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Finovate Spring Day Two – April 27 2017, San Jose

A touch hungover, grasping a coffee and munching a seeded bagel like a boss, I came back after a brilliant Day One and once again enjoyed the banging dance music as host Erika introduced another day of presentations and the latest innovations in FinTech…

SESSION ONE Thurs AM

We kick off with Capsilon Corporation who talk about ‘powering the digital mortgage factory.’ COO Jim introduces the newest digital mortgage tech solution – enabling mortgage companies to move ‘from a labour-centric to technology-centric model’ that will ‘accelerate overall process and transform the economics’ of mortgages so you can ‘deliver quality mortgages at velocity.’

He starts the demo with a lender portal that has Capsilon tech embedded. On the dashboard, you register a loan and then Capsilon finds information in the loan documentation in order to create a checklist for things you’ll need i.e. required documents.

The technology finds the names of different documents from within larger files and sorts them automatically. Their solution reduces up to 80% of the labour associated with receiving, sorting, naming and filing these documents. The system also validates the digital assets received. From the underwriter perspective: they will receive the documents and use pre-set rules to find errors

Jim and Neil have a game-changer, they say. A totally new financial product category – Unison Home Ownership Investors invests in your home with you. The partnership model means a10% deposit from you and 10% from Unison. Rather than a demo of any technology, they show us the calculators on the website: letting you see what max value you can get, and which houses you can afford in the area you want. ‘Use our money for up to 30 years without interest,’ they promise. Their solution is about ‘connecting homebuyers to patient capital’ and ‘making real estate an investible asset class.’

Ana the CEO introduces Infocorp. For 20 years they’ve been ‘making people love their bank.’ They do this by helping banks anticipate customer needs, make them feel special, and provide relevant offers. IC-Banking allows banks to show an offer in emails, mobile banking, desktop banking or/and social media, or from an Outlook tool. She talks about creating ‘omnichannel campaigns’ that are ‘omni relevant.’

IC Campaign Manager lets you orchestrate these campaigns simply, from one place. You can define what happens when a user clicks the offer, and if he closes the offer, the platform stops showing the offer in all channels. So you won’t be ‘omni annoying’ – lol. It uses Machine Learning to work out the next most relevant campaign and, if the customer converts, a new probability of conversion will have been calculated and a new campaign is shown.

Each advert can be personalised e.g. names and loan amounts and users behind the scenes get an analysis dashboard to see minute by minute campaign performance and what customers are seeing and doing.

INFOCORP

Tim CEO and co-founder introduces BeSmartee by saying that mortgages suck and are complicated. We were mortgage veterans, he says, and saw what 2008 ‘did to communities’. He introduces their point of sale solution – the Smart Mortgage application process. It includes continuous data validation e.g. real phone number required on the form. Customers enter a zip code, property value, and deposit amount – the system then finds options based on this data – then some more borrower details are required, including SSN. Payroll info and bank data is imported, and they ‘merge big data with artificial intelligence behind the scenes’ apparently. The submitted loan application gets a ‘patented 10 0 3 merge’ treatment, whatever that is. The initial disclosures are sent and can be e-signed – without taking the customer off to a third party. There is then a loan dashboard for customer communications and so on, and a similar dashboard for lenders.

MX couldn’t present; sad times.

Taiwan-based FUCO&SOLUTION presented an ‘Innovative mobile statement solution’. Apparently 100m statements every month are generated by them. As branches close, they say, the statement becomes an important comms strategy – and now they have invented ‘Interactive, robo-advisory’ statements. From these, customers can pay a credit card bill, drill down into transactions, split payments (pay in instalments) and see offers based on spending habits. It can be integrated with products I can buy with loyalty points, I can see and purchase funds, and if I decide to take e.g. a mortgage offer, I can do a quick comparison and application right there and then. These guys let banks ‘monetise credit card statements’ and the whole thing is configured (although we didn’t see this) with ‘drag and drop building blocks’.

