How Lending-as-a-Service Can Impact Small Businesses in Need

One of the brutal facts of the COVID-19 outbreak is that it will be difficult for small businesses to survive. The self-distancing and shelter-in-place orders, while temporary, are taxing for already cash-strapped merchants.

Adding to the hardship, small businesses may find it especially difficult to get a much-needed loan from their local bank or credit union since many have closed physical branches to encourage social distancing. And while banks offer many services online, only 1% are capable of extending a loan digitally.

This is where lending-as-a-service steps in. The technology works like a plug-and-play option that allows financial institutions to launch mobile and web financing applications, exchange documents digitally, and issue funds within a few days. While third party fintechs already offer digital lending services, many banks are years away from being able to develop and integrate their own online lending service.

When banks implement lending-as-a-service, they are in a better position to serve small businesses that need cash flow quickly. It means that instead of turning to unfamiliar third party financing solutions, businesses can maintain their relationship with their primary bank as they get back on their feet after the crisis.

Military veteran-focused small business lending platform StreetShares began selling a lending-as-a-service offering for banks last September after it launched the product at FinovateFall. Using the new service, banks can lend up to $250,000 in funding to small businesses via a process that takes place completely online using the applicant’s web or mobile device.

StreetShares’ lending-as-a-service program offers lenders a 100% digital loan application, instant underwriting, as well as loan servicing and tracking. The program doesn’t require software integration and can go live in under 30 days.

The company’s lending-as-a-service solution has already seen success, having amassed 30 clients, including banks, credit unions, and alternative lenders. Here’s the good news– StreetShares is waiving its software subscription fees through the end of the year for banks who fund small businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

The company is calling this initiative Main Street Heroes. Since banking has transformed to an almost completely digital industry, the new initiative enables lenders to add a completely digital lending tool and serve businesses they otherwise may have had to turn away.

“In the wake of the coronavirus, business owners and regulators are both asking lenders to do more to help Main Street,” said StreetShares CEO Mark Rockefeller. “But most banks and credit unions simply have no ability to make these loans digitally. StreetShares has the needed technology and can power lenders to be the heroes that Main Street needs right now.”

StreetShares was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Reston, Virginia. Mark Rockefeller is CEO.

TheWaay, Neo Digital Banking and Serving the Mass Affluent Market

Making banking more compatible with the everyday lives of consumers is one of the top goals of fintechs everywhere. London-based fintech startup, TheWaay, which made its Finovate debut last year in Dubai and followed that appearance with a Best of Show winning return to the Finovate stage a few months later in Singapore, has built a solution designed to do just that.

Founded in 2016, TheWaay offers a Lifestyle Banking platform that helps banks and other financial institutions better understand and meet the needs of their customers. The platform’s Lifestyle Assistant leverages deep behavioral profiling to give users personalized lifestyle advice and suggestions on financial services and banking products, as well as travel and e-commerce opportunities that might interest them. The technology helps financial services firms increase customer engagement and transaction volume, as well as grow revenue through increased up-sell activity.

“This product organically grew from inside our company for one reason,” company CEO Ivan Kochetov said during a demonstration of the company’s Digital Family Office solution at FinovateAsia. “We were sad because everybody was doing neo and digital banking for the mass market, and nobody was doing neo and digital banking for people like you and I, for the affluent market, for the premium market. Is it fair? No.”

TheWaay CEO Ivan Kochetov

For TheWaay, this neo digital banking solution for the affluent market should be about more than changing designs, Kochetov said. Instead, it should be about “new value (and) new promise.” The goal is to provide what Kochetov called “the first digital family office” for the affluent market that works within an institution’s banking app to provide a private banking level of service.

We caught up with Kirill Lisitsyn, Head of Business Development with TheWaay, who facilitated our email conversation with company CEO Ivan Kochetov earlier this year. The transcript of our exchange follows.

Finovate: Congratulations on winning Best of Show at your first Finovate event! What was your experience at FinovateAsia like? 

Ivan Kochetov: Thanks a lot! Oh, that was incredible! It was our first step to test the ground in Asia and we surprisingly got the award! 

Finovate: For those who are just getting to know your company, what problem does TheWaay solve? 

