Thirty-five financial technology startups demonstrated their products Tuesday at the FinovateFall show in New York. Each had seven minutes to pitch to 1,450 attendees. Here are the ideas some new, some old but refined that stood out.
1. Opening accounts with Google glass: High-tech branches and quick account openings are top-of-mind for bankers right now. Top Image Systems demonstrated technology that brings the two together. Its solution enables a branch employee wearing Google Glass to open a new account simply by scanning a customer's driver's license with the eyewear, scanning a check with a tablet and obtaining the customer's Social Security number. (Diebold and Zenmonics also showed a tablet app for monitoring activity at branch terminals where customers can scan their driver's licenses and checks to conduct transactions.)
2. Authenticating intelligently: This is perennial problem is more pressing than ever as account takeover fraud and identity theft accelerate. Toopher uses the location awareness of a mobile device as a form of multifactor authentication, and adjust the level of security depending on where the customer is. "If I'm connected to my home wifi network, I'm never asked to enter my password," says Celent senior analyst Jacob Jegher. "The question becomes, how well will this integrate to other services?"
Nice showed an application that could identify a customer or an impostor calling in to a call center after 10 seconds of that person speaking, regardless of the words spoken. If the voice print doesn't match the customer's voice pattern, the software will pose challenge questions. This is not a new idea, nor is Nice the only one to offer it Nuance, for instance, offers voice authentication that's being used by Wells Fargo and tested by U.S. Bank. But it's timely, as it is probably the most effective way to prevent fraudulent wire transfers.
3. Making 401ks understandable to consumers: blooom (yes, it's spelled with three "o"s and a lowercase "b") showed an app that prompts investors for basic information about their retirement needs and the log-in credentials from their 401k accounts. Then, for $10 a month (or $1 a month if the account has less than $5,000), blooom will monitor those accounts and report on their "health" with a flower visualization a 401k that is performing badly is depicted as a wilting, dying flower, while a comparable account that is more wisely invested appears upright and in full bloom. blooom will also rebalance the account quarterly. The $10 monthly fee seems highand the need to rebalance a 401k every quarter is questionable. But the concept of shedding light on the (for many people) murky area of retirement account allocation is timely as so many Baby Boomers wrestle with doubts and fears they will never be able to retire.
4. Making saving easier: A product called ImpulseSave from True Potential tracks savings goals and lets people make "impulse deposits," for instance by tapping a screen to save 10 pounds (the company's British). If the name sounds familiar, it's because it was the name of a savings app and startup that Betterment bought and shut down last year. Deposits on the new ImpulseSave can be made from a mobile device, a smart watch or Google Glass. It's a simple idea, reminiscent of Bank of America's "Keep the Change" program, which rounds up card purchases to the next highest dollar and deposits the change in a savings account. An app like this could help people change their habits.
5. Providing financial help and advice: FlexScore, which launched a mobile app for the iPhone and iPad, gives people a financial health score (a reading of a 1,000 indicates financial independence), comparisons to their peers and an action plan for managing their money better. iQuantifi's similar app targets millennials and young families. "We're the only true robo-advisor," said Tom White, founder and CEO of iQuantifi. "And we're not ashamed to call ourselves a robo-advisor." He also said that 36% of millennials still live with their parents, evidence that they are not managing their finances very well.
6. Keeping track of debt ownership: Often there are errors and confusion in the recordkeeping of distressed consumer debt, leading to horror stories such as those told in the New York Times Magazine recently. Global Debt Registry provides a platform for tracking ownership of charged-off accounts that it wants the whole banking industry to use. Four large banks and 50 debt buyers have registered debt on the system, which is meant to provide a solid, accurate record of debt wherever it goes.
7. Protecting seniors: EverSafe CEO Howard Tischler's mother was exploited by greedy telemarketers who sold her auto club services when she didn't own a car and was legally blind, according to a presentation by Elizabeth Loewy, the company's general counsel. As a former Attorney in Charge of the Manhattan District Attorney's Elder Abuse Unit, Loewy herself knows a bit about such scams. EverSafe's software scans bank and investment accounts for suspicious activity and alerts senior advocates when something crops up. "@EverSafeSeniors not coolest #finovate tech today but probably has the biggest heart," tweeted Adam Honore, CEO of MarketsTech, a capital markets product development company.