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Jeff, CEO of Neener Analytics, told us that 56% US consumers are credit challenged. In order to expand the market, where risk is unknown or unreliable, he presented a solution that ‘can reduce risk and increase volume and revenue with a 20-minute application.’ It is also a regulatory-compliant solution. This is ‘Social Media Decisioning Analytics that actually work.’ Not based on who we are friends with; and not ‘can they pay back?’ but ‘will they?’. He talks about the ‘biometrics of personality.’

A customer can apply for credit, hit login with Facebook, then continue with the application i.e. it takes just one click for customers. Meanwhile, in the background, an ‘automated psychologist’ is looking at 100s of data points and combining these into a risk profile. Users can see the business dashboard (dials) which help with identity verification, measure ‘Veracity’ and ‘Resilience’ and predict the likelihood of default, revolving credit or paying off early. ‘Stop using the old data. Find something that actually works.’

AutoKept was presented by a ‘rancher from Arizona’ (a real character!) who can never remember what his expenses were. His intern (?) Travis said ‘Give me four weeks’ (to build a solution) and it’s taken two years. But the tool lets you take a picture of a receipt and record yourself saying what it was for. Then submit and it will either go to QuickBooks or a spreadsheet. It’s useful for transactions that take place at e.g. Walmart where it’s too generic a brand to remember what you actually bough (and folk just guess).

Talk Accounting: Take a picture. Talk about the transaction. Submit. That’s it!

The app takes data from the bank and accounting software, asking the user for the rest of the details. You verbally say what it was for and take a picture of the receipt. Travis showed us how the solution perfectly recorded him saying ‘Let’s go turn the microphone on, I’m just going to say this was for a printer.’ The rancher is ‘Looking for companies that can send me the last four digits’ (i.e. customer card data to tie it all together automatically.)

Mike from Baker Hill said risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing. He’s selling ‘business intelligence for data-driven decisions’ to turn ‘risk into opportunity.’ Baker Hill lets you ‘Streamline loan originations and portfolio management.’

Baker Hill NextGen is a dashboard based around personas, offering ‘interactive and shareable business insights.’ It is mobile-responsive, integrates with third parties, and also has a native CRM built into it. It showed workflows and lots of info and stuff, and apparently completes the commercial lending process in less than 7 minutes. I believe he said that 25% of the top 150 banks were in his client list.

SESSION TWO Thurs AM

Suzan Szollar calmly introduced NCR, ‘A fully immersive VR ATM experience with real-time remote collaboration.’ She talks about ‘bridging the physical and digital world to have special connections with the customer’. It’s all about visual collaboration. The example is Shuki training to be an ATM technician. Grant from Scotland (represent!) was able to train him remotely (from backstage) using virtual reality – pull stuff apart, look at components close up, and move stuff around. It’s also a sales tool, as NCR can let banks customise ATMs with VR… and they can also do product design with it (change the colour of different parts and so on). Apparently it is being used globally, allowing Dundee-based Grant to do plenty of travelling…!

Horizn ‘Helps financial institutions dramatically accelerate market adoption of their latest innovation, technology and new product at lightening speed.’ We also saw them at Finovate Europe – it was the same demo. Now in 40 countries and 15 languages.

Turnkey Lender is a ‘Provider of award-winning SaaS for decision automation, loan management and advance analytics for the non-bank lending industry.’

The latest release is an ‘end-to-end’ solution that will fill in gaps for those underserved in banking. It can assess credit risk, make good decisions, and make the best trades. It makes lending better for everyone – lenders and borrowers.

The presenter was reading a script off his phone, so all I really caught was:

  • Usually white-labelled and works online or through a mobile app
  • You can configure decision rules
  • It has a built-in expert scorecard
  • It’s for all different types of loan/credit products
  • You get Notifications and there is a Document Management element
  • It offers a credit scoring and decision engine – complete info is sent to underwriter and recommendations made
  • Reporting is done through an Executive Dashboard

Hedgeable AI Lab (‘cutting edge artificial intelligence applications for Hedgeable and partner financial institutions around the globe’) was introduced next, by Matthew Key the ‘Head Ninja’. It was set up in 2009 and is ‘pushing boundaries’. It is a private banking platform that previously won a prize at Finovate, thanks to its aim of closing the gap in investment. It has achieved the goal of greater access, says Matthew, but the focus now in on making it more intelligent.

