An Update from the Latest Finovate

By Carol Gilhawley

FinovateFall 2017 had no shortage of innovative products. This New York City conference, which took place from September 11-14, also saw its share of bankers, who were mostly there to look for potential partnerships and to find startups ripe for collaboration.

“We want to grow our innovative partnerships strategically,” one of them told me.

Another said, “We’re here to hear about new technologies, to meet executives, and facilitate discussions.”

Finovate provides a networking forum where bankers can introduce themselves to financial technology (fintech) company executives and possibly proceed from there.

The first two days included fintech demos, and the remaining two days involved panel discussions and company pitches. This all took place at breakneck speed, with each speech and demo lasting about seven minutes. But the rapid pace kept 1,500 participants eager to learn more.

What are the bankers saying about it?

“This was my first Finovate and I thought the format was pretty cool, shot-gunning presenters who had to give live demos,” said Mike McCrary, first vice president of E-commerce and Emerging Technology at Lincoln Savings Bank in Waterloo, Iowa. He saw three themes emerge:

  1. The idea of a digital branch has been talked about for years but now the idea is maturing.
  2. Data mining—and the challenge of connecting the ability to use data with actual data. McCrary believes having a data-driven marketing machine is key.
  3. Demos of some interesting and creative ways to approach investing. McCrary believes there’s some momentum in positioning for the older market.

Lisa Gold Schier, senior vice president of Endorsed Solutions and Innovation at ABA, said that one trend she’s seeing is that, “The companies who presented—unlike previous years—were more bank ready.” She attends Finovate regularly in fall and spring to find technologies that are applicable for the banking space.

Gold Schier always asks herself: “Do they understand banks and their markets? Are they ready to implement the technology in a bank now?” That’s no small consideration. Her job is to research products and services that will benefit banks and then highlight specific products for further research for ABA’s bank members.

What she observed this year was that tech companies at September’s Finovate highlighted these key areas:

  • Data analytics to help banks understand their data to improve customer engagement and experience
  • Digital account opening by using artificial intelligence (AI) for identity and credit verification
  • Integration with mobile banking apps to make the customer experience seamless, safe, and secure
  • Cyber security
  • Data aggregation to make it easier for consumers and businesses to get loans
  • Financial health and education
  • Wealth management

“We sift through all the pieces, see who is in this space, and which ones are the best,” Gold Schier said.

In the past, the ABA has endorsed products from certain companies like Lendkey and Akouba in digital lending. From FinovateFall, the ABA is interested in doing further research on about six or seven companies. “We need to see how the technology works,” Gold Shier explained. “How will banks implement it and how much will it cost? Is it reliable? Does it fit with the bank’s strategy?”

There’s no doubt this year’s lineup of products was about offering convenience to customers.

“It’s always interesting to understand how financial services and technology companies can merge to improve people’s lives,” said Rik Kielbasa, chief digital officer at Truliant Federal Credit Union in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

This was his first Finovate. He came because this is where all cutting edge technology is showcased. “It’s good to be here to talk to others about their themes and what problems they’re trying to solve,” Kielbasa said. “You may hear an idea that will spark a solution.”

Some presentations worth noting were:

  • MasterCard will be rolling out MasterCard cash pick-up in the U.S. later this year. It allows banks to deliver emergency cash quickly to consumers—banked or unbanked—through enabled ATMs, without using a card.
  • Kinetica is an analytic database that can search in real-time through credit card transactions, social media analyses, or incoming tweets. They’ve already signed Scotiabank as a customer.
  • Chime is an online branchless bank with 500,000 customers. Its new CardSwap feature allows customers to automatically move their online and subscription payments to their Chime Visa debit card. CardSwap is powered by Q2 and can be integrated with virtually any existing front-end product or platform.
  • ai, the Finn Virtual Banking assistant, is powered by AI. It’s similar to iPhone’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. It is secure and built for banks.
  • Horizn Knowledge Platforms equip employees and their customers with all they need to know about their employer’s digital innovations. They can access a large amount of content and self-learn through videos and simulators which can be integrated into a mobile platform. Horizn is live in banks in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.—and in use by 400,000 front-line employees, 23 million bank customers in 50 countries, and 15 languages.
  • The ZapBuy plugin for banking apps from Omnyway encourages consumers to use their mobile phone for shopping. It can integrate into existing mobile apps so personal credentials are instantly populated, including credit card numbers.
  • SPY Cloud has been set up by a team of security researchers to capture information that is stolen before the bad guys get it. These stolen assets may not be visible on the dark web and can protect companies from the rising tide of account takeovers.
  • About 1,700 banks and credit unions are using MX, a data aggregation, cleansing, and enhancement system that unifies financial and transaction data so banks can act on it.
  • Identitii uses token technology to allow financial institutions to manage detailed information about each transaction. For example, it can attach documents to payments, pre-fill information for a funds transfer, or present an invoice directly to a customer in their workflow.
  • About 25 banks are using Cashoff, a cloud-based service that collects complete and reliable data on the financial flow of customers. It can create a profile of the client, based on the model of their financial behavior (transactions) and consumer preferences (receipts with items).

A complete list of all FinovateFall 2017 demos will soon be uploaded to YouTube.

Carol Gilhawley is a business and financial industry journalist based in the Greater New York City area.

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