FinDEVr New York Preview: Solace Systems

FinDEVr2016NY_stackdateA look at the companies presenting new developer tools, platforms, and integrations at FinDEVr New York, March 29 & 30.

Solace Systems will describe how ever-increasing data volumes, regulations and tech trends like big data, cloud and IoT impact financial services IT. We will explain how Solace helps customers upgrade the infrastructure that keeps real-time information flowing reliably and securely across their enterprise while managing risk and ensuring regulatory compliance.

SolaceSystemsHomepage

Why it’s a must-see:
Because virtually every application in the fintech space faces challenges associated with receiving and sending large volumes of real-time data, and Solace’s technology is uniquely capable of meeting all of these needs.


Check out the rest of today’s FinDEVr New York Previews:

Mobile Monday: Communicating Critical App Updates via Email

 

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       Email from US Bank to mobile banking customers (12 Nov 2015)

Last week I wrote about how much I liked US Bank’s new native app. So I understand why the bank is anxious to get users ported over to the new version. Customers are going to like it. Guaranteed.

Yet I was a little surprised, just a week into the new version, to receive an email warning that the previous app was about to stop working (see message above). This urgency makes customers question whether there is something seriously wrong with the previous version. The message is also annoying in that it doesn’t really give the customer any clue as to whether their version is the current one or not. It provides only the version number (2.1.76) which is the cut-off between good and bad apps.

This message has so many weak points opportunities to improve, I put together a top-10 list (plus 2 bonus nitpicks). Here are my gripes more or less in priority order:

  1. I had already updated to the new version, so this message was completely unnecessary. And if the bank doesn’t know which version I’m using, it should say so.
  2. There is no explanation of why all of sudden it was so urgent to upgrade. Skeptical users were left to use their imaginations…not something you want in these days of widely publicized security breaches.
  3. usbank_appversionnumberInstead of talking about version numbers, why not just describe the new app? It looks completely different and a quick description and screenshot would have been understood by 90% of the readers allowing the to move on with their day rather than proceeding through a tedious “find the version number hunt.”
  4. If you must use a version number, then at least explain how to find it. The email didn’t address that key point in the body, fine print, or any of links provided within the message. It’s not that simple to find the version number. You must login, find the hidden primary navigation, choose “About the App” and notice the version number in the lower right corner (see inset). 
  5. If you are going to make such a big change, use a whole number for the new version. In this case, it would be easier to say, “use v3.0 or later.” 
  6. The links provided to update the app did not go to the iTunes update page, but instead went to a marketing page at USBank.com. And the marketing pages, while well done, also did NOT link to the app store update pages. In fact, to confuse things further, the marketing page said the new version “was coming soon.”
  7. The only way to get help was by making a phone call to the general 800 number. No FAQ, email address, chat, or digital way to get help. It wasn’t even a direct line to tech support.
  8. The email message was not optimized for mobile. It was hard to read on my iPhone 6.
  9. It does not specifically address what happens if you don’t update within the next few days; “discontinuing support” has a number of meanings from simply not getting tech support to completely not working.
  10. The bank ended by thanking me for being a mobile banking customer….good. But they could have also thanked me for taking time out of my day to deal with this “upgrade emergency.”
  11. <Nitpick #1> The first sentence of the second paragraph uses “new” three times.
  12. <Nitpick #2> The closing sentence repeats the “enhanced convenience” copy point. This is a generic benefit at best and shouldn’t be invoked twice in a 150-word message.

Bottom line: Customer communications are not easy, especially with newer technology. So make sure to test them with some less-savvy users before hitting publish.

Mobile is Eating Banking

cellphone_vintage2Andreessen Horowitz’s Benedict Evans penned a compelling argument a few days ago about how the “mobile Internet” is now the primary market to build services for. There are a couple good charts in the post too if you bring top management quickly up to speed:

Mobile is not a subset of the internet anymore, that you use only if you’re waiting for a coffee or don’t have a PC in front of you – it’s becoming the main way that people use the internet. It’s not mobile that’s limited to a certain set of locations and use cases – it’s the PC, that can only do the web and only be used sitting down. It’s time to invert that mental model – there is not the ‘mobile internet’ and the internet. Rather, if anything, it’s the internet and the ‘desktop internet.’ 

In banking, I think it’s even more true. The location-awareness of the mobile platform is crucial to boosting security while improving UX at the same time (think no-login balance inquiry). The mobile camera is finally reducing (eliminating?) paper, both paper checks, statements and even, finally, receipts. Then there’s that little thing that Apple, Google, Starbucks and others would have us believe is better than sliced bread, integrated mobile payments.

If you were forced to choose a single consumer delivery platform going forward — branch, online/desktop, or mobile — clearly it should be mobile. Are your strategic plans in sync with this reality?

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Image: Cellphone inventor Martin Cooper on a DynaTac, the first commercial cellphone introduced in 1983 (Source: CNN)

Tuesday Tactics: Let Users Schedule their Online Account Opening

One of the biggest headaches opportunities in digital banking today is closing the account-opening gap. The gap is the close rate online (generally well below 50%) compared with the much-higher percentage at the new-accounts desk in a bank branch (see note 1).

There are hundreds of ways to improve digital account opening (see previous posts), but I stumbled across a new one this week. WiseBanyan, a new robo-advisor I’m quite impressed with, sent me a reminder to use my invite before it expired (see first screenshot below).

The email provides two choices (three if you count “delete”): Open My Account or Extend My Invite. Naturally, as a life-long procrastinator, I chose “extend.” That’s when WiseBanyan unleashed today’s Tuesday Tip. I was delivered to a simple webpage (second screenshot) offering a simple way to add the task to my calendar. Procrastination foiled! (We’ll see next week).

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Screenshots:
1. Email from WiseBanyan (19 April 2015)

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2. WiseBanyan “extend my invite” landing page

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Note:
1. I know we are comparing pineapples and peanut butter here. Of course, more people abandon online account opening (or its ecommerce counterpart, the shopping cart). It’s easy to “kick the tires” online by starting an application with no intent on finishing it. But few people would make a trip to a branch and sit down with a branch staffer unless they were serious about opening an account.

Lendio Raises $20 Million in New Funding to Help Finance Small Businesses

Small business lender Lendio announced today that it has raised $20.5 million in new funding. The round was led by Napier Park’s Financial Partners Group, and included participation by:

  • Blumberg Capital
  • Highway 12 Ventures
  • North Hill Ventures
  • Pivot Investment Partners
  • Runa Capital
  • Tribeca Venture Partners

The new investment takes Lendio’s total funding to more than $30 million. As part of the agreement, Dan Kittredge from Napier Park and Chris Gottschalk of Blumberg Capital will join Lendio’s board of directors. Lendio plans to use the capital to expand its partnership program, help grow its team of loan advisors, and fuel continued innovation of the platform.

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Kittredge praised Lendio’s recent growth and partnerships with companies like Staples in explaining his firm’s commitment to the company. “Lendio’s leadership team has proven its ability to drive innovation and deliver an incredible platform that helps both small business owners and small business lenders alike,” he said.

Lendio believes that a big reason why small businesses get turned down when applying for loans is a matter of proper matchmaking. Whether the small business is pursuing the wrong type of loan product, or has found the right loan but at the wrong bank or credit union, the result is the same. Lendio’s platform makes it easier for qualified borrowers to find the loan that best suits their needs from the financial institution best able (and willing) to service it. Businesses are able to make these loan inquiries without penalty to their credit rating due to Lendio’s “soft pull” of personal and business credit data.

“Our focus is to provide three essential benefits for the business owner – offer a wide variety of loan options, speed up the process, and reduce the time and effort it requires to get funded, and provide a white-glove, trusted experience, Lendio CEO Brock Blake said.

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 Above (Left to right): Trent Miskin (CTO) and Brock Blake (CEO) presenting at FinovateSpring 2011.

For banks and credit unions the reward is lower customer acquisition costs, more qualified leads, and a  significantly larger potential market for new customers.

Lendio demoed its technology at FinovateSpring 2011. The company was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

ID.me Raises $3 Million in New Venture Debt Funding

Authentication specialist ID.me has raised $3 million in venture debt funding and expects to raise an additional $4.5 million before its Series B “bridge” round is done. (Bizjournal provides a helpful primer on convertible debt here.)

ID.me CEO Blake Hall confirmed the news with DC Inno, adding that the company is nearing announcement of “numerous major, nationwide partnership deals.” DC Inno noted that ID.me has announced partnerships with Coca-Cola and Hershey’s in recent months. In December, we reported that ID.me had announced that it would be providing ID verification for Connect.gov.

