Finovate. Worth the Wait

I attended Finovate 2009 (Financial Innovation) in New York on Tuesday, September 29th. I love this format. Thirty-two companies show-up to present their next generation releases and try to convince banks and credit card issuers to buy their solutions and embed them into their online environments. Here’s the really cool part. Each firm gets only 7 minutes on stage and must demo their wares, no PowerPoint allowed.

FinnovateLogo

You don’t want to go first or last here, but in my opinion the pre-lunch slots were the best in terms of keeping the audience’s attention and avoiding the numbing blur of one demo after another. There were a lot of mobile solutions, particularly for payments, as well as personal financial management applications and a sprinkling of social/community. Needless to say I won’t be summarizing all of them, but I want to make mention of the ones I found most interesting based on the following criteria.

  • Utility
  • Uniqueness
  • Innovative
  • Good user experience
  • Helps financial firms solve problems
  • Presentation quality

BrightScope – They had a mission statement. “Help Americans Retire in Dignity.” Their research showed a large percentage of Americans rely heavily on their 401k to support them after they stop working. Their online application rates over 10,000 plans with a simple score and shows you where yours stacks up vs. others. If your plan isn’t there, you can request it be added and in most cases it’s up within two weeks. It has a neat projection tool that calculates shortfalls in money, or additional years you may need to work. They also have a solution for plan advisors as well. I mention them because retirement is being re-thought by almost everyone in the wake of the downturn. Also for their focus on trying to do one thing and doing it well. Visit them here.

BancVue/First ROI – I know, not a memorable name, but their product is called Kasasa (new day). It’s a turn key co-op solution that helps smaller banks come together and at least have some way of competing with the mega-banks. They focus on the younger market by offering a rewards checking program that pays them in iTunes cash. Spending is only part of the solution. The program encourages saving and giving to charity. The marketing is really crisp and encompassing. They seem to have thought of everything; advertising, customization, all the way down to email reminders. Great presentation and the only firm to bring a customer on stage for a testimonial. This one was my choice for best in show and I found out later, that it actually won it. Visit them here.

Kasasa

TILE Financial – Their observation is today’s wealth is sandwiched between the aging population and their financial advisor. When the inevitable time comes, that wealth, about $1 trillion according to TILE, transfers to survivors and the advisor and her firm loses it. Their solution, The Investing Learning Environment (TILE). It helps manage the shift in assets from one generation to the next while keeping the funds and investments at the firm. Three modules in the application, Spend, Grow and Give help young and old make decisions together as well as reinforce the practice of giving back to the less fortunate. They have an elegant user-interface and a strong feature set that seems usable for seniors, but cool enough for their children. The spend module captures where spending occurs and presents company stock price and carbon footprint adjacent to the transactions, expanding the potential horizons. I spoke with them afterwards because I was curious as to how they were selling the product. It needs to travel from advisor to client to their family in order for the relationship to take hold. They didn’t give me a satisfying answer apart from saying this would be most effective to newer wealth. Visit them here.

Yodlee – In the past Yodlee has always been strong in functionality, but not always the most easy to use UI. This time around they clearly focused on the user experience and presentation layer in their upcoming release. Their MoneyCenter product accounts for 90% of their use cases onto one widgetized screen, eliminating pop-ups, glides and page reloads. These widgets can be dragged around the screen to create a personalized environment. The window is framed off with the ability to house critical stats you always want front and center. And oh yes, it’s now blue. These changes are big moves. Viewing, tracking and paying are all here. They have an interesting feature that shows good and bad days to pay based on your cash flow. They announced a partnership with UltraSoft that will come to the rescue of soon to be abandoned MS Money users. Your data will be fully importable to Yodlee in the near future. Visit them here.

Finovate

iPay Technologies – The women who presented really made their product come alive with the use of personas and storytelling. Tops here. They took us inside the world of a small business owner and their back office assistant as they demonstrated the product. Take away here is, the owners are too busy to bother with the office, and the office managers need help getting direction from the owner. Their solution gives business owners a customer database, online invoicing, online payments and choice of templates for easy personalization. Their get paid faster functionality allows business owners to email the invoice and their customers can click into the iPay site and pay right there. An email summary is produced at the end of each day so keeping track of your money is easy. Nice interface. Clean, feature-rich, but not confusing. Visit them here.

That’s my short, short list. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and got some great ideas to bring back to the office. Would consider returning next year.

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