Kochetov: We are a fintech startup aiming to shift current “old school” communications between bank and its customers to a new way of personalized non-banking communications based on customers’ lifestyle and needs. And we believe that this is the right way to support banking industry transformation in the era of the engagement economy. 

Finovate: How does TheWaay solve the problem better? 

Kochetov: We develop a software that is called Lifestyle Banking Platform. We help banks to understand people and become a Lifestyle Assistant for their customers to boost daily engagement, card transactions and up-sell metrics in their mobile banking app. We use over 500 attributes for each customer and a model trained with over 1 billion in transactions. 

Finovate: Who are your primary customers? 

Kochetov: We are a B2B2C business. Historically we have been building our expertise within banking industry, but now also see the growing interest from telco and retail industries as well. Especially accounting the trend for virtual banking, you do not need huge branches network to become a bank and serve customers. But once you are a digital-only bank you need to engage your customers in your digital channels. And here we could definitely help. 

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

Kochetov: The core of our team has a well-balanced mix of background in behavioral psychology, machine learning, product development and in implementing innovative tech and consulting projects for large financial institutions. 

CEO Kochetov and Head of Business Development Kirill Lisitsyn at FinovateAsia 2019 in Singapore.

Finovate: Tell us about a favorite feature of your platform. 

Kochetov: Ha! You know, based on our user surveys and the metrics we track, we figured out that one of the favorite features of our Lifestyle Assistant product is the advice on how to spend one day of a weekend. Users do not have to worry about what to do on their free day; our system will suggest a set of recommendation and ideas coupled with geo-routes, all based on user’s lifestyle, interests, and preferences. 

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

Kochetov: We plan to launch several pilot projects of our Digital Family Office product that we presented on Finovate Asia. We successfully delivered PoC projects, and now very much look forward to scaling that success. Also we have prioritized our international expansion and plan to get few international contracts within next 3-6 months. 

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

Kochetov: We plan continue our rapid growth which will be supported by our presence in 3-4 large international markets and focus on 2-3 industries. Also we aim to sign one or two global mutually-beneficial partnerships which could even speed-up our expansion.

How to Spy on Your Neighbor’s Financial Status

Status is something we’ve become accustomed to in the social media era. On Facebook, we update our status to let our friends know how fun our vacation was. On Instagram we brag about our financial status, on Twitter we show off our social status, and on LinkedIn we boast about our professional status.

Comparisons

There’s one fintech in particular that understands this. Aptly named Status, the New York-based company helps users compare themselves with others– though not via pictures, memes, or self-aggrandizing updates. Status takes a user’s financial snapshot by aggregating all of their accounts and anonymously compares a range of metrics with the national average and different groups, including others with similar demographics, people in the user’s geographical location, those that are in the user’s income range, and of the same age.

What exactly are they comparing? Users can analyze their spending, income, debt, assets, net worth, and credit score and compare each figure against those of different groups. Specifically, users can see how much others in their geographical area spend on groceries, how their credit score compares to the national average, how their net worth compares with others in their same age group, how much folks in their same income range spend on housing, etc.

Business model

Because users are motivated to share as much financial data as they can to see how they compare with their peers, Status has excellent insight into which products and services will be most enticing. If Status sees a consumer has a lot of liquid cash, they might show them an ad for a high-interest savings account. Or maybe the user’s vehicle is 15 years old– in that case Status may show them new vehicle financing offers.

Some of Status’ partners include Airbnb, AllState, Liberty Mutual, Betterment, VSP, and Haven Life. Status makes money when it makes a successful referral. This is a common model with B2C fintechs who want to offer their services for free to end consumers.

Personal experience

I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed the comparison capabilities more than I thought I would. My competitive side loves comparing every aspect of my financial standing with others. However, I found it more difficult than I expected to aggregate my entire financial life to gain an accurate comparison. I linked my everyday accounts but there are multiple investment accounts and crypto holdings still outstanding. Additionally, I never found a good way to account for my investment property.

As for the referrals, I was impressed. The offers listed were much more relevant than the offers my bank (which keeps trying to get me to refinance a vehicle loan that I don’t have) usually presents.

