Top Trends in WealthTech: From API-ization to Virtual Engagement

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Wealth management technology provider eMoney Advisor, pictured here at FinovateFall, was acquired by Fidelity Investments in 2015 for $250 million.

With 2017 right around the corner, what trends are likely to drive innovations in wealth management technology or Wealth Tech?

The biggest potential regulatory change is the Department of Labor rule that financial planners must act as fiduciaries. The Trump election victory, accompanied by Republican control over both houses of Congress, may make this rule irrelevant. But most in the wealth management industry are nevertheless making preparations in the event the rule (announced this spring and to be rolled out next spring) is kept. One concern with regard to the fiduciary rule that is specifically Wealth Tech related is how fiduciary responsibility would work with roboadvisories. Can an automated investment platform determine conflicts of interest between the planner and client? What technological tools will be needed to give roboadvisory platforms this capacity? This suggests two potential outcomes: increasing use of human advisors in combination with automated technology, and deploying sentiment analysis technologies to better interpret non-verbal communication between planners and clients. Interestingly, both of these outcomes are connected to other trends in wealth management – such as virtual meetings/conferences.

Use of Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings will help wealth managers respond to a variety of issues. These include better engagement and multi-channel/channel of choice engagement. The could even help managers deal with greater fiduciary responsibilities. This trend includes everything from the use of Skype calls and video conferencing to more elaborate virtual meeting platforms such as those from Finovate alums like SuiteBox (F16) and SaleMove (F16). Both PwC and Deloitte have noticed the trend. “Multi-channel delivery will become a strategy for delivering advice to clients in the most convenient, most efficient way possible based on each client’s particular needs at particular moments,” said PwC, in a recent look at wealth management technology trends. Deloitte noted that “new combinations of digital and human-based channels” are not just for millennials, saying that “some Xers and Boomers want to engage in new ways” as well.

According to a study conducted by Investment News/Cambridge, only 4% of advisers who responded currently list video conferencing as one of their communication methods, but 32% expect to rely on it more within five years. Douglas Boneparth, partner at Life and Wealth Planning, told Investment News, “I am seeing advisers, especially younger advisers, adapt to a more virtual and technologically savvy way of doing business. Advisers are focused on the level of service we provide and being accessible in more ways … virtual meetings is a great example of that.”

API-driven Platformization

The ability to integrate financial data using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) has been a huge boon for finance in general and Wealth Tech in specific. API use and adoption within Wealth Tech is especially strong where brokerage services are involved, (ex. order management system APIs). At a fundamental level, APIs enable linking multiple apps (portfolio management, document management, pricing systems); eliminate manual data entry; and limit mistakes during data transfer and update.

Marion Asnes of Broadridge Financial Solutions emphasized this last point. “Platforms must aggregate performance data across various institutions, and then, integrate planning, portfolio accounting, trading, reporting, and communications functions,” Asnes wrote for Investment News. “A wealth manager would need to aggregate performance data from all the various accounts in one place and base recommendations on that complete picture.” Writing in Quovo, John Horneff presented APIs also as an opportunity for managers to differentiate themselves, “leveraging new, innovative technology to break away from the pack and provide unique offerings.”

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Stephane Dubois, CEO of Xignite, during his company’s demo at FinovateAsia 2016. Xignite serves more than one one trillion market data API calls a year.

Of the three factors Xignite (F16) founder and CEO Stephane Dubois says have most enabled roboadvisory, for example, “ETFs, Trading APIs, and Market Data APIs,” his firm is an acknowledged leader in the latter. With clients that are a who’s who of wealth management innovators [think Betterment (F11) and Motif Investing (F14),Personal Capital (F14) and TipRanks (F13)], Xignite launched its FintechRevolution API Ecosystem in 2015 in an effort to make financial APIs more available to startups.

Growing Importance of Platforms

Both digital storage and ensuring ready accessibility of data are two trends in wealth management that point to the growing importance of advisor platforms to help wealth managers to their work. This is clearly one area where technology is playing a major role, especially for those focusing on the “accessibility of data” issue. Quoted in Investment News, Overplays co-founder Abby Schneiderman said, “Having data all in one place is one more way advisers can serve their clients’ needs … I think one thing advisers are looking for is singular places to house all of their client’s information: wishes, documents, investment accounts, etc. in one place.”