  • Onboarding: smart search on site, and help with application thanks to smart bot.
  • Servicing: using predictive analytics to see what customer will likely need, when they’ll leave.

They also introduced Katana – an intelligent personal assistant. ‘I think I may pee my circuits’ due to the excitement, she said. ‘Will I be able to buy a house?’ you can ask her… yes, she can reply, because you have already set up goals and she can see you have met them or are close. The human-like advice helps deal with ‘customer panic’ – it is objective advice coming from a place of understanding. It can also crunch your bank and credit card data to say things like you’ve spent too much on unicorn fraps at Starbucks – something I think is pretty neat. They have APIs available.

ACH Alert offers ‘CUSTOMER FRAUD PROTECTION PRODUCTS FOR BANKS AND CREDIT UNIONS.’ I didn’t really follow how it worked but their website explains thusly:

‘It all starts with Fraud Prevention HQ, a complete exception decisioning portal (with single sign-on with most online banking systems) that allows your customers to police their own accounts for all types of suspicious transactions. Now you can transform fraud prevention from a cost center into a new fee income opportunity!

Fraud Prevention HQ is modular, allowing you to customize the level of fraud prevention for each of your customers. Learn more about the Fraud Prevention HQ product suite:

PRO-TECH – ACH Positive Pay for incoming ACH transactions

Bio-Wire – Voice biometric protection for outgoing wire transfers

C.O.P.S. – ACH Positive Pay for outgoing ACH credit transactions

Check Positive Pay coming March 2017 and S.C.O.R.E., a patented, automated ACH application, underwriting and real-time ACH origination activity monitoring system, coming soon.’

Apparently in 2016 they monitored $80bn over 70 institutions – and they claim their priority is the account holder, not financial services institutions. They offer ‘actionable alerts’ so that customers can do something with the information.

Home Captain lets you ‘Convert more purchase deals, increase service scores and develop the best in class purchase experience worthy of your brand.’ Grant Moon, founder and CEO, brings on some partners (guys holding signs with their bank name on) and shows us an example of their tech.

Someone looking for a loan on LendingTree will submit details, then pick a loan – in this instance choosing one from Hope Captain partner NBKC. NBKC can send the application to Home Captain to find and match the customer with a suitable realtor, based on their experience and location and rating and so on. NBKC can then watch what happens between the customer and the bank and the real estate agent, and make sure the loan is kept with NBKC. Home Captain also gathers feedback from the customer throughout the process – and says it currently has a 100/100 NPS score.

Alpharank ‘helps retail banks turn their existing information capital (transaction data) into a fair lending compliant social graph that lowers acquisition costs and attrition rates.’ They are working with Capital One, VISA, FirstBank, JPMorganChase, PrivatBank and CitiBank, and it’s an API thing. Brian Ley gave an ‘unconventional presentation’ (using slides rather than doing a demo) but it was allowed because of the techy nature of what they do. Basically, they ‘give you what Facebook won’t’ – connection data – which highly valuable and why the likes of Facebook is worth so much.

Millennials go by word of mouth, says Brian, and so they turn transaction data into a social graph. It shows you the 5-10 people in 150 who are most connected – and encourages you to get them on board. Start with this highly connected dot, Sam, and take him for dinner and he’ll speed up adoption and save you money. It can also be applied to curb attrition – T-Mobile used something similar to cut churn rate. 

