Two weeks ago I was in Singapore for the inaugural Finovate Asia event which showcased the very best in leading edge financial technology from the Far East.
Whilst the location meant there were a number of local organisations exhibiting for the first time it did not restrict the geographical reach of the event with firms from Europe and America also being well represented.
At any Finovate show you are going to see several presentations on a number of recurring themes. Mobile security, mobile payments, targeted digital marketing campaigns and a whole range of ideas around bank 2.0, or should it now be 3.0, are always going to be part of the show.
My main interest was very much the latest innovations in personal financial management tools although it can be fascinating to see what is going on in other areas and sometimes find one solution that could have valuable application elsewhere.
Without doubt the big news from Finovate Asia was Barclays pending launch of a PFM solution to roll out to 4.5 million customers early next year.
I have already written extensively about their plans (see Banks will increasingly use technology to attract IFAs target market, 7 Nov) so this column focuses on other highlights although it is worth making the point that some of the more advanced PFM features, which, I understand, are not yet confirmed for the Barclays version, showed easy ways that customers can take far more control of their day to day budgeting and the true impact of individual expenditure on their overall finances.
One of the things I find really invigorating about Finovate as an event, is it provides a diverse range of cultural perspectives on issues.
This was even more so at the Asia show where a number of exhibitors demonstrated approaches that were significantly at variance with the traditional UK thinking.
It is all too easy to get into a mindset that suggests that just because something has always worked in a particular way it should always be the case.
For example, I have had a number of conversations recently with financial services software providers who do not believe it is practical to build a truly global financial planning solution because of local issues such as taxation, regulation and other legislative restrictions. However, Dutch software supplier Figlo demonstrated that multinational platforms can be delivered when they showed their latest tablet based planning application.
Whilst the impacts and benefits of PFM are for the most part not really understood within the UK advice sector, elsewhere in the world it is a standard tool that millions of consumers use on a daily basis. For example, Yodlee, one of the leading aggregation services, currently has in excess of 40 million users worldwide.
Consequently just showing basic PFM tools is really not going to impress anyone at Finovate. What those exhibiting need to do is show new and exciting ways of enabling PFM to help more consumers do more things, take better control of their money and secure better deals for the things they do and buy every day
A great example of this was the way Malaysia based PerfectSen have created a product called The Hook. It is designed to use PFM to increase an organisation’s bottom line, by filling spare screen real estate with target offers based on the customers’ lifestyle and goals.
I had an interesting conversation only last week about how some advice firms are becoming wholesale buyers of a wide range of services for their clients, especially in the At Retirement area, this service seems entirely suited to supporting such an approach.
A number of presenters really caught my eye as adding an extra dimension.
Social trading networks where investors follow the strategies of other successful investors are nothing new. eTorro has been around for several years but Ayondo which has a UK based proposition provided excellent food for thought in outlining its objectives as bringing “Low cost Alpha for everyone” not a prospect that will be very popular with the active fund management community I would imagine but perhaps something advisers might want to monitor themselves and even experiment with using the dummy account feature that is offered.
E Finance Lab gave a truly fascinating presentation on how psychometric testing could be used as a way of measuring if those who have not previously held a bank account were potentially good credit risks.
Whilst there is a very vigorous debate over the use of psychometric testing in the assessment of a client’s attitude to risk this is the first time I have ever heard it put forward as a method of credit assessment. Whilst I cannot see lenders wanting to use such tests in place of traditional credit ratings where they are available, this certainly raises an interesting additional method of assessment that might be employed in borderline cases.
Saving the best until last, I felt the outstanding presentation of the show came from people who were not even selling anything but were just there to share what they have done.
UBank is an online proposition backed by National Australia Bank. It demonstrated itspeoplelikeu.com.au site which is very much worth a visit to see a great example of how this sort of analysis can help consumers recognise their affinities and how other people in similar circumstances address managing their money. Time spent playing with this site will be invaluable for anyone trying to understand the “people like you” concept.
Although there are several topics that are outside specialist areas of interest it was well worth the time and money to fly to Singapore to see first-hand what was being presented and have the opportunity to talk one to one with those really driving innovation.
It is just under three months until the next Finovate, the London show in February and I am already looking forward to it.
Ian McKenna is director of Finance & Technology Research Centre