Overall, I think I’ll be back. As with all PFM platforms, it is difficult to get a clear picture since transaction categories are often muddled. However, it is still a nice way to not only view my own financial standing, but also compare it with my neighbors.

Enveil and the Challenge of Securing Data In Use

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When it comes to defending your data, Enveil’s speciality is helping prevent you from losing it while you’re using it. The company, which picked up $10 million in funding last month and made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall in 2017, enables businesses to securely perform analysis on encrypted data at scale.

“Over the past three years, we’ve successfully created a market, solidified customer use cases, executed enterprise deployments, and expanded our capabilities, for protecting data in use where it is and as it is today,” company CEO and founder Ellison Anne Williams explained when the company’s Series A round was announced. She added that the funding will help the company market its ZeroReveal product suite on a “global scale” and, indeed, the company announced just a few days later that it was opening a new office in London.

Enveil VP of Sales Craig Trautman referred to the London opening as “an important first step toward expanding our footprint in the regions most directly affected by evolving global regulatory standards.”

Founded in 2016, Williams launched Enveil after years of working with institutions like the National Security Agency – where she was a Senior Researcher for more than ten years – and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. She has leveraged this experience – and advanced degrees in mathematics (algebraic combinatorics and set theoretic topology) and computer science (machine learning) – into building one of the more innovative companies in the secure data collaboration / privacy enhancing technologies industry.

In a commentary for Dark Reading last month, Williams explained how a focus on securing data itself is one of the best ways for companies to negotiate an ever-shifting regulatory environment. To avoid the “hamster wheel of compliance,” she argued, businesses should learn how to secure data rather than the “networks, applications, and endpoints” that data uses.

The biggest challenge with securing data is that one of its most critical states – the state of being used – is also the most challenging state to secure. Compared to data that is not being used – data either at rest or in transit – data in use, according to Williams, represents the “point of least resistance” for the latest generation of cybercriminals. This is in large part because many of the technologies to secure data in use have historically not been “practical enough for commercial use.”

And this is where Enveil comes in. By discovering a way to apply technologies like homomorphic encryption, that are effective defenses for data in use, in a commercial context, Enveil offers businesses in verticals ranging from financial services and supply chain finance to cloud security and healthcare a way to securely work with secure data without having to decrypt it.

Enveil’s flagship solution, its ZeroReveal Compute Fabric, is a two-party platform of a ZeroReveal Client application which resides within the enterprise, and the ZeroReveal Server application, which is located where the data is kept. Via standard APIs, the technology works alongside the business’s current protections to provide security during the data processing lifecycle. Within this solution, Enveil offers functionality to power searches of secure data (ZeroReveal Search), conduct analytic investigations on encrypted data (ZeroReveal Analytics), and support the use of secured enclaves like Intel’s SGX (ZeroReveal Enclave).

In addition to expanding geographically, Enveil is also looking to add to its team. The company is specifically looking to bring on engineering talent to support new products, as well as additional sales and marketing team members to help drive Enveil’s efforts overseas.

“Enveil is stepping up to solve a fundamental security challenge: preserve privacy while ensuring that data remains usable,” C5 Capital Managing Partner Zulfe Ali said. “By empowering organizations to secure data throughout its lifecycle, Enveil’s contributions go beyond adding business value and ensuring compliance.”

How a Banking License Evolved Neo’s Vision

Neo was founded in 2017 with a vision, as described by CEO Laurent Descout, “to create a platform that can replace the old fashioned banking platform. A true ‘one-stop shop’ that offers all the financial products a corporate client needs to operate in a global environment.”

The Spain-based company demoed its business account platform at FinovateEurope. At the event Descout, along with the company’s Chief Product Officer Emmanuel Anton, showcased how Neo offers a single place where businesses can manage their collections and payments across 30 currencies.

Neo also showed the audience (check out the video below) its FX hedging engine that enables businesses to hedge their FX risk over 90 currencies. The company offers a range of FX instruments, such as forwards, swaps, and options, as well as pre-designed hedging strategies.

Last July Neo received authorization from the Bank of Spain to become a PSD2-compliant payment institution. The new license will enable Neo to offer multicurrency business accounts, allowing companies to pay, store, and receive 25 different currencies. Among those are exotic currencies such as CNY, SAR, MXN, and TRY. Neo reports that it will add 15 currencies to the list soon.

The new banking license converts Neo’s website into a gateway of business-focused services. In addition to Neo’s flagship FX hedging solutions and the new multicurrency payments and collections tools, users have access to treasury management tools that allow clients to reduce costs and digitize their treasury department. Porting their treasury management tools to a digital environment allows businesses to automate tasks and reduce the human errors that result from manual input.

Neo has also made other recent developments, as well. The company has added new liquidity providers in its liquidity pool to offer users better prices. It also started offering hedging maturities up to 24 months and began offering currency deposits for clients holding USD, GBP, and PLN. Additionally, Neo landed a partnership with BPIFrance to build an FX offering for exporters.

Neo has raised $5.4 million since it was founded in 2016. The company’s founders include Emmanuel Anton, Ian Yates, Laurent Descout, and Nuria Molet.

Meet Sonect: Cash Network Builder, Finovate Newcomer, Best of Show Winner

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What’s better than having a large pizza with all your favorite toppings delivered to your front door?

How about a side order of cash, saving you a trip to the ATM or bank branch?

Sonect, which won Best of Show in its Finovate debut at FinovateEurope in Berlin earlier this month, leverages what it calls a social network for cash to help people get the cash they need wherever they are. Based in Zurich, Switzerland and founded in 2016 by CEO Sandipan Chakraborty, the company enables merchants ranging from cafes and coffee shops to pharmacies and bodegas to benefit from the additional customer traffic of Sonect customers.

At the same time, banks can extend their ATM networks with Sonect, avoiding the expense of purchasing and maintaining additional cash distribution hardware.

The solution works simply for the user. After downloading the Sonect iOS or Android app, the user creates a Sonect account. They then select their preferred shop or merchant and the amount of cash they wish to withdraw. The merchant will scan the barcode in the user’s Sonect app, and the funds will automatically be deducted from your account as soon as the transaction is confirmed. The user then receives their cash.

Both banking accounts as well as credit card accounts can be used with Sonect (both Visa and Mastercard are currently accepted.) The solution is free of charge for both users and shops.

Sonect IT Project Manager Thai Nguyen and CEO Sandipan Chakraborty demonstrating the company’s virtual ATM network at FinovateEurope 2020.

Sonect was inspired in part by observing the slow rate of adoption of new technologies like Apple Pay. A self-described “strong believer of (the) death of cash (at) the hand of mobile payments,” Chakraborty nevertheless saw an opportunity to help bridge the gap between the custom and convenience of cash and the opportunities of digital alternatives that have yet to be fully embraced by banks, consumers, and merchants. It’s also worth noting that Switzerland is a country where cash is still very much king; the Swiss National Bank reports that 70% of all transactions in the country are still in cash.

Chakraborty credits enabling technologies like blockchain and open banking APIs for making Sonect possible. An IT Project/Program Delivery Manager with Credit Suisse for more than 12 years, he likens Sonect to a platform similar to Uber and Airbnb that is able to create a vast, service network – in transportation, accommodations, or, in Sonect’s case, for cash withdrawal – without having to bear the burden of building and maintaining a vast physical infrastructure to go along with it.

The Sonect team picks up a Best of Show award in its Finovate debut at FinovateEurope.

Currently available only in Switzerland, there are more than 2,500 shops partnered with Sonect. That said, Chakraborty noted, “We are in a phase where we are expanding within Europe,” adding that because of the company’s Best of Show award, he believes “the word (about Sonect) will spread quicker than we anticipated,” Chakraborty also said that the company has been in conversations with banks “across Europe, across the continent” about potential partnerships.

Sonect has raised more than $8.7 million (CHF 8.5 million) in funding from investors including SixThirty and Loomis AB. The company has 25 employees in its offices in Zurich; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Mexico City, Mexico.

eToro’s Evolution

Social trading and investment platform eToro has never been one to stand still for very long. The company’s development cycle is fast enough to make even the most sprightly fintech jealous.

Roots

eToro was founded by David Ring, Ronen Assia, and Yoni Assia in 2007 with a mission to make trading accessible to anyone, anywhere, and reduce dependency on traditional financial institutions. The company has come a long way since its first iteration, which was, by today’s standards, simple.