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The funding comes a year after ID.me’s last major fundraising $10 million raised in March 2014. The company’s total funding is more than $19 million.

Through its digital identity network, ID.me provides ID verification services that enable consumers to take advantage of group-affiliated benefits and discounts (as well as platform-based rewards). Beginning as a resource for military veterans to prove their status to secure online rewards from merchants, the platform now facilitates offers and rewards to group and non-group affiliated users. Users control what information they allow ID.me’s more than 800 partners to access; ID.me uses “bank grade security” in order to keep user’s information safe.

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Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, ID.me made its Finovate debut at FinovateSpring 2014 in San Jose. Check out our introduction to ID.me here, and watch their live demonstration from the conference here.

Trustev Wins Most Disruptive Technology Award at SXSW

Trustev_highreslogo_FEU14     The best in Texas? This morning, it’s Irish security startup, Trustev.

Trustev won the Decoded Fashion competition at the annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. The company, which specializes in real-time fraud prevention, bested nine other finalists and more than 120 total applications to take top honors – and a cash prize of $5,000.

“This competition was meant to gain visibility for new startups with the potential to impact the future shopping experience,” said Decoded Fashion president and founder Liz Bacelar, speaking of the finalist field. Applicants included startups with specialties in e-commerce, data analytics, in-store retail technology, and mobile payments.
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The win at SXSW was Trustev’s second Texas triumph in a row. Trustev won the SXSW Accelerator Award for Top Enterprise Startup last year, just as the company was making its U.S. launch – and a month after the Trustev’s demo at FinovateEurope 2014.

The event, which was part of the festival’s “lifestyle hub” SXstyle, was sponsored by retail real estate operator, the Simon Group. Judges were Christa Allen (Simon Group), Jonathan Shieber (TechCrunch), Josh Goldman (Norwest Ventures), and Skyler Fernandes (Simon Venture Group).

Trustev was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Cork, Ireland. The company was founded by Pat Phelan (CEO) and Chris Kennedy (CTO), and demoed its Trustev Retail Decision technology at FinovateEurope 2014.

StreetShares Secures $200 Million Pledge to Support Loans to Veteran-Owned Small Businesses

StreetShares

Commitments totalling more than $200 million will help StreetShares focus on its mission to provide loans to veteran-owned small businesses.

Community Investment Management (CIM), Direct Lending Investments, and Eagle Bank Corp will team up to fund $200 million in small business loans over the next four years. Talking about his company’s determination to “put money to work fueling healthy small businesses,” Direct Lending Investments president Brendan Ross said, “marketplace lending is exploding … We are excited about this business partnership with StreetShares and the unique  business owners they serve.”

Jacob Haar, CIM managing partner, praised StreetShares’ “responsible and transparent financing to underserved small businesses,” and added that the company’s approach to lending to veteran-owned small businesses would be a positive “long-term value for borrowers, local communities, and investors.”
StreetShares is a peer-to-peer affinity-based, social lending marketplace that matches accredited investors with eligible small business borrowers. Businesses can apply for loans online or by phone and get pre-approved within 24 hours. Companies then provide verification documents and prepare a “business pitch” StreetShares calls “your storefront on the StreetShares marketplace.” Investors on the platform will rely on the company’s “business pitch” in order to decide whether or not to bid on the company’s loan. Competing investors “win” the right to fund the loan by providing the lowest interest rate.
Applying businesses must be revenue-positive and in operation for at least one year. Loan terms are one and three years for amounts up to $50,000. There are no application fees or prepayment penalties, and funded businesses pay a one-time origination fee between 1.45% and 4.95%. Repayment is managed via a fixed weekly deduction from the company’s verified bank account. Investors on the platform must be “accredited”, meaning individual income of $200,000 or more ($300,000 with spouse) or a net worth of at least $1,000,000 (excluding value of primary residence).
According to the company, the majority of its borrowers are small business owned by U.S. veterans. Via the platform, StreetShares considers itself the biggest coalition of veteran-based small businesses and service providers in the country. Mark L. Rockefeller, StreetShares CEO who co-founded the company with Mickey Konson, is himself an Iraqi War veteran.
StreetShares made its Finovate debut at FinovateEurope 2015 in London this February. See a live video of their technology demonstration here.

