Finovate Spring 2011 Roundup

May 16th, 2011 | Posted by

Last week I headed out to San Francisco for Finovate Spring. Finovate is my favourite conference of the year for a few reasons. I actually attend the demos and am not in meetings the entire time; the demos are a short 7 minutes – more than enough time for an analyst to make a quick judgement; and finally, it is a true showcase of bank innovation. It’s a mix of companies, some are 2 guys in a garage, others are small companies, and a few are established players. The range of solutions on display is interesting, exciting, and thought provoking. This year, Finovate Spring was extended into a 2 day event with 64 companies presenting their wares. The event had a record turnout – I was told about 800 people. Banks are now very well represented at this event, something that was not the case just 2 years ago.

Three key themes emerged from the conference:

Bill pay is a commodity. The features and use around bill pay are where the innovation and opportunity lie. I was astounded at the number of firms with solutions related to bill pay. These included, Balance, Bill.com, Bills.com, BillFloat, ChargeSmart, Doxo, Mitek, paydivvy, and PayNearMe.

P2P and other payments are being pitched in an effort to drum up interest. P2P payments, social payments, POS payments, you name it. Lots of want to be disruption here. Interestingly, the P2P payments vendor landscape is still growing with fims like Liqpay. Paypal/Discover demoed a joint solution. Other firms with payments related offerings are BrainTree, Dwolla,and peerTransfer .

Small Businesses have online needs that aren’t being met. Startups and other firms have taken note. I recently spoke to American Banker about this trend. Firms in this space include, Bill.com, Kabbage, Lendio, Wipro, and Xero.

Rewards Programs are all the rage. Banks are looking to cut costs, consumers want deals, and merchants want to better target potential customers. These presenting firms believe that this is a win-win combination – Billeo, BankOns, Clovr, and FreeMonee.

There were still a fair number of PFM-like demos, but nothing that really grabbed the audience’s attention (or mine). I’m glad that this topic didn’t overwhelm this show as it has in the past.

The question is which of the presenting companies did I like? In what’s become an annual tradition, I plan to profile my top 10 in an upcoming Celent report (link to 2010 report). The 2011 report will single out the innovative startups that Celent believes will have an impact on the banking space and/or the consumer market (many of these startups bypass the bank channel and market their products directly to consumers).

Here are some of my selection criteria:

  • Realistic business model
  • Innovation and new product development
  • Potential for the solution to be sold by banks
  • Potential for the solution to fill a void in the market

The audience did have their favorites, and were asked for their top picks. The best in show awards went to (in alphabetical order) BancVue, Bankons, Dwolla, Mitek, oFlows, PayNearMe, and Wikinvest.

Stay tuned for the report. In the meantime I invite you all to post your Finovate comments and feedback.