continues to improve.

Interview with a Founder
Bradley Leimer, Managing Director and Head of Fintech Strategy at Explorer Advisory & Capital, interviewed Jon Stein, CEO and founder at Betterment. 
Stein opened with a story from his launch at TechCrunch and how he thought everything would be easy after that launch only to learn that the launch was just the beginning. Stein and Leimer both agreed that the financial industry should focus on how to better meet the actual needs of the end user — how to genuinely make their lives better. Stein believes that Betterment's focus on this front enables them to stand apart from the competition.

Keynote: The AI Revolution and the Road to Superintelligence
Tim Urban, who writes at the popular blog Wait, But Why?, talked about the need to prepare for an AI revolution — a revolution that could come as soon as 2025. Any banker who doubts the importance of AI or how quickly it will appear should read and seriously consider Urban's essays on this topic:

AI Showcase
Tommy Marshall from Accenture showed five levers to create value from AI: 
Intelligent Automation, Enhanced Judgement, Enhanced Interaction, Intelligent Products, and Enhanced Trust. Audrey Solomon from WalkMe said that echnology gives us more options, but those options can become very complex. (Think of a modern remote control that has 50+ buttons.) She showed how WalkMe helps simplify the user experience. Jason Mars from Clinc showcased an AI that integrates with Alexa and can ask answer a wide range of questions in a wide range of languages. See it in action here. 

Bankruption: How community banking survives fintech
John Waupsh from Kasasa said that employees at community banks need to know that they have freedom to breathe — that they can make mistakes and take risks. He advised that small financial institutions focus on one thing you want to do and choose one segment to focus on. Then start making progress on that segment. As they do that, they'll carve out a successful niche in the space.

Overall Analysis

Finovate, also known as "the Disneyland of fintech" (a phrase trademarked by Bradley Leimer), is consistently among the most important conferences in the industry. This year was no different. The demos were consistently impressive and the very few duds were over quickly (seven minutes goes fast!).

For whatever reason, there seemed to be less Twitter snark this year than other years, but the Finovate hashtag was still fun to follow and engage with. Personally, I enjoyed the thought leadership portion of the event and hope to see Finovate keep it for future conferences — especially interviews like the one Bradley Leimer did with Jon Stein and the presentation from Tim Urban on artificial intelligence.

One idea worth considering came from Frank Pottow, Managing Director at GCP Capital Partners. He said that Finovate should offer completely fresh startups a chance to pitch their ideas to the whole audience — perhaps 10 vetted startups for 2 minutes each in a 20-minute session. That way cashstrapped startups could get a better chance to be heard and the audience could see what teams of 1-10 people are up to. It's an idea worth considering — one I'd like to see added to the roster.

Ultimately, Finovate was once again a delight to attend and a very effective way to quickly get up to speed on what's happening in the industry right now. I look forward to future events with the Finovate team.

For more, read our live blog posts from Finovate:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

Also read our white paper, "How Banking Can Use Big Data to Be More Like Google":

Banker's Guide to Big Data