‘We believe in creating cultures of compounding referrals. Where each customer acquired makes the next one cheaper, more loyal, and more profitable.’ – Alpharank

Divy lets you ‘turn your everyday thoughts into real investments.’ ‘Discover and own stocks with as little as ten dollars’ in as little as five minutes (real-time trading). There are seemingly no fees or hidden costs – and only one ‘window’ per day for trading. ‘We believe everyone deserves access to investing’ and that ‘Smart investing is the first step to long term savings.’ To combat issues around approachability, accessibility and engagement, Divy gives you an easy way to view your portfolio, the ability to buy and sell from within your portfolio, and immediate access to proceeds for reinvesting. You can browse thematic collections like window shopping and use it like a search engine to find any brand or product. From there you can compare the stock to competitors, and read the CEO’s thoughts and the values of company (CSR). You can learn through doing to improve your financial literacy. Something about a scalable back-end, and the app is available at the end of May.

Divy

Automated Financial Systems (AFS) is ‘Streamlining Digital Lending.’ It gives the world’s banks ‘anytime, anywhere access’ to the industry’s only end-to-end, real-time, fully mobile and digital, front-to-back straight-through processing lending solution ‘designed with the flexibility to grow as you do’ – AFSVision. Amazon and Uber give us what we want when we want; this is similar but real-time commercial lending. You get alerts about stocks falling outside margins but to be honest I totally didn’t understand what they were talking about.

Microblink, well known for PhotoPay, PhotoMath and BlinkIDScan showcased SDK BlinkReceipt, ‘a real-time receipt scanner for mobile apps.’ All data, even each item bought, is extracted from retail receipts, and it even works offline.

This was their 4th Finovate event and first in the States.

The PhotoMath app aimed at students has had 50m downloads, and helps kids learn maths – very cool actually. They can just take a picture of a math problem and the app will talk them through how to solve it.

BlinkID Scan recognises passports and driving licences – super quickly and securely due to local processing – which was also impressive.

Traditional OCR engines struggle with receipt scanning, but with integrated machine learning, this new app lets you scan a receipt and get everything out of it. ‘Go beyond location and amount and get SKU data’ for useful customer insight. They even show pictures of the products in question. It was very cool, and they are about to enter major international markets.

The presenter was very excited and thinks ‘it has lots of potentials’… it ‘could be embedded as a tool to track expenses… For rewards points and cashback… market research… It can do magic!’

Microblink

SESSION THREE Thurs PM

Florian the CEO introduced Speechpro from STC Group, a software company focused on face and voice biometrics, or ‘the leading developer of voice and multimodal biometric systems, solutions for audio and video recording, processing and analytics.’ Their solution reduces cost, increases the experience and the security, and is fully language independent. So there’s ‘no need to remember your first pet’s name.’

As Oleg talks you see the dashboard a call handler might see, with a sort of graph. A wee line goes up and the score keeps refreshing (above 90 i.e. 90% certainty that it’s Oleg) so the call centre agent will know it’s the customer – in real time. The UI can be tuned for your specific needs. When Florian takes over not only does the line go down but his name (and picture) appears!

It works even when he speaks German rather than English. Fraud events are shown in an analytics platform in the back end.

SPEECHPROfinov17

Moxtra ‘provides an embeddable, mobile-centric, client engagement solution for banks that enables powerful collaboration around document workflow.’

Kartik the product guy introduces Moxtra, built by the team who built Webex in 2012. He refers to ‘collaboration for the mobile era.’ It’s already deployed with Citi Bank and will soon deploy with a few others. Its selling points are:

  1. It’s mobile-centric
  2. It is built for document workflows – because communications is ‘around pieces of content’
  3. It is configurable for ‘different levels of touch’, whether it is a prospect, mass market customer or high net worth individual.

The use case shown today is around wealth management. Moxtra is embedded in a bank’s portal. It sends a secure message to the customer, who can see it in his bank app. If the customer asks a question about his portfolio and asks for  a report, the agent can send it over – either from the ‘vault’ or somewhere else like desktop or whatever. The customer can then make basic annotations to the doc and provide an e-signature. Within the solution, you can also use voice and video – with the same annotation tools in play to let you layer sound, text and visuals over the document – and the agent can play it back. Click to call offers the same service – voice layering over a document – and you can choose to add video. You can also share screens and files and use the same annotation features as before.

