Ian McKenna: The next wave of tech to hit the advice market

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Finovate is well established as a must see event for anyone who wants to keep up with the latest developments in financial technology. Across four shows – Europe in February, West Coast US in May, New York in September and now in Asia in November – it presents valuable insight into the technology that will be targeting your clients typically 12 to 24 months from now.

The seven-minute-only demos format, with no slides allowed, ensures the event proceeds at an electric pace and that you are seeing real technology, not people’s future plans that do not yet exist. Seventy demo sessions over two days can actually be quite draining.

While no substitute for being there and networking, if you cannot get to the event you can still catch up from its archive of videos of all the presentations since it started 10 years ago, which can be found on its website. They usually go up a couple weeks after the show, so they should be online by the time you read this.

Typically, Finovate shows incorporate a cluster of different themes, including security, payments and software to help banks sell more products to consumers. Rather than try and create a synopsis of the presentation, I have listed below the demos that really caught my attention and why I think it is worth readers going online to view them.

Normally, what we are now increasingly calling digital wealth management or digital advice is a significant cohort, although in this last show there were fewer such offerings. I do not know if this means digital advice is now so mainstream it is not sufficiently innovative to get on the agenda. As I think is more likely, we are seeing a lull in activity while people move from digital advice 1.0 and start building even more advanced solutions.

There are a number of Finovate perennials that seem to exhibit at every show, demoing whatever their latest developments are. Some of these – for example, MX and Moven – are always pushing the boundaries with new ideas that are well worth watching. Others tend to lose my attention very fast.

Overall, I took a couple of key messages from Finovate Fall. First, 2017 is going to be the year of the “chatbot” judging by much of what was demonstrated. Chatbots give you tiny slices of information about your financial lives and in this context try to encourage better financial behaviour. It is an interesting approach, leveraging nudge theory and behavioural science, and one I expect to be more successful than some cynics will suggest.

Another point that resonated strongly with me at the show was that the UK is now nowhere near as far behind the US in the digital advice field. Personal finance bot start-up Cleo has already built a following among a number of our team and micro savings tools like True Potential’s impulseSave and another start-up MoneyBoxApp show how the UK is becoming a powerhouse too.

The companies I found particularly interesting at Finovate Fall, and whose videos I would strongly recommend viewing, were:

  • Sindeo presented an excellent streamlined customer experience for new mortgage lending. Having a service like this in the UK would be a massive step forward for borrowers and might help make the Government’s seven-day mortgage switching announced in the Queen’s Speech a reality.
  • Usually security solutions bore me to death but Daon presented a platform that actually seemed to be capable of embracing just about every different biometric security mechanism you can think of, letting the customer choose whatever they feel comfortable with.
  • TokBox presented an interesting use of omni-channel technology to support remote financial advice.
  • Personetics showed its MoneyCube service, which asks consumers questions to get to know them better financially and then provides valuable insights to help them better understand their finances. This is a great example of the sort of bot type services I referenced above.
  • ProActive showed a great digital budgeting tool to help users take effective control of their spending.
  • Envestnet Yodlee also gave a great example of how chatbots can help extract useful financial insights for clients that had clear implications for financial planners.
  • M1 Finance showed a very neat tool to help users create portfolios for short, medium and long terms savings with a very neat rebalancing service.

A longer summary of the Finovate demos I really liked and why will appear shortly on F&TRC’s DigitalWealthInsights.com.

Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre