Trends and Takeaways from the Finovate Conference

Oct 29, 2018

While attending a different industry conference recently, I was reminded why Finovate remains one of my favorite events on the fintech calendar.

Given the popularity of TV programs like “Shark Tank” and a natural business desire to discover the latest technology, most banking conferences have added some “quick pitch” component to their agendas. The now ten-year old Finovate franchise sets itself apart in two ways, however: 1) Their product demos are the show’s primary focus, and attendees get to see roughly 75 of them in a two-day burst; 2) The seven-minute presentations are just that- demos. No slideware, no videos, nothing but a live look at the product in action. This of course heightens the suspense and while things don’t always go smoothly, I’ve seen plenty of companies make favorable impressions despite technical glitches.

Finovate Fall 2018 took place in New York City in late September (one of five annual events spanning the globe) and as always, I was interested not only in the most compelling new ideas, but also discerning trends in the categories attracting the most interest among innovators and audience alike. For instance, the once-white hot blockchain area was noticeably less prominent, and while chatbots and robo-advisors continued to be well represented, their theme had shifted from a pure “cool factor” to more nuanced value propositions. In fact, one of the Best in Show winners touted an “empathy engine” that interprets when client responses are becoming frustrated, enabling an interaction to be re-routed accordingly. Omni-channel solutions promising to integrate voice technology into a holistic banking experience were also in ample supply.

However, the most represented solution group addressed needs in authentication, verification and security- which isn’t surprising, given the continuing trail of data breaches and the need to securely enable the continued growth in e-commerce. It’s a “big tent” category, spanning ideas as diverse as facial scanning, voice recognition, fingerprint authentication, social media fingerprints, white-listing and pre-emptive dark web scanning. “The password is dead” was a common refrain- it’ll be interesting to see if one of these companies hastens its demise.

Another change in the dynamic is a function of the heated (some would say overheated) fintech market. In past years many presenters’ main goal was to attract the attention of investors- they’d wrap up their stage pitches by saying as much. The supply/demand dynamic has shifted, however, meaning that a good idea has probably already found its funders. Finovate presenters these days are more likely to be seeking customers or industry partners. These are generalizations, however; one of the show’s beauties is its window into a wide array of products, sectors (e.g., consumer and business banking, wealth management) and companies.

Although the roster is clearly weighted toward startups, established companies launching new products are also part of the mix. For example, Adobe, Experian and ING were each on the fall agenda. Deluxe itself has taken the stage on two occasions, introducing a pair of its newer financial offerings- SwitchAgent and eChecks.

In a recent webinar, I shared my takeaways from Finovate NYC with Deluxe, going into greater detail on the companies that grabbed my attention, the five Best in Show winners (two of which received my vote as well), and the overall emerging themes. I hope you’ll take the time to listen and consider whether any of these ideas might prove useful in your operation, now or in the future.
You can watch any of the FinTech demo videos by clicking this link and looking for the company or product you want to learn more about.

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