All of this is timestamped and logged to create an audit trail (for compliance) and the solution is modular.

Kartik recaps the benefits of Moxtra: it aids operational efficiency on the bank’s side, lets them engage with more customers in new ways in less time, and leads to an uptake in customer engagement, who can interact with you in familiar channels.

Who likes being audited?! asks Tavant Technologies, introducing a new suite of products called VELOX. ‘Tavant VELOX product suite is digitally disrupting the mortgage industry with a fluid omnichannel experience and high-velocity execution.’ So there you go. ‘We help you innovate. Digital means moving from document to data-centred model.’

The VELOX suite includes:

  1. FinXperience: Helping you offer a better experience to your consumers (end users or brokers or whatever) in a digital omnichannel way. It’s basically a way to provide a better application process, with adaptive flow and helpful help things along the way.
  2. FinConnect: Allows for connectivity with third party sources – they currently 40 or so ‘adaptors’, and aim to have 60+ by the end of the years. There is an admin platform for internal use (monitoring).
  1. FinCapture: Is a way to upload documents and the platform can parse, index, find keywords and extract data from them to build a digital file. There is, of course, Machine Learning behind it – when a human corrects something, the platform learns.

The suite, they claim, lets you become a trusted data source to build an electronic file and further automate processes. Velox is built on two things: Innovate on the front end, and Optimise on the back end.

I may be biased because we ended up going out for grilled cheese sandwich burgers (don’t ask) together, but the guys from Newchip seemed to be on to something. They are a ‘Startup investment marketplace for millennials to connect to startups they can affordably invest in for as little as $100.’  Travis and Linda presented, and started by asking, ‘Who likes working with millennials?!’ Haha very good. While other platforms are targeting accredited investors, this one is about things that millennials believe in. And yes, everyone between 18 and 35 believes in the same stuff! You can create an account and import your social profile in order to quickly set your preferences and what you like – to match you with what you want to put your money in.

Millennials, says Travis, believe the game is rigged – they haven’t been engaged previously – and his platform is ‘not unlike Tinder’. It’ll learn what you like and don’t, what people like you like and don’t, and continue to optimise. On the other side of the coin, it’s ‘hard to be funded as an early stage startup.’ Moreover, their platform offers  ‘hyper market validation’ – can they engage with their target market? Users can  give their opinions, receive notifications and use the social plugin to share  what they have ‘invested in’ on social media. If 1000 people give $100 and all share on Facebook – these are the best brand ambassadors. ‘Equity crowdfunding,’ says Travis, ‘is the future of small business financing.’

‘No more paper, just send a Digital Check at Checkbook.io. No signup required and no app to download.’ Apparently 17bn paper cheques were written in 2015, amounting to $27trn (5x Mastercard and Visa stats combined, I believe). This new tool lets you fill in your details, verify with a phone number, and send a digital check/cheque to a contact simply with an email address. (The recipient can then ‘deposit’ it digitally too.) The app remembers you if you’ve used it before and works in ‘real-time’. No bank details are stored in servers. You can even upload a CSV to send lots of checks at once, or use their simple Restful API to send a million checks at once. Integrate it with your website and accounting apps (it’s already integrated with Quickbooks) and pay $1 (per cheque?) if you’re a business or get it free as an individual user.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 11.30.35

The final demo of the day came from Lender Price, ‘The most dynamic mortgage pricing and product eligibility engine (PPE) with full mobile functionality, business intelligence and analytics.’ Dawar the CEO introduced this digital mortgage platform, which offers ‘real-time competitive analytics.’ User Experience is ‘at the core’ and it works for all types of loans. It’s built on a ‘big data platform’ and aggregates more than 150 lenders (and their eligibility guidelines) to make it easier for lenders to lend to borrowers – the criteria is already met. It uses machine learning algorithms (final klaxon of this article) and, because it is tracking the (real-time?) data around loans, offers pricing intelligence and product performance ‘sweet spots’ related to rates via pricing anomalies. Lenders get benchmarking and analytics to optimise pricing. Lender Price chose Finovate to announce its new partnership with Black Knight.

Read our thoughts on Finovate Spring Day one here.

BonusContent

FinovateSpring concluded with its first ever panel discussion! ‘Our panelists will recap the key demos and help put the innovations on display into a broader context.’

It was moderated by Ranjit Palkar, Partner at Capco (RP) and the panelists were:

  • Lawrence Tang, Head of Investment Promotion InvestHK (LT)
  • Oded Shoshany, CEO of Celeriti FinTech (OS)
  • Valentina Isakina, Managing Director of JobsOhio (Val)
  • Illya Shell, VP New Product Development and Innovation at MasterCard (IS)
  • Marc Chaifoux, VP of Fintech Intelligence & Innovation at TD Bank (MC)

RP: What is the most interesting stuff you’ve seen over the last two days?

MC: Bank-ready and bank-friendly companies. AI embedded in solutions (this is now table stakes.) We [TD Bank] are very interested in this. Saw a lot of non-tactile interfaces, VR and voice – the next big frontier.
LT: Wealth management robo advisors. There is lots of money earning no return at the moment, so we need more of that! We want to see more of the blockchain.
Val: Maturity in financial technology but also nascent opportunities. Very interesting.
IS: A lot in the mortgage tech space. Big data and analytics – good to see that represented. MasterCard’s primary asset is data. More insights mean being able to provide better tools and solutions [to customers].
OS: Real-time information and transactions. Fed back into experience. I think this is the future of banking. A fully integrated way.

RP: Anything you expected to see but didn’t?

OS: Thought we’d see more on big data. Ability to look at huge sets of data and working out how it is relevant – something we will see more.
IS: Use of social – only Alpha Rank and Neener showed us what’s possible with social data. Didn’t see much blockchain. Maybe a technical solution in search of a problem? A lot of hype and some testing going on but nothing really launched to any scale.
Val: What was missing was around customer problems. Is it addressing some of the larger needs of PEOPLE never mind banks! How can it make their lives better? WEF study said 18 months ago that fintech could transform individuals’’ lives; impact everyone in better way. Think of the bigger higher level opportunities.
LT: Online lending with social media analytics. In Hong Kong, WeLab raised lots of money and they use social media analytics to create a credit score. You get a 15 second loan approval.
MC: A lot of companies talking about online/mobile engagement. What about improving the person-to-person or in-branch experience? SaleMove and CallVu were cool to see – enriching the telephony experience with digital technology.

finovate-panel

RP: What should fintechs be doing in terms of those bigger problems then?

Val: The [fintech] movement is capable of more than just marginal impact to a bank’s financial statement. How can we transform as a society? These are big words that don’t seem real. Think of the pyramid of humanity – we [here at Finovate] are at the tip. The rest of world have incredibly difficult problems. I am asking startups to think about how they can solve those problems. Start with a mission. What legacy can I leave behind? Think about the continuum of society – your life will be over in the blink of an eye. Leave the world better off. If you are mission-driven and passionate, success will follow.
IS: Same – MasterCard is not just about banks but about people. In our commercial products team, we see that around the world there are less established infrastructures (or ‘rails’) and [people] have trouble accessing credit and we focus on how to help them with the right tools and support. For very small companies it all revolves around cashflow; hard [to lend to these companies] when there isn’t enough data; who will take the risk? How are you helping the underserved? There is even a long tail (and opportunity) in established markets like the US and UK.
LT: McKinsey said half of SMEs and individuals are unserved or underserved in banking. There is a $2trn credit gap. [We need] innovative ways of providing lending. Also remittance – In the developing world, many people work outside their home countries, sending money back. Surely this can be done with much smaller charges. Lots of demand for this if you can provide a low-fee remittance service.

‘Leave the world better off. If you are mission-driven and passionate, success will follow.’
– Valentina Isakina, Managing Director of JobsOhio

RP: Ok so what more do you want to say about the analog world, Marc?