Starting up

eToro started as an easy-to-understand online trading platform that made investing more digestible with the use of graphics. Three years after its initial launch in July of 2010, the company unveiled CopyTrader, its social trading platform that enables users to copy the trades of successful investors. The model proved popular among investors and gave eToro notoriety within the fintech industry. After CopyTrader the company launched a mobile app, introduced stocks, unveiled a new interface, and launched CopyPortfolio.

This screenshot from eToro’s FinovateEurope 2011 demo gives off major retro fintech vibes.

Move into cryptocurrencies

In 2013, eToro took a chance on cryptocurrencies, adding Bitcoin trading via CFDs. From there, the company continued to advance its cryptocurrency offerings. Here’s what the past seven years of innovation have looked like for eToro:

  • 2017: enabled users to trade and invest in Ethereum, XRP, Litecoin, and others
  • 2018: launched its cryptocurrency investment offering to users in the U.S.
  • 2019: partnered with TIE to deliver sentiment-driven investment strategies
  • 2019: launched the eToro Club, a personalized trading experience

Best of Show accolades

eToro’s most recent Finovate appearance was FinovateEurope 2017, where CEO and Founder Yoni Assia, along with VP of Product Tal Ben-Simon, took the stage to demo CopyFunds for Partners. The duo won Best of Show bragging rights for the presentation, marking eToro’s fourth Best of Show award since its first Finovate demo in 2011.

To see eToro’s evolution yourself, watch the company’s most recent 2017 demo in contrast with its 2011 demo.

FinovateEurope 2017

FinovateEurope 2011

A Generation of Customer Collaboration

Customers have been getting a lot of attention in the financial services industry lately, and for good reason. After all, they’re the ones who are interacting with and relying on banking services on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. And many times they are even the ones footing the bill!

Fortunately, there are fintechs in the business of helping financial services companies connect with their customers. Take Unblu, for example. The Switzerland-based company launched in 2008 as a conversational platform for financial services companies.

Unblu allows banks and relationship managers to interact with their customers across multiple channels and mediums in order to keep the conversation natural, comfortable, and compliant. Customers can open a chat discussion, host a video call, or schedule a co-browsing session with a view of existing websites and screens to enhance the conversation of the customer’s view.

The company offers four products. The first, Conversational Banking, provides interactivity that allows for a seamless flow of questions, answers, ideas, and scheduling. Retail Banking and Private Banking allow the organization to enhance the user experience while better capturing leads for upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Lastly, the insurance offering provides the capability to submit claims and compare different products.

Key to the Unblu platform are the safety and compliance aspects. Not only does Unblu protect clients’ data, it also protects their information during screensharing by masking sensitive information. Organizations are safeguarded as well, with archived interaction logs and audit trails of client communications.

Last year Unblu opened an office in Frankfurt, Germany. The move aimed to support geographic expansion and marks the company’s third international office location– in addition to the U.S. and U.K.– outside of its Switzerland headquarters. And Unblu’s growth continues to compound. The company counts more than 120 financial services firms as clients– almost triple the number of clients Unblu had in 2017.

If you happen to be at FinovateEurope this week, you’re in luck! Unblu will take the stage during the second demo session on Wednesday, 12 February at the Intercontinental Berlin. There’s still time to register so book now!

Fintech and the Case for Senior-Based Solutions

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Recently I came across an interesting story of how tech native GenZ kids were being paired with aging Boomers to help them navigate a variety of contemporary technology tools – from their smartphones to their SnapChat apps.

At a time when sneers like “OK Boomer” quickly trend on social media, it was a refreshing reminder of the role younger generations can play in making some of the dramatic changes in society – including technology – easier for their older family members, friends, neighbors, and even perfect strangers to navigate.

With this in mind, I wanted to take a look at how entrepreneurs are leveraging fintech to do the same thing: make it easier for seniors to not just participate in online life, but to thrive there.

Ensuring that the online and mobile worlds are a safer place for seniors is one of the important contributions that technology can make. EverSafe, which introduced its solution to Finovate audiences at FinovateFall 2014, specializes in leveraging technology to help protect seniors against financial exploitation. The company’s software examines the senior’s financial transactions and credit report on a daily basis, looking for unexpected patterns and other anomalies that may indicate potentially fraudulent activity. Once suspicious activity is detected, the user is alerted immediately and, if the activity is confirmed, a resolution process is started.

