Reporter's Notebook: Day 1 FinovateFall Favorites

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Though the prevalent fashion trends of FinovateFall attendees were khakis, polo shirts and suits, the financial innovation technology displayed on stage during the first day of the fintech event somewhat broke from tried-and-true staples of years past.

At Finovate, startups and established finance technology companies demo — and sometimes role-play — their latest products and services in seven minutes or less to an audience of bankers, journalists, analysts, investors and startup entrepreneurs. In other words, it's like Fashion Week (which is also taking place this week) for financiers.

Among the more than 30 demos that were presented today in Manhattan, PFM, small business tools and shopping mobile enhancements were the major themes. Though there was a range of interesting innovations demonstrated, a number of companies struck me as particularly refreshing for the financial services industry — some because of their clean interfaces, some because of their promise to innovative banks and others because of their practicality in resolving banking-related pain points. In my opinion, here are the standout presenters in alphabetical order from Wednesday's demos:

BCSG - Business Centric Services Group

Providing new services for small businesses was the aim of several new products revealed today at Finovate. U.K.-based BCSG was one of them. Indeed, it wants to offer the busy small business owner relief through its new product release to the U.S.: Business Hub. The Hub offers small business owners a variety of cloud-based tools, including a website builder, online accounting software and legal document creator. Business Hub is available for banks to white label.

Billhighway

Donating to a charity can be too much work.

Billhighway is striving to lessen that pain point with its new fundraising mobile payment app. It has a new app called Give that's aimed at donor-based nonprofits and provides a variety of ways consumers can pay. One way? Swiping a card through a dongle attached to a phone (think Square).

The company tried out Give during Finovate by collecting funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Deluxe Corp. (DLX)

In a moment of déjà vu for last year's Bank Transfer Day, Deluxe showed a new service for helping consumers switch banks.

Called SwitchAgent, the idea behind the new offering is to help customers quit bad banking relationships and open accounts with hopefully better ones. The service starts off with a wannabe bank dumper scheduling a phone interview with a SwitchAgent rep to arrange details such as transferring recurring withdrawals to his new account. Furthermore, Deluxe helps consumers switch their automated bill-pay ties into a new account. Historically, automated bill-payments have been one of the main hurdles stymieing a consumer's efforts to ditch a bank.

SunTrust Bank is piloting the product.

LearnVest

No doubt that Alexa von Tobel, founder of venture-backed LearnVest, stole the first half of the show - and the Finovate Twittersphere. A sampling of abbreviated tweets from Finovaters:

- Beautiful UX by @LearnVest. Congrats @alexavontobel and team on a killer demo.

@YaronSamid

-Here to really disrupt the financial planning space, already have 50 planners, financial advice should not be a luxury

@ianmckennaftrc

-#learnvest wants to do financial planning on #finovate a lot of beautifully crafted numbers and charts

@indgroup

During the demo, LearnVest announced that it has become an SEC-Registered Investment Advisor and will pair its members with certified financial planners. LearnVest wants to make finding a financial expert as easy as joining a gym, said von Tobel.

Dashlane

Beyond busting out some techie humor (i.e. "I like to eat chips not embed them in phones"), Dashlane appealed to me a lot because of its ambition to simplify the checkout process. The company demo'd an app that lets users login and checkout on any site without the need to type on their mobile keyboard. The user's credentials are encrypted on their device and unlocked with a master password. That's impressive. Shopping on a mobile phone — and even tablet — isn't so easy when a user is required to enter in data like home address, card number, etc. Fat fingers or not, Dashlane made mobile buying look so simple.

MoneyDesktop Inc.

PFM provider MoneyDesktop showed off how it syncs its technology across multiple devices, including desktop banking. It also showed its new "bubble budgets," which help users better "see" where their budget problems exist. And show off, MoneyDesktop did. Visually, its PFM tools are stunning and watching them demonstrated onstage made me want to look — and interact — with my finances. Trust me: That never happens.

I'll be live-tweeting from Finovate again tomorrow from @banktechnews and @marymwisniewski

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