Innovations in wealth management and financial advisor platforms also can enable better engagement. Platforms such as the one developed by Polly Portfolio (F16) that use natural language technology to ask customers about their financial goals and economic outlook to personalize and, importantly, explain portfolio construction give advisors more “surface area” for conversation and engagement with their clients. Combined with API-delivery and the inclusion of functionality like video, innovations in platform design will be key to help managers and advisors take advantage of industry trends.

HNW Clients and Roboadvisory

As roboadvisory becomes both more sophisticated and more accepted, an increasing number of high net worth individuals are taking the automated investment route for some part of their finances. Betterment’s Jon Stein says their largest customer has $10 million invested with the company. He adds that many HNW people are already investors, but are now upping their investment from 5% two years ago to 20% (Stein defines HNW as having assets above $500,000).

Catering to high net worth clients, according to some, involves both greater technological sophistication on the part of roboadvisors as well as more extensive customer service. Writing in the CBInsights Blog, the analysts noted that “one of the criticisms of robo-advisors has been that the very wealthy might have more complex investment needs and higher customer service expectations.

Specifically, high net worth clients may require access to more complex investment vehicles – including non-equity investments – as well as more advanced rebalancing and tax harvesting than the average investor. Other services, such as helping HNW clients manage sizable amounts of cash a la MaxMyInterest (F14), would also help encourage more wealthy investors to allocate a portion of their assets to roboadvisors.

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Herbert Moore and Jennifer Chin of WiseBanyan during their FinDEVr Silicon Valley debut. WiseBanyan is an independent roboadvisor that caters to millennials.

“Small Data”

One large trend wherever clients and customers are involved is the role of “small data”, the kind of basic client data – demographics, for example – that can be very informative for the financial planner or wealth manager. In terms of increasing engagement, providing more accurate and personalized financial guidance, a little information about a client’s personal circumstances can go a long way.

In addition to providing better service to customers, small data can be the key to making a wealth management or financial planning business more efficient. Knowing which revenues are coming from new versus existing clients, for example, can help managers get the right products and services to the right customers. This is another area where innovators have produced platforms and software to help analyze client data and provide insights – often leveraging visualization technologies.

Robos: Build or Buy?

For financial institutions looking to provide wealth management services via roboadvisor, the question is whether to build or buy. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. But FIs and brokerage firms are increasingly making a choice between the two.

Examples of firms that have gone the “roll your own” route include Fidelity with its Fidelity Go, Schwab with its Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, Vanguard with its Vanguard Personal Advisors Services, and E-Trade with its E-Trade Adaptive Portfolio.

But acquisitions have been a way for FIs to get up and running with roboadvisory service in a hurry. Some of the more notable recent acquisitions include Legg Mason’s purchase of Financial Guard (F13), Invesco PowerShares acquisition of Jemstep (F13), and Blackrock’s taking on FutureAdvisor (F13).

Other FIs are splitting the difference and instead are seeking partnerships with roboadvisors. The recent agreement and investment between Citizens Bank and SigFig to help the former build out a roboadvisory platform is an example of this approach.

Changing Nature of Advice

The growing capacity of roboadvisors to help manage other aspects of personal finance supports a more expansive view of “wealth management” and “financial planning,” This includes everything from health care planning, insurance, even real estate, education and leisure. The ability of technology to aggregate financial information is a major catalyst here – giving managers the ability to provide guidance beyond traditional boundaries.

Much of what is driving the changing nature of advice has to do with those being advised. The myriad and interconnected financial concerns affecting millennials – from managing student loan debt to starting a family – mean that financial planning beyond how to invest in a 401(k) is increasingly relevant and necessary. At the other end of the spectrum, active older adults in the “longevity economy” have issues in finance that are different from those of seniors a generation ago who often had pensions and other financial support later in life.

This is where companies like iQuantifi (F14) a self-described “proud roboadvisor” and virtual financial advisor, come in, with a platform that provides planning and guidance over a wide variety of topics including insurance. Millennials are being catered to by wealth tech firms like WiseBanyan (FD16) while near and recent retirees can look to a company like True Link (F14), which specializes in financial planning for seniors.