Earlier this year, Eversafe lent its technology to researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine in Portland. The goal is to help medical professionals uncover cognitive test markers that correlate with changes in the financial behavior of seniors. Interviewed in Alzheimer’s News Today, Dr. Kathy Wild noted that these insights could help determine when and to what extent independent living is the best option for a given senior. The results of Wild’s study are expected in 2021.

Eversafe was founded in 2012 by Howard Tischler, who is the company’s CEO. The firm is headquartered in Columbia, Maryland.

Best of Show winner at FinovateFall 2018, Golden offers technology geared toward helping older Boomers take care of their parents, many of whom are entering assisted living communities. The company’s Financial Caregiving Assistant app and Family Collaboration platform provide an array of services such as security for online accounts; automatic, on-time billpay; expense review; and a family document vault. The offering also helps seniors and caretakers to discover government benefits and drug discounts they may be eligible for. Partnerships with a variety of financial services companies gives Golden users the ability to offer branded services – including legal, financial, estate, and wealth management services – to their customers, as well.

The first company to win AARP’s Financial Innovation Award and Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Aging Innovation Challenge, Golden was launched in 2016 by CEO Evin Ollinger, and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

Even among hardened fintech fans there was an audible gasp in the room when FinovateAsia 2019 Best of Show winner Bereev‘s CEO announced bluntly that her company’s goal was to help you “plan for your death.” Then again, it’s hard not to take a company that uses the Twitter hashtag #DeathPlan seriously.

Malaysia-based, Bereev digitizes and simplifies a life-planning process that is not only complex, but is also typically paper-intensive and burdensome. In explaining the origins of the company, founder and CEO Izumi Inoue compared the unexpected, end-of-life experience of her grandmother with the passing of her grandfather soon afterward, who had learned from his wife’s death the importance of end-of-life planning. And not just for important documents and the numbers to bank accounts, either. More personal instructions like which friends to contact were also a part of Inoue’s grandfather’s plan. They are a part of Bereev, as well.

A legacy planning solution, Bereev helps guide an individual’s family on what to do in the event of their injury, incapacitation, or death. Bereev has four components to building this contingency plan: a digital vault for important documents such as wills and insurance policies; the ability to record and save “last words” to be sent or shared with loved ones; and an accessibility console that enables the user to determine who gets access to which data and information in Bereev.

The fourth component is a guided journey that helps ensure that users provide clear instructions on how they want their affairs handled after death. The solution is set up so that all the user has to is answer a pair of questions each week, and Bereev will build out over time a personalized set of end-of-life instructions based on the user’s responses. “Before you know it,” Inoue said, “you’ll have very clear instructions left behind.”

Poignantly, Inoue notes that there are many innovations in technology in general and fintech in specific, that help you prepare and take advantage of the happier times in life: getting married, buying a first home, planning for a family. “But what about the darker and tougher times in life,” Inoue asks, “who is going to help you then? At Bereev, our goal is to help you cope through those difficult moments of life – with technology.”

Here’s How Far We’ve Come with Voice AI in Customer Service

When it comes to customer service, even in-person interactions can be unpleasant. And doing business over the phone is usually markedly worse, especially if there is a bot involved.

There is one fintech fighting that stereotype, however. Voca.ai offers a virtual call center agent tailored to the financial services industry. And you won’t find the company referring to this virtual agent as a bot. Instead, Voca.ai uses terms such as “empathetic,” “smart,” and “human-friendly” to describe its virtual agent Voca.

Advancements

Voca implements an AI that has been trained by listening to an organization’s recordings of successful agents. Voca not only imitates the representatives’ responses, it also uses a human-sounding cadence and adds pauses and filler words such as “um.” The use case in the video below depicts a collections scenario. Other possible applications for Voca include lead generation, customer qualification, appointment scheduling, cross-selling, and customer retention.

Voca’s collections agent in the video sounds remarkably human, especially with such a common name, Sarah. Sarah pauses in all the right places, has sympathetic intonations, and understands David, her client, even when he doesn’t use proper English.

