Finovate Dispenses Inspiring Ideas (Part 1)

From PFM to mobile marketing, incorporate best practices from today’s bleeding edge providers.


More than 60 of the world’s most innovative financial service companies descended on New York City last week to present at Finovate’s New York City Fall 2012 conference ─ a large-scale pitch meeting that draws banks, credit unions, and venture capitalists among others.

While the field was awash with specific solutions, each with their own unique strengths, several overarching trends emerged as top priorities for these companies in 2012 and beyond. Whether a credit union is looking to upgrade its in-house solutions itself or find a partner to get them there faster, the conference provided an opportunities to tap international innovations so credit unions can push their capabilities forward.

Beautiful, Actionable PFM

Emerging trends for Personal Financial Management (PFM) break down into two main categories: visualization and integration with other social or financial activities. Whether conceptual or literal in nature, members digest financial information better when it is incorporated into images or icons that are beautiful, clean, and interactive.

“There needs to be something more tangible than just rows of data,” says Ryan Caldwell, CEO of Utah-based MoneyDesktop. This company recently introduced bubble budgets, which are rendered PFM widgets that correspond in size to the size of each spending segment (rent, entertainment, etc.) and in color according to how over or under budget that segment is.

Another visualization option from Germany company IND Group is to create “user stories” based on savings scenarios like having a baby, buying a house, etc. Those stories are then arranged on the dashboard like posts on a social media wall. Users are have their savings goals constantly at the front of their minds when they log in and are continually update with their progress.

Visualization works for a younger demographic, but you may have to be more direct to keep their attention. For example, Singapore-based PlayMoohlah pulls in data from sites like to give kids both an image and a price of items like bikes or  video game on their goals page. Kids can earn funds from their parents through chores and tasks incorporated into the platform as games.


Image Courtesy of Playmoolah

No matter your member’s age, they need more than PFM to look at their money: they have to be able to use that information for other things in their financial life. The more activities incorporated into a platform, the wider membership it will appeal to. For example, PlayMoohlah lets kids invest in theoretical accounts or even donate a portion of their funds to real charities.

“Some things can’t be taught, they need to be experienced,” says cofounder and Princess of Possibility Min Lee, citing the reasons for financial advanced options in a kids-oriented product.

Waspit, a New York-based solution for the student-age demographic, combines its  financial management services with a suite of payment options like P2P, point of sale (POS) transactions, card issuance, and branded reward points called Buzz Points. It also synchs with social media accounts for location-based reviews or other social sharing about how and where you spend your cash.

California-based Credit Sesame has integrated financial fitness indicators that assess credit scores, loans, and other financial relationships. It also lets users know when they’re overpaying, finds alternative options for that specific product or service, and shows how much the user might save based on their prequalification.

With these advanced options, “you don’t have to be an accountant to figure out rates and fees,” says Adrian Nazari, CEO. 

Then there’s ImpulseSave, which targets consumers who want to save up for things like a vacation or a new car. Instead of buying unnecessary items on a whim, the application lets users take the value of the item and send those same funds to a special savings account. Right now, the average users makes two saves a week at an average of $15 per save, says Phil-Fremont Smith, CEO of the Massachusetts-based institution.

If you really want to make a splash, extend PFM capabilities into a completely new area of member’s lives as a value added service. Tuition I.O. streamlines both federal and private student debt into a manageable, actionable picture, says CEO Brandon McQueen. Its also provides contact info for loan holders, creates pros and cons for various options to deal with the debt, and even prefills forms and applications to send to the correct parties to make that option happen.

Mobile Marketing 2.0

Traditional marketing channels will continue to be important to credit unions, but wise marketers will increasingly target the one channel that members are connected to at all times: their phone.

Pinging members’ locations to verify where transactions are taking place won’t just cut back on false positives, says Rip Gerber, CEO of Florida-based Locaid. It will also open up the door to proximity marketing.

Today, companies like Locaid can triangulate any device with an IP address and give credit unions the ability to generate corresponding marketing actions whenever a device enters or exits a geographic area. Imagine being able to connect with members about student loans when they visit a college campus or send a thank you message to their mobile phone when they leave a branch.

But even the best mobile and online interactions don’t mean much if they never translate to larger financial relationships. Cross Channel Selling from California’s LeadFusion tries to address this by generating unique codes for each mobile or online interaction. Members can bring those codes into the branch or enter them on another channel to pick up right where they left off in the conversion process, without repeating their information or their story.

The system even creates follow-up dates for interactions that haven’t reached conclusion and associates individual representative’s contact information with each session, if and when the member does decide to move forward.




Sept. 24, 2012


  • Thank you for this summary of Finovate. I have followed each of the events over the past few years and found the demos and ideas facinating. Your overview is an excellent representation of the event. Part 1 must mean more to come. Bring it! Looking forward to the next chaper.