Envestnet | Yodlee’s New Launch Helps Mortgage Lenders Verify Applicants’ Assets

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Data aggregation and analytics platform Envestnet | Yodlee is reaching multiple big fintech trends this year, starting with the company’s wealthtech solution, Advisor Now, that launched at FinovateSpring in May. Today, the California-based company has landed on another hot trend, real estate technology, with the launch of its Mortgage Asset Verification product.

The Mortgage Asset Verification solution gives U.S. lenders a report that helps them verify an applicant’s assets without requiring the consumer to supply account statements. The report, which is built around the Fair Credit Reporting Act framework, offers real time account, transaction, cash, and investment asset data sourced from the applicant’s financial institutions. It is available as a PDF or data package so that it can be shared easily with third parties. The solution can also be integrated into a lender’s existing system via API.

According to John Bird, Vice President of Product Marketing at Envestnet | Yodlee, the Mortgage Asset Verification solution eliminates two major headaches loan officers face, a poor client experience combined with slow time to closure. In a press release, Bird said, “The Envestnet | Yodlee Mortgage Asset Verification report provides a simple, secure and highly flexible way for lenders to request and receive in-depth reports verifying borrower’s assets. Not only does this help close loans faster through more efficient processing, it also eliminates a serious pain point for their customers during the application and underwriting process.”

Since acquiring Yodlee in August of last year for $660 million, Envestnet | Yodlee has built out its Advisor Now solution and landed a partnership with Morgan Stanley’s wealth management arm. Envestnet | Yodlee most recently demoed at FinovateFall 2016 and at FinDEVr Silicon Valley 2016 where Deviprasad Kocherry, Director of Platform & Product Management and Deven Maru, Sr. Product Manager of Mobile Platform presented on fast integration using the company’s APIs.

It’s Holiday Loan Time

MembersPlus Credit Union Holiday Loan Promotion (#2 of 3 in rotation)
MembersPlus Credit Union Holiday Loan Promotion (#2 of 3 in rotation)

 

I’ve been slightly obsessed with holiday-themed marketing, actually the lack of it, over the years. It’s not that I think putting a bow on your website will magically improve your ROE. It’s that by not doing anything, it seems like you are just not trying. You put holiday decorations up in branches, why wouldn’t you extend that same thinking to your digital look and feel?

And it doesn’t have to be an extra cost (like those branch decorations). You can push holiday-themed promotions to make cover the costs of the website changes and then some. One example, primarily offered by U.S. credit unions is the so-called Holiday Loan (see other examples in our past coverage). These are small (usually under $5,000, sometimes just $1,000) unsecured installment loans to help families with surging holiday expenses. Typically, they must be paid back within 12 months so they are not outstanding next Christmas.

In poking around the web this afternoon, we saw a number of examples at credit unions (and the lone bank). My favorite was this promotion from MembersPlus Credit Union, a 10,000-member CU in the Boston area. It’s Holiday Loan is currently featured on the homepage with a good supporting holiday graphic. The 7.99% APR is fair and undercuts most bank revolving credit and the 1-year payback schedule is good for helping members get this debt paid off before it becomes a burden a year from now. The maximum loan amount is $5,000.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget the hot chocolate!

The MemberPlus homepage currently display an eye-catching promo for its upcoming Member Appreciation Days (promo #1 of 3 in rotation).
The MembersPlus homepage currently display an eye-catching promo for its upcoming Member Appreciation Days (promo #1 of 3 in rotation).

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Top Trends in Wealth Tech: From API-ization to Virtual Engagement

Around the web

  • Full Profile’s AgriDigital successfully executes its first settlement of an agricultural commodity on a blockchain, enabling real-time payment on title transfer for Aussie grain growers.
  • Strands to power PFM for Davivienda, a major Colombian bank.
  • OnDeck announces new $200 million revolving credit facility with Credit Suisse.
  • Georgia Heritage FCU and Wepawaug-Flagg FCU select Bankjoy to power their digital banking platforms.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Credit Karma Launches Free Tax Filing Service

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Consumer-facing credit monitoring site Credit Karma is celebrating Christmas a bit early this year, but the presents its 60 million users will receive won’t be wrapped. The San Francisco-based company launched a new (and free) tax-return preparation offering this week to complement its flagship, free credit-score monitoring, as well as its loan- and credit-card comparison technology.

