Finovate: Disneyland of Fintech™
I was watching the live feed of the Apple iPhone 5 announcement this morning (no NFC news, unfortunately), but I could tell I was really missing something in New York by how much the #Finovate twitter stream just blew up.
But Let Me Step Back A Bit
Finovate, which I dubbed the Disneyland of Fintech™ a few years back, is the premier financial technology conference established by Jim Breune of Netbanker fame and its gifted co-founder Eric Mattson. If you have an opportunity to meet Jim and Eric and talk shop, you’ll be more than happy you did – they are genuinely great people. Fantastic conference, and a fantastic team.
What, you’ve never heard of Finovate and you’re following this blog?
Finovate is 64 companies over 2 days, live demos, and nothing but live applications (well, *live* is sometimes a stretch). Overall, the conference has always been a fantastic experience, and it is now in four locations: New York, San Francisco, London, and headed to Singapore in November.
But let’s get back to talking about this morning.
Best of Show Already Won On Day One?
While there will be a number of Best-of-Show-worthy entrants at this NY focused Finovate conference (LearnVest, Personal Capital), I can just tell that one of the winners has already been firmly established.
It’s a little PFM firm out of Utah. And they’ll likely hate that characterization – because the team is thinking way beyond PFM.
Outside of being the fastest growing white-label PFM application in history, the team at MoneyDesktop is on fire.
OK, I made that up, the largest PFM provider (and likely the fastest growing) remains our partner Intuit with FinanceWorks and Mint (and likely to get bigger with this week’s little API announcement).
MoneyDesktop entered the PFM space just a few years ago and now have over 300 clients in the PFM space. After their Best-of-Show win at FinovateSpring in San Francisco, they have the attention of much larger U.S. based financial institutions and a host of larger fintech players that realize the need to refocus on UX.
User Experience Trumps All
That was my message in the spring, and it’s the same message now.
And it will continue to be my mantra as I build out my bank’s technology stack and further partner in the fintech, banking, and payment application space.
Why all the excitement about the MD UX? It’s a fresh approach to the stale, linear look of online banking, and charts and graphs of some of the other PFM providers.
Do I want them to do more? Absolutely.
There is much to be learned across the fintech spectrum (and even better to look outside of fintech), and the landscape is changing every day – but you have to hand it to them, they are moving things forward. True, as several of my fintech friends pointed out, their UX borrows a lot from Bundle, and other applications – but the way they interface dials around financial data is still pretty unique.
Build For One, Apply to All
Primarily a Ruby shop, MD makes multi-device, single application development look easy. And it’s not. That’s why I have a great deal of respect for Ryan’s team. They are able to move their product forward in big chunks, continue to improve their application while in hyper-growth mode, and seem to have a great deal of fun as they work their ass of. I can really respect that. As I can respect the passion exhibited by everyone I have met on the team.
You Need To Control Your Own Spin Like Your Life Depends On It
Even if you don’t see the MoneyDesktop application as the best thing for your financial institution, there are some lessons from this morning that can apply to just about any business. As I have written about many times before – social has changed the way we evangelize our company, the way we market our products, the way we connect to prospective employees and prospects (see my thoughts on American Banker last week).
MD is doing these things very well, from their social-savvy team to their code-infused billboards to lure developers – this should be a lesson for the larger fintech players demoing at Finovate and presenting in boardrooms.
They control their own spin. Whether they actively discuss it or not.
They develop their evangelists. Whether they strategize that or not.
And they own social chatter at conferences like Finovate.
Which is just as likely to be snarky as it is positive.
Just ask Jim and Eric about the tweets complaining about the Wi-Fi.
So that’s why a product’s user experience matters.
Ship something highly engaging, you’ll start to get the right kind of attention.
While they may not necessarily integrate social chatter within their applications (at least not yet), but the MD team connects with people in the banking and fintech industry exceptionally well.
Matt West (aka @matt__west), Nate, Dave, and the rest of the sales and marketing team not only work to evangelize their product well, but they connect and follow-up with people in a very engaging way.
Maybe it’s because their from Utah and not New York City, I’m not sure…but their enthusiasm and follow-up are things your fintech teams need to be looking at.
If you are going to have impact with decision makers, then you have to reach out, and prepare to physically own a conference that gets a positive sales boost (like at Finovate). These things matter.
Pertinent Microsites Matter
MD also had a nice microsite with a similar demo from earlier today at the ready – and are sharing it effectively to people at the conference and those trolling the #finovate feed.
Take a look.
From the MD site:
MoneyDesktop Inc. introduces MoneyMobile and our new MoneyDesktop “widgets” – the worlds most powerful and engaging financial platform that will change the way your account holders feel about financial management. MoneyDesktop and MoneyMobile’s award-winning designs makes managing money not only easier and more convenient – but a lot more enjoyable and exciting as well. Now, your account holders will be able to visualize their data in meaningful and engaging ways on their desktop, tablet and phone. Created with the philosophy that “User Experience Trumps All” – MoneyDesktop and MoneyMobile will make you want to reach out and touch your finances!
Why PFM Matters
I like the idea of moving financial management tools front and center (in essence aggregated cross-channel white-label PFM becomes the interface), and combining these tools for consumers and small businesses to engage with their data (that’s the key – getting users energized to actually actively manage their aggregated financial goals). For that reason, I am a big fan of a host of other PFM providers as well – from Intuit, Geezeo, Meniga, Perfectsen, and others – and like MoneyDesktop, the development and sales teams at each are top notch.
It doesn’t matter if it’s white label to banks and credit unions, or if it’s direct to consumer/business – the idea behind PFM matters – let’s work together as an industry to make it better – to learn from companies like these, and interfaces like Movenbank and Simple – to truly have impact in our client’s lives.
The banking model is changing – the key component of successful banking application development will be the user experience (presentation layer) combined with exceptional experiences and value added functions that leverages financial and personally identifiable data (a whole other series of posts).
Maybe that’s a little too much twitter talking, or maybe it’s the iPhone 5 announcement that has me punchy and upbeat – but whatever it is that inspires you to make your products and services better, just move it forward.
User experience matters, the way we interact with, protect, and offer value through data matters – especially for fintech applications.
Stop talking, start doing.
There’s one more day of Finovate – time to really start innovating.