MC: Day to day transactions are moving slowly online but much is happening face-to-face… where human relationship drives the difference. There is lots of AI underpinning customer-facing solutions, what about employee-facing experiences? So they can better help customers?
OS: As a core banking provider, it’s a 2-speed situation. The digital front end is fast and lots of innovation; the back office is 30 or 40 years old and the mainframe is very slow-moving… it’s diffult to integrate into. The challenge for fintechs is to go end-to-end and at scale. Easy with ten users but what about millions?! APIs…

‘There is lots of AI underpinning customer-facing solutions, what about employee-facing experiences?’
– Marc Chaifoux, VP of Fintech Intelligence & Innovation at TD Bank

RP: What are (each of) you doing to help fintechs?

IS: MasterCard has an open view; we have a long history of bringing them into the fold. There are 23k banks around the world we consider partners, and we fold in solutions [from fintechs] as well as our own. We have an incubator investment and support and access to resources. We will never design, develop and deliver everything ourselves. You’ve got to start with the problem… startups help solve it… but it we make sure it feels like a single solution in terms of end user.
MC: On one hand you have banks who find it hard to build products cheaply and rapidly in the right timescale – but they do have trust. Then on the other hand you have startups who can build quickly and iterate and their challenge is customer acquisition – it seems obvious that the path forward is greater collaboration. We are interested in a partnership-based approach. Banks are not the easiest to work with – we can’t wave a magic wand over our legacy systems. Take us as we are!
LT: In Hong Kong, the government (central bank) set up a fintech office and a sandbox for FIs and a local institute for fintech research – it’s about ecoysytem building. In the private sector: funds are ready. There is one accelerator that includes the ten largest banks – so fintechs joining it can access the ten biggest banks in the world. China is a big market but hard to crack. Alibaba has a venture fund for those working in Hong Kong. Then access for ecommerce and payment. The market: don’t go for easy money, look at where it will be in the future. A flexible business model is required.
Val: What are startups looking for? Access to customers e.g. banks (partners) and capital. So how can we help? Ohio is a successful state and three large cities. We offer a cohesive package. There is currently fragmented innovation. Ohio is in the Top 5 for fortune 500 company locations. Fintech 71 (the highway that connects north and south!) is the Ohio accelerator. It’s a shared, not-for-profit asset all about partnering and co-discovery.
OS: To be successful you need ecosystems. What made Amazon successful? Marketplace ecosystem. See also Salesforce.com and the app store. We can be a core component and invite others in and make it easier to go to market. There’s a co-banking hackathon here in July – over a weekend, a basic integration can be established best goes to market. More strategic, not just core – we provide a platform to accelerate it.

‘To be successful you need ecosystems.’
– Oded Shoshany, CEO of Celeriti FinTech

RP: Are financial institutions doing anything to simplify the process for fintechs to work with banks (e.g. in making procurement easier)?  

LT: There’s a big opportunity for banks in trade finance. It’s very document intensive. Lots of things to crack. I’m expecting to see more especially with blockchain around smart contracts. It’s possible to simplify this.
Val: On the accessibility question, you must ask: Is the company ready to accept innovation? Is it at their core? It’s always tricky – they have stuff to do (take care of customers and stakeholders etc.) – so where does innovation fall? Unless you are committed to working with startups and innovation, it’ll be very difficult. You have to innovate as part of your business as usual. When we work with private companies, we always ask: Who is the point person? Will fail without this.
IS: Banks are our customer, and we use them as a channel to consumers. We asked them how do you feel about innovating in-house? And they said we don’t like it but we do it. They would rather work with partners. But due to challenges e.g. procurement process, it’s not possible. Don’t expect to change it. It’s a legacy issue that won’t go away… Financial institutions are not procurement optimising companies! They want to work with people like Amazon and MasterCard who can present a single contract and bring smaller companies in behind them. Fintechs can plug gaps via bigger companies [like us].

RP: Social media and brand management. Why should I bother with it?