The new solution is powered by Credit Karma’s recent acquisition of online tax preparation and filing company AFJC Corporation, which sold co-branded and private-label tax services under the names OnePriceTaxes and Tax Preparer Solutions. New and existing users will have access to free tax filing in January 2017, just in time for tax season. According to Forbes, 90% of Americans will be able to file their taxes using the new tax-filing suite. The remaining 10% have complicated taxes for which the typical 1040 form is not suitable.

In a blog post announcing the service, Credit Karma CEO Ken Lin was eager to highlight that the service is free. He said, “We don’t have a paid version of our product nor are there confusing packages or versions to trick you into paying. It’s just one simple and truly free solution. And over time, we believe the integrations and insights will make your taxes even easier.”

Credit Karma is seeking to position itself as a financial assistant. As Lin explains, “We can monitor your credit, advise you on how to make good financial decisions and suggest better cards, loans and insurance products for you.” Since Credit Karma gets paid when customers sign up for a third-party’s product on its site, it makes sense for the company to offer another product to entice new users and to get existing users to spend more time on its website.

While the new tax offering doesn’t cost much for Credit Karma to maintain, it did take some time and effort to build. The profit will come in the form of client data. By leveraging income data in users’ tax returns, the company can make better recommendations for credit cards and loans to drive sales for partner companies including Payoff and Upstart for loans and Chase and Barclaycard for credit card offers.

Since launching in 2007, Credit Karma has raised $368.5 million and is valued at $3.5 billion. It offers free credit reports from Equifax and Transunion and seeks to serve as a hub for users to monitor their financial health. Last month, Credit Karma expanded operations to Canada, its first market outside the U.S. The company’s CEO Ken Lin debuted its Debt Manager at FinovateSpring 2009.

Finicity Scores $42 Million Series B in Round Led by Experian

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Real-time financial data-aggregation provider Finicity will use $42 million in new capital to drive new product development, especially financial management and payment solutions for the credit decisioning market. The Series B round was led by Experian (F12), included a venture debt facility from Bridge Bank, and featured participation from Finicity’s existing investors.

Finicity CEO and co-founder Steve Smith said the funding represented a belief in his company’s vision of transforming the financial data services market. “The emergence of the open financial web, and our ability to access and analyze account data, is enabling new thinking in financial services,” Smith said. “This will improve existing processes and lead to better financial decisions for individuals and the institutions that serve them.”
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From left:
Finicity Data Services President Nick Thomas and CTO Chip Whitmer demonstrated TxPUSH API at FinovateSpring 2015.

Finicity’s recent certification as a credit-reporting agency was a hint that the financial data-aggregation services veteran might add credit decisioning to its set of solutions. To start, Finicity will focus on making the loan origination process more efficient, in part by “digitiz(ing) the legacy pen-and-paper process of asset and income verification.”

Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Finicity demonstrated its TxPUSH API for fintech apps at FinovateSpring 2015, and presented “The Launch of Real-time Transaction Push” at FinDEVr New York 2016. In September, the company unveiled its ACH Account Verification API and, in August, Finicity won the Finance API of the Year award from API World.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • “Finovate Debuts: BondIT Helps Relationship Managers Focus on the Relationship”
  • “Finicity Scores $42 Million Series B in Round Led by Experian
  • “Credit Karma Launches Free Tax Filing Service”

Around the web

  • Vasco to power multifactor authentication for BankMobile.
  • Engadget interviews Bo Lu, CEO of FutureAdvisor.
  • Micronotes launches Enterprise 4.0 platform that helps convert digital banking traffic into personal conversations and sales.
  • FIS establishes partner network for early-stage fintech companies.
  • Let’s Talk Payments interviews Stuart Lacey, Trunomi CEO and founder.
  • Blackhawk Network to integrate gift cards, loyalty, and rewards into Apple Pay.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

FinovateEurope 2017 Presenters Revealed!

