Finovate Fall 2017: Recap

I had the great fortune of attending Finovate this year. After sharing thoughts with some colleagues at Capital One, I thought it might be useful to share it with the broader world. Here are some quick notes on the demos that stood out for me.

(Update: I’ve added links to all of the demos now that they’re available on Finovate.com)


Investing — there were a number of companies that demoed trading applications for consumers.

  • Trading platforms like NVSTR, Stash and Voleo were interesting, and all had admirable qualities. I really liked Stash’s UX, but the advice needs more context (see Envestnet below). Voleo’s concept is interesting (building democratic investing clubs that use group votes to build a portfolio), but it felt like tech in search of a customer problem. Divy was the most troubling of the group; the UX was amazing, but the demo included choosing automotive stocks because you thought Tesla was cool. Is there really a segment of customers who is both {uneducated about trading} & {willing to jump in blindly}?
  • The winner of the bunch was Envestnet. I’ve not been bullish on PFM in the past, but Envestnet’s job of contextualizing the investment approach was superb. They didn’t just provide you the assessment (e.g. “You are off track for your retirement goals”) they gave you a simple interface to understand how little changes like saving an extra $25/month would get you back on track. Superb job.

Lego Banking — borrowing the term from Chris Skinner, there were several modular banking demonstrations though fewer than in 2016.

  • eBankIT continues to stand out to me. Their demos are great, and their expectations seem realistic. In chatting with their team after the event, they mentioned a lead time of 3 months at a minimum for implementation, though some have taken up to a year.
  • Wave also stood out to me because of their beautiful account visualizations. Targeted at Small Businesses, they did a great job of demoing invoice and Accounts Receivable management, and general reporting.
  • MX was interesting, but basically just showed data on why their apps lead to improved customer feedback, rather than demoing new capabilities.

Data Analysis and Management — there were only a couple of data players that caught my eye.

  • Kinetica demonstrated “GPU accelerated database searches” with a variety of lightning fast Twitter searches. The promise of this is huge, particularly as banks move to either real-time analytics and/or receipt-level analysis and recommendations.
  • The other company that stood out was Endor. They offer the ability to answer any question like “Who is the best choice for…” where the optimal result is a rank ordered list. E.g. “Which is branch most likely to provide $10M in new deposits?” or “Which channel is most likely to drive effective x-sell of loans”? They claim to be able to make effective recommendations with only 20 data points. The potential for customer management with this tool is massive

Security / Identity Management — always a big topic during Finovate, there were a number of identity management demos (along with requisite Equifax jokes).

  • Spy Cloud assessed how users of a particular company’s products may have had their assets compromised (e.g. their email address) by scanning what’s available on the black market. If it detects a compromise, they would auto-change the user’s password on their site.
  • Mitek and Sensory demoed different versions of facial identification, but Sensory’s demo was particularly relevant. They demoed using your face to perform stepped up authentication prior to certain transactions. For example, “Alexa, what is my balance?” may proceed, but “Alexa, pay Kevin $200” would require a facial scan prior to proceeding. Interesting approach.
  • Privakey and Averon demoed 2FA solutions, with Averon’s linking with cell networks to register devices to your account.

Payments — were featured less than in prior years, but a few company demos stood out.

  • Identitii markets themselves with three words: “Know your transaction”. However, rather than an improved security or fraud experience, what Identitii seems to offer is a really slick UX for B2B payments. The Identitii solution sits on top of existing rails (e.g. ACH, Swift) and seems particularly effective for x-border payments. A partnership with a network would be a smart outcome for both parties.
  • Q2 Holdings demoed a portfolio company called Card Swap. Seen at previous Finovate shows, Card Swap is a password manager with payment motivations. It stores your password for sites and then either updates your card number at biller sites, or simply replaces it with a token.
  • BillShark demoed what seems like black magic: the ability to cancel recurring and card on file payments, and negotiate payments with other services. I’m not entirely sure if it works, but the demo was impressive.

Other — there were a host of truly unique companies that demoed that don’t neatly fit into other categories.

  • College Affordability demoed a web 1.0 looking checklist to help assess the cost of attending different universities. Think of the US News and World Report you looked at in 2001, but online.
  • Blue Rush / Individeo demoed an AI-based video assistant that would walk you through a retirement forecast. Seemed like a good tool in partnership with someone like Envestnet above.
  • Unison was, again, the most unique of the presenters. Unison offers the ability for institutional investors to invest in residential real estate directly, rather than with securitizations. They offer to split a down payment with the home buyer, and retain the equity stake while the home is occupied. Tons of questions remain on how this is possible, but it’s a neat approach.
  • Sustainably offers a “Keep the Change” like program for charity. Every (debit) purchase you make would be rounded up, with the change being donated to a charity of your choice. The program is being offered in a white label format to employers to help align CSR with employee interests, but I think this has bigger applications with activism sites directly to consumer, and in markets with mandatory CSR requirements (e.g. India).

Big Companies —finally, there were many established companies at Finovate this year, demoing software or tech that was only marginally interesting:

  • Adobe demoing the ability to scan faces when entering a branch
  • Experian demoing a mobile credit application
  • Samsung demoing the ability to totally miss the point and make a 7 minute ad for their products

Overall, it was another great show. Looking forward to seeing demos in SF in 2018!