Capital Bank’s OpenSky Puts CRIF’s CreditFlow & StrategyOne to the Test

CRIFLogo-thumb-200x89-11507All lenders have a process to determine the creditworthiness of borrowers, but not all have an efficient and effective way to do so. CRIF’s technology helps lenders maintain growth and agility while managing risk.

CRIF is a global company focused on credit management, credit reporting, scoring, loan decisioning, and loan processing. Its modular solutions integrate with banks’ existing infrastructure.

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Stats

    • 1700 employees
    • Based in Bologna, Italy
    • FY 2013 revenue: $405M
    • Customers in 50 countries
    • Credit bureau solutions in 17 countries 
    • Works with 3100 FIs worldwide
    • CRIF has acquired a number of international providers. Its 2014 acquisitions include:
      • Recom (Debt Collection Services) in Turkey
      • OFWI Teledata (credit and business data provider) in Switzerland
      • Majority stake in High Mark Credit Information Services in India
      • Dun & Bradstreet UAE in Dubai

 

OpenSky story
OpenSky is a business line of Capital Bank, N.A., a Washington, D.C.-based private bank with more than $600 million under management. It approached CRIF for help updating a system received as part of an acquisition. The system is for online card application and management of the OpenSky Secured VISA Credit Card. The existing system had a complicated, manual process for verifying applicants’ identity and gathering security deposits.

OpenSky’s goals for updating the process included:

  • Multichannel solution that automated workflow and risk management
  • Improved applicant approval rates
  • Improved integration with internal and external systems
  • Increased booking rates
  • Decreased funding time 

In September of 2014, OpenSky implemented two of CRIF’s product solutions:

1) CreditFlow
CreditFlow is a consumer-facing credit application process management system. Once the consumer triggers an activity, the system directs the task to specific employees and processes. The consistency ensures regulatory compliance. 

The built-in loan processing technology creates electronic documents with e-signature capability that improves the customer experience. 

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2) StrategyOne
StrategyOne is a loan decision solution that automates decision-making. It integrates with the lender’s systems such as product catalogue and CRM to identify the optimal balance of approval, referral, and rejection rates for borrowers of different risk categories.

The result is easier KPI decisioning, as well as a visual decision tree to help risk managers view and adjust loan acceptance rates.

The result
The solution integrates with OpenSky’s website as well as its third-party applications. OpenSky automates communication with cardholders about overpayment, withdrawals and security deposit returns.

The system furnishes its management team with data from the application process to facilitate compliance checks. Additionally, it generates real-time reports to monitor daily staff activities and pipelines.  

It has increased credit card application volume, with 80% booked the same day.

“The OpenSky secured credit card site went live February 12 and we are already seeing tremendous success in the flow of applications,” said Nick Bryan, president of OpenSky. “CRIF was a great partner to work with and helped us put in place the right solutions from both a business and a customer experience perspective.”

International use
CRIF was introduced in Europe where it helped lenders adapt to multiple countries’ lending regulations. It now serves more than 3,100 financial institutions across the globe with flexible solutions that help lenders stay compliant with changing regulations.

2015 outlook
In the United States, CRIF sees automotive lending at a record high. And they expect an increase in risker loans, not always backed by the necessary capital reserves.

Outside the U.S., CRIF sees opportunity in optimizing lending and compliance readiness. It expects banks will begin searching for more efficient processes in their credit and lending operations.

CRIF demonstrated its Credit Framework at FinovateEurope 2014.

FinTech Fundings: 3 Companies Raise $29 Million the Last Week of 2014

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During the short week (three business days) closing out the year, just three fundings were announced, totaling about $30 million. The majority ($24 million) went to Finovate alum, Alkami Technology, to fuel growth of its digital banking platform offering.
Here are the three deals announced between 27 Dec and 31 Dec 2014: 

Alkami Technology
Digital banking technology
Latest round: $23.7 million
Total raised: $50 million
Tags: Online banking, mobile banking, Plano, Texas, Finovate alum
Source:FT Partners

PayClip (aka Clip)
Mexican payment company enabling POS purchases via smartphone
Latest round: $5.2 million
Total raised: $8.8 million
Tags: Payments, mobile, POS, merchants, acquiring, Mexico City, Mexico
Source: FT Partners

Arthena
Crowdfunding fine art investments
Latest round: Undisclosed
Total raised: Unknown
Tags: Crowdfunding, P2P, person-to-person, investing,
Source: FT Partners