Among the hashtags trending on Tuesday was #Finovate.
Finovate is a two-day conference in which financial services software makers give a long series of seven-minute demos, like a QVC for financiers. Bankers come to hear about new ideas for digitizing their businesses and laugh at minor demo mishaps in the Twittersphere.
The Manhattan Center in midtown was a new location for the show, and it came with one risk: With its many balcony seats, at least one cup fell over the edge, nearly hitting a man below.
Such mishaps inspired Tweets from the snarky to the informative, among the audience of bankers, startups, media, and VCs.
Billy Robins, from PayNearMe, tweeted:
#Finovate just saw a cup fly from 2nd balcony ... Just missed hitting a guy. Crowd getting restless. It's like Yankee Stadium in here.— Billy Robins (@WARobins) September 10, 2013
Among the day one demos, personal financial management tools got the most play. No one particular app stood head and shoulders above the rest; however, subtle design enhancements and new collaboration tools show how the category is maturing. Vendors hope such updates will compel people to use the tools, which have seen poor usage to date. Below is a roundup of PFM-related news from the presenters:
Unless you're an accountant at heart, managing your finances can be as much fun as pulling weeds. But software companies, customer facing and bank-branded alike, are working to design experiences that help people execute their financial chores more quickly, to foster usage.
SavedPlus offered an example in its mobile app designed to get people to save. The app automatically transfers money into an account after a person buys something. The person chooses what percent of a purchase to automatically transfer into a savings account, retirement savings, or something else. Simply put: he buys, he saves.
Yodlee is among the startup's partners.
SavedPlus is reminiscent of ImpulseSave, PiggyMojo and Bank of America's Keep the Change program, all of which try to get people to make small savings deposits.
In a similar approach, ING Direct Canada reminds customers through a mobile app how sacrificing their everyday coffees could earn them that trip to Bali.
Life's complicated and so are the financial implications of major life events. There's the son in college. There's the sick mother. There's the divorce. A social financial app by Yodlee called Tandem wants to help you not "have to talk to your ex-husband," as the demo-er put it. Banks can white-label Yodlee's new widget into their mobile banking platforms. Yodlee counts Citibank, Bank of America, and USAA among its customer list.
Tandem offers users several ways to collaborate with their social circles (of family, business, or friends). Features include the ability to chat, reimburse, tag transactions, and upload receipts.
Visually, the app looks clean and clear. Headshots of the people in the circles are included in the interface.
Collaboration tools have been neglected in financial services design, with some exceptions. Some PFM providers, like MoneyDesktop, let users email transactions, while some banks let customers send messages to people requesting money. The broader idea of such efforts is to find ways to make digital transactions more appealing than cash or checks.
Yodlee is a tenured Finovate demo-er. On Monday, the company hosted a cocktail event at a ritzy hotel where Yodlee's app developers "speed-dated" investors and bankers over tequila cocktails and appetizers like fried chicken. The event fits with Yodlee's larger plans to play matchmaker for financial institutions and app developers, to grow out its user base and foster innovation.
Just as we check the weather forecast to know whether to wear a sweater, we can check budgeting tools like MoneyDesktop to know if we can buy a pink leather skirt.
New data visualization technology meant to show people whether they are on track with their spending patterns is now part of the feature set of MoneyDesktop's PFM software.
Likewise, the PFM vendor demoed its new lifetime goal capabilities, which are displayed in bubbles (the more important the goal, the bigger the bubble).
Meanwhile, check images have been added to MoneyDesktop's interface, further blurring the distinction between online banking and PFM design. The software company has made available an API and counts Moven as a piloter.
The new features jibe with other PFM companies' forward-looking budgeting tools that come with names like: "safe to spend," "what if?" and "future plans." The capabilities vary by company, but the motive is the same: visualize what would otherwise be mental math.
SaaS Markets, of San Mateo, Calif., lets banks build their own app stores, which could come stocked with PFM-related apps for small business customers.
Account statements are making their way into mobile apps.
GMC Software Technology, a customer communications management provider, lets banks bring better-looking statements into the mobile channel with its new dynamic statements (including changing charts and sorting capabilities) that use responsive design. GMC's announcement is the latest offering meant to help banks reduce the paper statements they mail to customers.