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The holidays are officially upon us which means it must be time to announce our presenting companies for FinovateEurope 2017!

Competition was fierce, and we spent weeks reviewing application after application. The innovations in those applications ranged from biometrics and big-data solutions to the latest in payments, investment management, and customer onboarding and experience. After hours of review and debate, we have curated a roster of both leading, established companies and hot, young startups that are guaranteed to pique your curiosity on 7/8 February 2017. To see more information and background on each presenter, stay tuned for our Sneak Peek series.

Below is the current list of the companies showcasing their latest and greatest in London.

In addition to the companies listed above, we’ll be revealing a handful of stealth companies closer to the event.

With these innovative companies hitting the stage, along with eight hours full of high-quality networking in just two days, this is an event you surely won’t want to miss. Register your ticket before Friday, 23 December, and take advantage of the early-bird pricing!


FinovateEurope 2017 is sponsored by: FT Partners, KPMG and more to be announced.

FinovateEurope 2017 is partners with: Aite Group, Fintech Finance, Headcount, Mapa Research, SME Finance Forum, and Verdict Financial.

Finovate Debuts: BondIT Helps Relationship Managers Focus on the Relationship

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BondIT launched with the intention to build and improve fixed-income portfolios. The Israel-based startup’s platform helps advisers construct bond portfolios that are tailor-made and optimized for every client.

In his demo at FinovateFall 2016 COO Eran Nachshon began by explaining the problems BondIT seeks to fix. First, there are more clients, second, clients are seeking more personalized treatment, and third, regulators require an audit trail. “That’s where BondIT comes in,” Nachshon said, “with a hybrid approach that appreciates peoples’ strengths in forging relationships but empowers them with machine learning, data-driven capabilities to construct bond portfolios that are optimized and personalized for each and every client with a clear audit trail. And we do that in two minutes.”

By enabling construction, reallocation, and re-balance of optimal bond portfolios, BondIT helps advisers improve portfolio-management efficiency so they can focus on their client relationship.

Company facts:

  • $6.5 million in funding
  • 25 employees
  • In contracts with several tier 1 banks
  • Founded in 2012
29691687526_0302535a5a_kBondIT COO Eran Nachshon demoed at FinovateFall 2016 in New York City.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaikaaaajdgxowywmtflltyxmdatngviny05ywfjlty3nte1nzdkytlizg-1After FinovateFall, we spoke with Bondit CEO Etai Ravid to learn more about the company and its future plans.

Finovate: What problem does BondIT solve?

Ravid: What we’re ultimately solving is lost bond sales. We want to transform the inefficient processes that relationship managers (RMs) currently utilize into a simple-to-use, data-driven and customizable solution.

Here’s how BondIT is transforming the client-RM relationship in fixed income:

1) We improve portfolio management efficiency by enabling the construction, reallocation and re-balancing of optimal bond portfolios in a few minutes.
2) We drive sales by empowering relationship managers and trading desks with personalized and optimized investment recommendations.
3) We improve client’s satisfaction by providing on-demand, timely and comprehensive reports.

To achieve this, we have developed some of the most advanced, proprietary machine-learning algorithms in fixed income and then present it in an intuitive interface to users.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-4-35-42-pm(above) Optimized portfolio construction
screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-4-38-06-pm(above) Constraints selection

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Ravid: In general, people who can benefit from our product are financial advisers, relationship managers, and all other professionals whose role is to help people invest their money in a financially prudent way.

Strategically speaking, we’re currently targeting private banks or private wealth arms of large financial institutions and wealth managers, since most AUM is managed by private bankers and wealth managers. BondIT offers material business value-add capabilities to increase AUM and trades.

Finovate: How does BondIT solve the problem better?

Ravid: The problem, to iterate, is lost bond sales. Every time a client calls a bank and has to wait several days to receive an answer, or receives a one-size-fits-all reply, translates into another lost trade, and another dissatisfied client much more likely to migrate to another, nimbler competitor.

