Last week I had the pleasure of
attending Startup Bootcamp’s Fintech Demo Day in London. The place was buzzing
with all manner of sticky-beaks, from VCs to corporate sponsors, techies, early
adopters, and most importantly, the fintech startups themselves. The demo was
designed to give each of the 10 startups a 90 second speaking slot and subsequent
ten minutes of Q&A that took place simultaneously which, much to my
chagrin, meant I had to play favourites!
DISCLAIMER: as with the rest of the
demo day participants, I do not have first-hand experience with any of these
services so this piece is more of a high-level summary of what is to come in
the following 12 months.
my record was about 35 minutes
trying to get through to a long gone mobile phone provider before I slammed
down the phone in frustration (in all honesty it was a digital handset). Enter
Enterprise Bot, which seeks to disrupt customer service within the financial services
industry by using AI powered virtual assistants (VAs). Enterprise Bot provides
financial services companies with a robust, AI-powered VA to enhance customer
experience (how effectively the algorithm does this for more complex questions
is pure speculation at this point). The white-labelled solution can be deployed
on various platforms and answers a ‘broad range of customer queries’ which,
according to founder Ravina Mutha, cuts contact centre costs by 40% and end
user hold time by a staggering 90% (If that is indeed true, this is one robot
I’d gladly wine and dine)!
As its name suggests, this is a Eurocentric
product that will spark little interest beyond the continent. Its target market
is the 30 million strong cohort of mobile Europeans currently being poorly
served by incumbent banks. Due to unnecessary friction, overseas clients suffer
exorbitant costs and long delays (I faced similar frustrations trying to open a
UK bank account when I moved to London from Melbourne).
Europeone claims to be the first bank
to empower its customers to manage their finances from any European location in
their native language. It aims to disrupt the existing money remittance
providers by combining the latest in app technology, 4G mobile networks and the
EEA’s passporting regulations which essentially creates a single European market
for financial services with banks able to ply their trade across the region without having to be
separately authorised in each country.
Similarly, small businesses in Europe
get a raw deal from the banks, with lengthy sign-ups and clunky user interfaces
that you’d expect to see on a Commodore 64. The team at Penta claim to have a
solution by providing a simple and convenient business bank account with access
to third party APIs allowing customers to pick and choose which services they
need without incurring the habitual costs and rigid packages that come with
traditional small business banking.
Flexible working arrangements and
bring your own device (‘BYOD’) are undoubtedly the way forward but create
considerable data protection and cybersecurity risks. KyoLAB is a RegTech startup
aiming to bridge the gap between compliance and popular mobile messaging apps. FS
regulations in the EU require secure retention of all electronic communications
and virtual real-time retrieval for audit purposes, otherwise subjects risk
multi-million dollar fines. The Financial Conduct Authority, the UK’s financial
regulatory body, and the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II),
which comes into force in January 2018, require that all e-communications are
monitored, retained and retrievable to ‘deter, detect and prevent market
KyoLAB allows clients to archive and
monitor mobile messaging, such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Messenger and more by
providing a transparent audit trail for the most popular current messaging
apps, supporting both corporate devices and BYOD culture. Having happily used a
secure company phone for the past 18 months, which doubled as a personal device,
and resisted the urge to communicate sensitive client data via Whatsapp, I have
my doubts about the ‘stickiness’ of this offering.
Have you ever gotten home after a
long day and seen a pile of utility bills on your kitchen table? Not fun! The
team at MoBILLity enables consumers to unlock savings on their bills that most
of us busy folk gloss over between reaching for our credit card and thinking
about what to cook for dinner. According to CEO, Lukas Zoerner, an estimated
£15 billion in potential savings is left on the table each year by UK consumers
(this is almost the GDP of Iceland)! Unlike the service aggregation platforms
that operate on a commission basis, MoBILLity uses a profit sharing approach
with its customer (which differs across providers) in order to be fully
impartial and neutral.
PACE Invoice enables SME businesses
to issue invoices which their international clients can pay locally in their
own currency. For the client, this provides a streamlined user experience which
encourages timely payment and, according to the founders, is proven to reduce
payment delinquencies. Moreover, PACE Invoice helps to reduce FOREX exposure
whilst ensuring that users receive 100% of the amount invoiced. Furthermore, all
inbound payments are automatically reconciled reducing office man hours.
Given my background as a commercial
contracts lawyer, this one definitely got me excited! Trakti is a peer-to-peer
business negotiation and contract management platform. Capturing corporate
knowledge and recording it in a useful, meaningful format for the benefit of
posterity is the Achilles heel of any corporate behemoth. Many companies still have
warehouses full of paper, sift through data manually and store long forgotten
excel files in some dark corner of a network drive that only company veterans
seem to recall.
Trakti, on the other hand, features a
seamless platform that streamlines contract negotiations – from financial data
gathering to financial settlements. It was difficult to ascertain during the short
presentation how all of the relevant data is gathered and interrogated and the
extent of user input that is required. However, founder, Luigi Telesca, did
emphasise that the platform is blockchain enabled to import greater transparency
into the P2P platform post-contract execution.
Today’s convergence of exponentially
growing technologies has radically lowered the barriers to entry for fintech startups
such as these which form part of a sector that numbers over
. The fintech sector has amassed funding of over US$45B
and runs the gamut from lending, personal finance and remittances through to
institutional investing, security and infrastructure.
Financial services incumbents have
three choices. Do nothing, innovate internally or partner with startups. Given
the legacy infrastructure and bureaucratic culture underpinning most incumbent banks
and financial service providers, doing the latter would seem to be the most
prudent path of action in order to not only diversify but to start embedding entrepreneurial
thinking and behaviours into their motherships.
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