MC: It’s essential. Big companies not doing it well are being heavily impacted. It’s a strong tool for engagement with our customers. It’s good for the brand – to show how we are growing and evolving and becoming more responsive to customer needs.
LT: It’s essential. The most effective ways to reach people.
OS: Social media is the new way to communicate. All of us need to be where cusotmers are. Whether B2C or B2B on social media. Figure out how to leverage it. It can be so damaging if not managed properly eg United Airlines. If not done at all, you may as well not exist.

RP: Millennials. Do they require special attention or not?

Val: On the earlier question, bout 25 years ago there was questions about why we needed the internet… we are now past that… and it’s part of life. Then 10 years ago we had the same questions about social media… now past that! It’s where opinions and decisions are made. Those who couldn’t engage can now do so directly. With that, millennials are setting new expectations of the workforce, customer service and Financial Services products. Unless you are on top of that, you are missing out on growth (and staying in business).
IS: Yup. Customer engagement and personalisation is critical for any business. The more personal you are with customers (on social media or otherwise) the better – [you’ll see] more engagement and greater use of your apps and a more positive sentiment. It has to be said that MILLENNIALS ARE DIFFERENT. They engage, pay, and communicate differently. They are fundamentally different. Personalisation is the most important thing to them.

‘MILLENNIALS ARE DIFFERENT. They engage, pay, and communicate differently. They are fundamentally different.’
– Illya Shell, VP New Product Development and Innovation at MasterCard

RP: Atlanta is trying to become a fintech hub. Is location important for fintechs?

LT: Some tech is ubiquitous; some is local – so it depends. How big is the market you are trying to serve and is it big enough?
OS: Have the aspiration to be global in your vision but local enough to get started with something relevant. It’s hard to boil the ocean. Look at the big picture – ensure it could be global eventually but start with a local use case.

RP: Being a fintech startup is really about survival rather than global domination. How do I make decisions and prioritise what I do?

Val: When it comes to talent, and partners/customers/clients – do you have to fly or are they next door? Same for capital. Where can I get that soft landing, springboard. I need access to talent and clients and capital. If you have easy access to these, you get a longer runway with the same resources. Think outside the box – you don’t have to share one room with three people! [Rent in an expensive city.]
MC: You need a deep understanding of the regulatory landscape and client base, so that’s important. Our workforce is largely decentralised though.

RP: Can you take inspiration from other sectors and apply to financial services? Or is the sector too unqiue?

OS: It’s not unique when it comes to consumer expectations! What consumers see Google and Apple and Amazon doing – they expect to be able to do with their bank. There are opportunities for cross-pollination. It needs to be done in a relevant way though.
LT: Ecommerce is big everywhere, especially Asia. China alone accounts for 50% of transactions. The more it grows the bigger the demand around payments. They have a third party provider licence – and there are 269 licences live now. Vending machines have 8 labels (on them) for different mobile payment providers – competing for 50c bottle of water!

RP: Tell me one experience that sticks with you regarding working with fintechs.

IS: I work with fintechs regularly and enjoy it, they are all different. The best experience was around mind-mapping – I was shown a unique way of ideating, starting with problem working inside out. It helped me think about innovation differently and working with fintechs differently. Not every organisation is built the same way. Those in the fintech space can be unique and can apply tech to different industries and think openly. Big organisations have siloed ‘legacy thinking’. The speed [of startups] is impressive.
MC: TD Bank sponsored a finctech hackathon at MIT. We brought our tech + Flybits + students together – great results.

RP: Describe the best possible fintech.

LT: Services in China can be mobile-first and mobile-only. Fintech can be a transformer of the Asian market.
Val: As a theme, my dream is to see fintechs that focus on making the world a better place, and use existing and new technology to lift humanity; to lift wellbeing and prosperity.
MC: Good solutions start with a real problem. Currently AI looks like a map of the Philippines – it’s not connected. Thinking through AI strategy to hang different use cases on.
IS: Opening up data and new data sources, and giving wider access. Particularly for underserved markets.
OS: Banks need to sort out silos.

 

 

Read our thoughts on Finovate Spring Day one here.

 

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