BondIT solves this problem better by arming the entire chain of people interacting with clients with a fast (90 seconds); intuitive (15 minutes of training required); tailored (every portfolio is different); powerful (machine-learning) platform. Furthermore, it allows the advisers to proactively engage clients by alerting them to changes in the portfolio that prompt changes (re-balance) which will benefit the client, greatly enhancing the probability for the triple win: bank is happy (more trades); adviser is happy (seems proactive); and client is happy (better portfolios).

bondit3Portfolio analytics and management

Finovate: Tell us about your favorite implementation of your solution.

Ravid: The following is an excerpt from a user, and it shows how our solution works hand in hand with relationship managers to improve outcomes for all.

On Monday morning, I got a call from a prospective client, asking to hear about what our bank has to offer, as he has heard mixed reviews. Instead of going into the usual spiel (unparalleled research, best client service etc.), I told him about a new software that instantly imports and improves portfolios. He bites, and tells me his 12 positions over the phone.

I punch them into BondIT, hit the “Improve Me” button and chat him up about his goals for a minute and a half. BondIT found a way to enhance his YTM by 70 basis points while maintaining his risk. He was so surprised by the prompt response and excess yield that he set up a face-to-face meeting. Long story short, I converted a $3 million client in a few minutes.

Finovate: What in your background gave you the confidence to tackle this challenge?

Ravid: I came from a finance background with a master’s degree in finance and had professional experience in portfolio management and equity valuation.

I derive my confidence from my family, as I’m a third-generation entrepreneur. This firsthand experience, coupled with my education, instilled a deeply seated belief that it’s always possible to succeed in creating a better way to do things.

Finovate: What are some upcoming initiatives from BondIT that we can look forward to over the next few months?

Ravid:

1) BondIT is working closely with several leading fixed income/financial platform providers on synergetic collaboration. This will complete the advisory service circle from ideation to execution.

2) BondIT will continue its global expansion, with a particular focus on growth in the U.S. and Asian markets.

3) BondIT will be introducing an even more advanced analytics solution, to include investors’ behavior-based analytics; advanced predictive and descriptive analytics algorithms; and some surprises we can’t reveal yet—stay tuned!

Finovate: Where do you see BondIT a year or two from now?

Ravid: We envision BondIT assisting thousands of fixed-income advisers and managers in delivering a superior customer experience, and as a result, enjoy a boost in sales.

BondIT will also be integrated into leading execution/information platforms, creating analytical recommendation as a part of completely friction-less flow.

Ultimately, we want BondIT to be seen as the gold standard when it comes to smart recommendations and data-driven portfolio management for fixed-income investment.


Here’s BondIT’s FinovateFall 2016 demo video. COO Eran Nachshon showcased the platform in New York City:

Western Union Takes Strategic Stake in Walletron

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Walletron, the company that hopes to make accessing your mobile wallets as easy as using your digital boarding pass at the airport, has just won a strategic investment from Western Union. Khalid Fellahi, SVP and GM for Western Union Digital, said his firm’s partnership with Walletron helps reinforce Western Union’s commitment to the mobile channel, which he calls “our priority customer-engagement channel” for both money transfer and payments.

Walletron’s technology is an SaaS platform that manages the content and appearance of digital cards in a mobile wallet such as Wallet and Android Pay. The company’s moBills solution enables billers to put a payment and presentment channel on customers’ smartphones to provide for faster payment, important reminders and notifications, and more.

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Walletron CEO Garrett Baird demonstrated moBills at FinovateFall 2015.

The strategic investment—amount undisclosed—comes just a few months after the two companies announced a commercial alliance between Walletron and Western Union’s billpay service, Speedway. The alliance enables Western Union biller clients to add Walletron’s moBills solution to take advantage of personalized notifications, bill information, and other features using their smartphones.

Nasdaq.com reported that Western Union’s investment in Walletron is part of an effort to expand its presence in the mobile payments space. The company’s own research indicates that 27% of all consumers and 48% of Gen Y consumers expect to pay more bills by a mobile device. Mobile World Live compared the Walletron investment to Western Union’s partnership with messaging app WeChat back in November 2015, and noted the company’s competition from mobile remittance/money transfer startups such as Azimo and Xendpay.

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Walletron demonstrated its moBills solution at FinovateFall 2015. Check out our Finovate Debut profile of the company from this summer.