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Finovate Fall- Best of Show, Key Themes, and Cool Ideas

The always intriguing Finovate conference followed the rest of society into the digital sphere last week, adapting its tried-and true model of seven-minute demos of cutting edge financial technology just slightly for the new format. While the buzz of a packed auditorium devouring live demos was missing, the ideas being pitched were as compelling as ever.

The best innovations are designed to address demonstrated customer pain points. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many such existing challenges into the spotlight while creating new ones. The focus of this batch of Best of Show winners illustrates the priorities front and center in audience members’ minds.

Let’s look at the audience-selected Best of Show honorees and other themes and takeaways from Finovate Fall. (You can also hear my interviews with my four favorite presenting companies on this week's BIGCast:

Best of Show

Two of the five winners addressed a similar but longstanding need for credit unions and community banks. Finzly, a relatively young service provider from North Carolina, and Q2, a more established one from Texas, each presented its spin on an “App Store” model enabling banks to rapidly implement new digital functionality without the usual core integration barriers. As more customer interactions take place digitally, it’s essential for smaller institutions to keep pace on features with their deep-pocketed big bank competitors. The devil’s in the details, as they say- I’d want to better understand the contract process when additional modules are selected from the store, for instance- but at the level of detail a ten-minute demo allows, both were quite compelling.

Lendsmart, ironically, is one of the solutions available in Finzly’s App Store. The NYC-based company offers an AI-driven platform for home buying, walking shoppers through a Turbo Tax-style interview to collect necessary info. This fact gathering process also helps identify adjacent product opportunities, and when integrated with bank systems Lendsmart’s engine pre-fills a mortgage application, greatly limiting a borrower’s required input.

Perhaps my favorite of the five winners was Monit, a newly-launched solution providing AI-driven cash flow projections for SMBs. Offered through banks, Monit focuses on a longstanding pain point for SMBs as well as a top priority for FIs looking to serve them. Of course, COVID-19 has only made these needs more acute. Monit also introduced a module to address the thorny issue of PPP loan forgiveness, making it available free to SMBs for a limited time.

Finally, Canadian firm Horizn was the sole repeat Finovate winner of the batch. Horizn enables remote workforce engagement- a model that clearly resonates more now than ever.

More Highlights

My week’s single greatest “Mind Blown” moment came courtesy of KioWare, which has provided software for point-of-sale kiosks for nearly 20 years. Its market includes retail outlets like fast food ordering, but they also serve over 400 FIs. The new KioTouch product is designed to alleviate discomfort with filthy public touch screens- a concern which actually predates COVID, especially in other countries. By scanning an on-screen QR code, the customer’s phone becomes the mouse, eliminating any need to touch the screen. Better yet, no personal data is exchanged.   

Identity verification solutions continued to play a prominent role in the lineup, and of course the dual need for authentication and a smooth customer experience has only grown. SMB services are clearly top of mind as is AI, as evidenced by its multiple references. Another standout for me was Remitter, with its intriguing use of AI to optimize collections processes- a service that sadly seems poised for greater demand.  

I’m already looking forward to the next batch of breakthrough ideas at Finovate West in late November.     

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