Finovation: two sides of the digital coin

I had the pleasure of spending a fascinating day today at Finovate, in the wonderful surroundings of Old Billingsgate Market Hall. On show was a cross section of Europe’s leading high growth financial technology companies – showing us what the future of banking and business to business finance might look like.

There were two themes that emerged very strongly from the companies that presented – and it seemed as though there was a three way split with what the companies were doing.  In the first area, there were a whole bunch of technologies, from visualisation to voice control, aimed at making finances easy to understand – we saw some great real time integrations of nifty infographics to financial models, and clever voice controlled “assistants” who would pay your bills (using your own money of course).  The majority of presentations, however, addressed the two remaining themes which came through loud and clear – payment systems, and security.  

The innovation in payment systems has been much talked about recently with the launch of Apple Pay in the US and various online wallets and other digital tools.  What all these systems had in common though was that they essentially all piggyback onto three core technologies – credit card payments, mobile phone billing and (of course ultimately) the humble bank account.  They all looked forward to a world where it is easier and quicker and simpler to move money from one place, person currency or account to another.  

And that of course raises almost as many problems as it solves.  If it’s easier for you to move your money around, then doesn’t that make it easier for someone else to do so – without your permission?  Well the short and simple answer is yes, and that’s why the other side of that digital coin is the growth in security and authentication technologies springing up to ensure that when your move your cash, it’s really you that’s doing the moving.  So we saw finger-print scanning, online ID checking, pattern regocnition and machine learning, all demonstrated in various scenarios.

Whilst many technology companies were focussing on getting a slice of the very biggest pie – the consumer payments industry – a few were focussed, as Ormsby Street are, on helping businesses transact payments quickly and simply.  With one company citing a 137 billion USD market in small business borrowing, there’s clearly a need for businesses to get paid faster, and more predictably, and also to ensure that they have access to the right financial tools and products to keep the business growing whilst they’re waiting to get paid.

So what will I take away from the day ?  Well expect to see some sharp focus on all three of these areas in Ormsby Street’s CreditHQ platforms over the coming months.  We’ll soon be releasing our SME financial engine which helps our business customers understand the companies they invoice – and added to that we’ll be integrating with their other systems to ensure that information moves seamlessly across the different processes that the business uses day to day.  We’re hoping that by making the companies that a business trades with quick and straightforward to check and understand, our customers will be able to do business quickly and grow fast – without sacrificing security.

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