As we enter the financial services era of leaner and meaner-and that's putting the best possible spin on it-spending $1,495 for a ticket to the annual pilgrimage to BAI's Retail Delivery show, or for IT security folks, RSA's annual conference, just may not be in the budget in the coming months. There are a couple of innovative alternatives that offer a sampler of financial services technology at a fraction of the cost, if also a fraction of the depth.

Online Banking Report's Jim Breune will host Finovate 2008 in New York later this month, the second time Online Financial Innovations has given new or young financial services technology companies a brief seven minutes at the podium to demonstrate what their latest and greatest can do. This year's Finovate costs $1,095 to attend, and will give more than 20 companies the opportunity to put up a demo-Powerpoints are banned. "If you're just a regular person at Retail Delivery, it's hard to find what's the new product amongst the entire exhibition floor; and if you go to the sessions they're so hit-or-miss," says Breune, himself a former banking product manager. "My idea was to boil it down to just the products, and get that into a seven minute demo....and have time for the 'stage rush' at the end."

Finovate 2008 will include upstart vendors such as MoneyAisle and SmartHippo, along with more established players like CheckFree and Intuit.

"It's the same stuff you can find at Retail Delivery, but just the executive summary," Breune says.

On the other side of the continent, William Azaroff, prolific blogger and director of online banking and engagement at Vancity, a Vancouver-based credit union, is putting on BarCampBank, an open-source style un-conference in late September; other organizers are hosting the same event in Charleston, SC, in late October. BarCampBank is a banking-focused take on the original BarCamp open-source conference launched by Tim O'Reilly in 2005 focusing on application development and open source tools. The stated mission of BarCampBank, offshoots of which have taken place in New England and San Francisco, is "to foster innovations and the creation of new business models in the world of banking and finance."

But if you're thinking of attending, don't look to the Web site for the un-conference agenda. "We'll create an agenda based on the people we have in the room," Azaroff says. "And people will vote with their feet."

In addition to the lack of agenda, BarCamp talks are considerably more collaborative than the typical conference session, the idea being that anyone with knowledge on the subject is invited to contribute. "The participatory model is very focused on the audience,"Azaroff says. "We're here to show you something that hopefully is helpful to you and your customers."

If this sounds a little too un-conference, consider the $35 price tag, but don't look to Azaroff to sell you. "I tell people come if you feel compelled to come, if you're really curious," he says. "If you need to be convinced, maybe it's not for you."

So while the new breed of shows have a pricepoint well below that of the well-known blockbusters, they are decidedly light on predictable, focused content. And though the models are meant to be innovative, and present information in tightly packaged "news you can use format," there's always something to be said for the star-power that the mega shows draw, and the big-picture or inspirational keynotes they strive to deliver. In other words, the only place you'll get Colin Powell or Bill Gates is BAI or RSA. (c) 2008 Bank Technology News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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