By Sam Kilmer
The labyrinth known as San Francisco’s Hilton Union Square had decent tech startup, VC and banker energy just a few weeks ago for the Finovate meeting. (That's a few MONTHS ago in fintech or dog years). I was there leading sessions in the Customer Experience summit (message me if you want those takeaways), but sat in on most of the other sessions.
Shout out to participating companies that played along with the gimme-something-good-quick model Finovate established. That left ample time for attendees to focus on other important debates.....like whether the financial health app demo would give them back a “YOU ARE SOMEWHAT UNSTABLE” rating again.....or whether the cioppino was better at Scoma’s or Sotto Mare.
So, here are my 3 Finovate takeaways, made consumable in half the time it would take you to see even one demo session. Let me know what you think.
There were many good demos. The ones I liked aren't necessarily the ones that won best in show. If you want the play-by-play and crowd-sourced view of the world, check out the blogs from Finovate or William Mills.
This is 100% my opinion that reflect my bias toward things like commercial banking and credit union front-end applications. On that note, let's roll out of the gate with opinion: I'm calling BS on presenters who brazenly sidestep the demo only “no slides” rule by yammering over visuals on web pages. Look, when it’s three minutes into a seven-minute “demo” session and the demo has yet to start, it dishonors the audience and Finovate should bang the gong. There were a few other violators, but I’m talking mainly about you, Ziggurat. It’s a show-and-tell, not a tell-and-tell-and-then-maybe-show. Lame.
Service & Sales AI & Human Trade-off
The mashup of AI and human contact was a key thread of the event. And, hands down, Glia, was the best demo. While we can debate the psychological demand for specific concierge bots with identities for specific use cases, the co-browsing, audio, video, never dialing, and showing both consumer and employee side of improved service experience in under seven minutes was impressive. Voca.ai and Agent IQ also both had solid demos in this category.
Horizn and Terafina both had solid demos of processes that are tough to show in 17 or 77, let alone seven minutes. Horizn’s demo, which included M&T and US Bank sites, was smart. Weaving in large reference clients without chest pounding is a growing trend at Finovate, because many of these companies aren’t really startups looking for investors as much as established companies looking for wider market share. And Terafina is playing in the digital sales category that is white hot right now in the midsize bank, credit union, and related fintech market that my company Cornerstone Advisors addresses. If you are digging into that area, check out this recent research study on the topic.
Data Visualization, Move on Up!
I liked Neener Analytics’ demo spatially visualizing data findings. Cinchy’s data visualization was also great. Business intelligence apps have notoriously generated outputs that are curious but not compelling. The data eye candy at this Finovate sizzled like DJ Goyo’s ear candy spinning vintage Curtis Mayfield vinyl at the reception.
Security & Identity
Security and identity demos are always tough, but I saw creative sessions from Trulioo, ID R&D, and ALTR that make me think that is changing (or more thought is being put into use cases). ALTR felt more visual pitch than a “demo,” so demerits there. And I'm no security expert for sure, but that was the best security presentation I recall ever seeing. BreachRX’s turnkey prep app for data breaches gets good marks, too. Plenty of demand there.
Money Movement & Use Cases
Expense Wizard from U.S. Bank was pretty cool in the way it embedded their money movement capabilities. Strands & Mastercard had an impressive demo of Business Financial Management app involving machine learning and connecting to subject matter expertise.
Standalone personal financial management (PFM) has been a category heavy on bubble charts but light on adoption, but business users are more professionally vested and the stakes are higher. I get it. It's BFM, not PFM, pal!
Content to Drive Engagement and Revenue
Bluerush talked up the response lift of converting even basic compliance content (like statements) into personalized videos. Good stuff. Pod.io demoed embedded knowledge/event content into an interactive mapping app. I liked the demo, but it needs network momentum and my first take is it might be a good pick up or functionality match in LinkedIn or Facebook instead of for individual financial institutions.
Sou Sou embedded content into more of a social app. While I didn’t totally get the entire social fit in the U.S. market, the ability to track denied credit appliers into credit worthiness and earn CRA credits made perfect sense. Beyond compliance, that's just good business and great engagement adding value and growing with customers.
As far as I could tell, these three firms were getting close to the “scalable empathy” Steven Ramirez was talking about in the CX pre-conference summit. (Actually, I’m still trying to figure out what Steven meant by that, but scratching your head thinking for weeks is yet another benefit of Finovate.)
At another recent conference at which I spoke, in an audience of 300 bank and credit union execs, exactly three people reported confidence in their content being ready for digital-first buyers. There could be entire conferences dedicated to monetizing better engagement value from more interactive content like these firms and others were demonstrating. HUGE demand out there and more coming soon.
Usually, it's the informal unplanned off-the-cuff comments nestled deep in the middle of sessions that catch the state of the state in fintech. A few nuggets that caught my attention...
Rilla Delorier of Umpqua Bank: “Enough of the scare talk. Good news, banks: We have customers. At Umpqua Bank, we sold Pivotus to Kony to focus on our people. We know we can compete and win with customers on HOW we use tech with our people.”
Michael Lewis of Citi: “It’s not about features, but about the right product with the right experience for that group.”
Steven Ramirez of Beyond the Arc: “The design of the customer experience should go hand-in-hand with the design of the metrics.”
Robyn Burkinshaw of Blytzpay: “Fintech can be a platform for inclusion. [The experience as a female founder] has been a challenge. I’ve been there when people looked past me and asked men the questions. I work harder.”
Dave Mooney of Alliant: “Pick what (and what NOT) to do and focus on management attention and intent….to avoid innovation theater.”
Jon Zanoff of TechStars: “Look for companies’ access to data, ability to cleanse data, and what have they been surprised to learn from their data.”
Hallway Banter & Energy
Shout out to Finovate’s Greg Palmer and facilitator Steven Ramirez for keeping the pace on point, the tone light, and bringing thoughts together. One of the real benefits (if not THE biggest benefit) of this event isn’t necessarily the demos or the sessions themselves, but the conversations provoked by the demos and the sessions.
Thanks to Sharon Osterholt, Alex Jimenez, Chris Nichols, Steve Shaw, Heather Sugg, Kevin Tweddle, Dave Potterton, Mike Richardson, Lisa Gold Schier, Troy Morrison, Marie Gimbrone and many others for the sidebar chats and notes trading. Hope to see you in New York at Finovate Fall. Stay safe out there on the fintech road.
Sam Kilmer leads advisory for fintech, vendors, and investors at Cornerstone Advisors. For info www.crnrstone.com.