On-Site Coverage: Social Technologies, Shopping and P2P Dominate Confab
SAN FRANCISCO — The biggest players in financial services technology right now might be Google and Facebook. That’s what it felt like at times at the FinovateSpring 2011 showcase last week at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse.
Rather than the typical trade show format, about 65 presenters got seven minutes each to showcase their products to an audience of several hundred. Many of those products focused on delivering enhancements to the banking experience through social media channels, primarily Facebook, and geo-location capabilities, often involving smartphones and Google applications working together.
Numerous iterations of electronic couponing, targeted merchant offers and person-to-person payment options were presented, along with a smattering of security updates, including a $99 biometric eye scanner.
There was also Code Green, which presented its new Ratecast product, which allows a credit union to change a lending or deposit rate in one location and push that change through multiple member-facing channels.
Jason Green, founder of the Gaithersburg, Md., company whose BranchMap branch locator solution already is on the market, said beta deployments of Ratecast are under way, including at the $2 billion Virginia Credit Union in Richmond, Va.
Another vendor, Dwolla, the Des Moines, Iowa, startup that has partnered with The Members Group and Veridian Credit Union to push out its 25-cent-per transaction person-to-person solution, presented a location-based service that uses smartphone location technology to generate specific targeted offers and services.
The new FiSync service also includes a dashboard aggregator that extracts actionable data from the transactions generated by members using the seamless access to their accounts between individuals, regardless of their banking or credit union account location, and also with merchants who join the Dwolla network.
Dwolla founder Ben Milne said about 400 businesses already have the service in Des Moines. "We’re placing plastic-based transactions with cash-based transactions, and we’re driving down the average age of the members with this new payments environment," he said.
Raising eyebrows was Intellaegis, an El Dorado Hills, Calif., company whose masterQueue solution is a Web-based management collection workflow that incorporates public records, smartphones, Google maps and other tools to basically function as an electronic skip tracer.
"It might sound kind of ‘big brother,’ but I can tell you that from a collection standpoint, it’s definitely worth looking into, I thought," said Howie Wu, vice president of virtual banking at $9.6 billion BECU in Seattle. "Taking all that public data and putting it in one place addresses one of the real challenges in collections these days. And while it sounds a little intimidating, pay your bills and you don’t have to worry about it, I guess."
Credit unions had a small but definite presence at the show, with several vendors such as Fiserv, Jack Henry and Intuit presenting along with the startup innovators. About 30 credit unions also sent staffers.
"I don’t think we were necessarily looking for any one thing here, but we really want to stay aware of what’s going on in the financial technology space, and there’s a big push for us to be more innovative," said Kyle Welsh, vice president of technology services at BECU.
"We’ve always been innovative in the past but we’re going to get in front of all the mobile and social things going on and be a little less fearful about what things may and may not work as an industry," he said.
Actionable solutions were something that executives from the $1.5 billion Baxter Credit Union in suburban Chicago were looking out for during their stay.
"We’re always looking at what interesting new service might be out there to help us better serve our members, especially when it comes to the technology we don’t yet have that we need to serve that next generation," said Carey Price, vice president of sales and services at the Vernon Hills, Ill., CU
Her colleague, Online Services Director Scott Schmidt, added, "It’s always good to see what’s coming down the pike. PFM [personal financial management] is an area I think is really hot right now. We don’t have a lot of resources, just like a lot of credit unions right now, so we need to see how we can provide and support these options for our members."
Other attendees said that credit unions need to move beyond their comfort zone and adopt innovative new products to stay relevant to members, and they need to cooperate along the way.
"We need to keep looking for ways to take creative, new ideas that are emerging in other industries around us and make them credit-union related," said Kim Vu, vice president of community relations at the $1.5 billion Technology CU in San Jose, Calif. "Especially when it comes to connecting lifestyles and financial services. We need to move beyond our comfort zone, beyond our four walls."
She pointed to person-to-person payments as an example, a service that she said her credit union is considering how best to deploy. That’s also a topic under consideration at the $2.9 billion Mountain America Credit Union in Salt Lake City, where a decision is brewing whether to deploy a branded service from a small vendor or use the highly recognized PayPal service, said Todd Lindemann, assistant vice president of electronic and card services.
"Listening to our members, they’re telling us that basically they want us to be technologically equivalent to the large banks, and how do you do that? That’s the million-dollar question," Lindemann said. "Working together as an industry, credit unions have the numbers and ability to take advantage of all these new developments."
Lindemann and Vu were at the Finovate show as part of a working group led by Denise Gabel, chief innovation officer of the Filene Institute, one of Finovate’s partners in the spring show.
"You see a lot of collaboration and co-development going on here and you have to think about how you can bring these kinds of new innovations to your credit union, not the other way around. It’s not just about how they can bring these things to you," Gabel said. "It’s flipping around the way we normally think about these things."
More traditional offerings served up through the latest in delivery channels also were presented. For instance, Jack Henry & Associates debuted its Margin Maximizer Interactive solution from its ProfitStars division at the show.
The company called it a cloud-based version of its Margin Maximizer Suite loan and deposit pricing solution now in place at about 350 financial institutions. While still offering control and consistency in the pricing processes–aimed at maximizing net interest income and identifying growth opportunities–the new hosted version reduces IT demands while using Microsoft Silverlight and Azure technologies to "deliver a rich and dynamic Internet user experience" to the back office staff charged with using it.