FStech reviews Finovate Europe 2016

For the sixth consecutive year, a combination of FinTech startups, investors and bankers descended upon Old Billingsgate Market for the European arm of Finovate’s conference series in February. Attended this year by more than 1,500 people, the event showcased 70 of the most innovative financial technology products on the market.

After an efficient registration and time for a quick cup of tea and a croissant (they keep you well fed and watered at Finovate) the demonstrations began in their unique seven-minute format, with a ringing bell to signal a presenter had exceeded their strict timeframe. The two-day show was staged with only a few hiccups along the way – an audio-less Skype call to Australia and a loss of internet connection mid-demo proving the most diverting technology failures. A demonstrator late on the second day also perked up the slightly heavy-eyed audience by launching a wad of fake cash into the air whilst proclaiming that “you are literally throwing money away”.

With the documented vulnerability of easy-to-remember passwords and high profile cyber attacks, this year’s Finovate saw a particular interest in biometric solutions – the expectant heir to the password throne. While VoicePin was notable for its demo offering natural voice commands as a viable alternative to the increasingly popular use of fingerprints, it was two other biometric firms that went on to pick up a Best of Show award.

EyeVerify’s software identifies you by your ‘eyeprints’ – the pattern of veins in the whites of your eyes. Everybody has four eyeprints, two in each eye on either side of the iris. The company claims that its method is as accurate as a fingerprint or iris scan, without requiring any special hardware.

IDscan also impressed on stage, demonstrating onboarding, KYC and AML in a matter of seconds. The technology uses advanced mathematical algorithms and colour wave-length technology, together with an encyclopedic knowledge of documented IDs, to automatically process images captured by passport scanners, mobile devices or stored images.

The growth of integrated robo-advisors was another popular theme amongst the demonstrators. While Investify provides an online advisory tool for hopeful investors, MeetInvest allows consumers to view and implement formulas used by more than 30 industry experts. Despite the number of digital investment management companies on show, Capitali.se, DriveWealth and SwipeStox did emerge as Best of Show winners.

Labelled as the ‘Tinder for trading’, Swipestox is a mobile social trading app where users can swipe through trades that experienced traders have created and profit from their knowledge of the market. Users can connect with other traders and copy live trades – rather than relying on fundamental or technical trading decisions alone.

American firm DriveWealth has built a system in which customers can buy and sell US-listed equities in fractions (going to 1/100th of a share) with no batching of trades, no limited trading windows and no hidden fees – giving customers full control of their equities in real time.

Meanwhile, Israeli-based firm Capitali.se has attempted to build a solution that will provide a “bridge between the simplicity of common words and the complex world of investment scenarios”, by taking words typed by the customer and converting them into optimised investments.

Personalisation features in websites and apps were also a recurring theme throughout this year’s Finovate, with a number of presenting companies offering technologies such as predictive analytics and machine learning to allow financial firms to learn more about their customers and offer particular offers and messages dependent on those customers’ individual needs. Innofis, InvestGlass, Meniga, Persado and Personetics were among those unlucky to not collect an accolade, but by attracting waves of interests post-show and on social media, personalisation will be a sector to watch for the future.

The topic of APIs also proved to be a popular proposition over the course of the two days. And despite presenting in the penultimate spot of the conference, Valuto managed to lift the dwindling levels of interest amongst the audience to bag itself the final Best of Show trophy. Powered by an open API, the firm offers a European multi-currency account – allowing for free and instant money transfers across international borders.

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