All of this is part of Voca.ai’s secret sauce. The company’s virtual agent leverages information from the call such as speech rhythm, tone, and the speed of the conversation to identify the customer’s intent and emotion. As the call progresses, the virtual agent can even pick up on clues that indicate that what the customer is saying is different from what they actually mean.

What’s lacking

Because of common fraud tactics such as phishing, society has been trained to never offer personal information over an incoming phone call. Figuring out a way for the customer to authenticate themselves without compromising their identity is a major hurdle here. In fact, this is such an enigma that digital identity is one of the biggest topics in fintech, and one that will persist.

Maintaining human cadence is a second item that needs to be considered here. This isn’t obvious in the demo above, but if you watch the company’s demo at FinovateSpring last year (which won Best of Show), you may notice an awkward pause before each answer. For some, the moment of silence may be just long enough to wonder if the caller understood their answer. This could cause them to repeat themselves and result in the voice agent and the customer talking over each other in an awkward exchange.

Despite the challenges present in voice-powered customer service, Voca.ai has created a powerful tool. Voice has come a long way in reducing friction for not only financial services companies, but also their clients. Additionally, the new adaptations of voice have created a more human-like experience, which is something many consumers crave in today’s digital era.

How Trusona Stops the Funding of Evil

If you’ve ever been hacked, having either money or personal credentials stolen, did you stop to think about what type of person, organization, or agenda you were inadvertently supporting?

“Let’s talk about the funding of evil,” said Trusona founder and CEO Ori Eisen during his first Finovate demo. “When a bank loses $10 million, it’s not a good day for the bank. But where the money goes and what it’s being spent on is not good either.” Eisen then turned to the audience to suggest their responsibility in the matter. “You can help stop or curb the funding of evil,” he added.

At first I thought he was joking. Discussion of the “funding of evil” and “stopping the bad guys” sounded like something straight out of a kid’s TV program. However, it’s no joke and it’s unnerving to think of what these “bad guy” fraudsters do with their stolen cash.

In the demo, Eisen went on to explain that one way to curb funding these fraudsters is to make user’s accounts more secure. And in Trusona’s opinion, the best way to do that is to get rid of passwords entirely. The Arizona-based company just raised $20 million this month in support of this concept– getting rid of the password. The investment brought Trusona’s total funding to $38 million.

So what does web authentication look like without a password? The 30 second process requires the user to have their smartphone with them, but doesn’t require access to a cellular network. Upon logging in, the user clicks Login with Trusona. The web interface shows a unique QR code, and the user then opens the Trusona app on their smartphone, scans the QR code, and taps to accept. Once complete, the user can enter the website without the need for a username or password.

In addition to simple authentication, Trusona also offers solutions for ID scanning and proofing, multi-factor authentication, and VPNs.

The need for such a solution stems from faulty password management skills common among consumers and employees today. In fact, last year Trace Security reported that 81% of company data breaches were caused by poor passwords. Trusona offers an SDK that businesses can integrate into their own app to simplify logins for both employees and end customers.

With its recent funding, Trusona said it will focus on expanding its customer base as well as begin working on new product offerings.

Trusona was founded in 2015 and counts Aetna, Kleiner Perkins, and Bain Capital among its clients. The company has demoed at Finovate twice and won Best of Show awards at both of its appearances. Check out Trusona’s most recent demo below.

banqUP, PSD2, and the Future of Open Banking in Europe

With Finovate making its debut on the European continent just over a month from now, we thought it was a good time to catch up with one of the major fintech innovators in the region, banqUP.

The company, headquartered in Belgium and “proudly developed in Poland,” demonstrated its small business banking platform at FinovateEurope 2017. We reached out to company CEO and founder Krzysztof Pulkiewicz to talk about banqUP’s latest accomplishments in open banking, as well as what the landscape for fintech innovation is like inside and outside the CEE region.

Finovate: The most recent news from banqUP is the news of your AIS license from the Polish Financial Supervision Authority. What does this license enable and how important was this development to your company?

Krzysztof Pulkiewicz: It allows us to broaden our reach and gain new clients. We have been working with a number of banks but now, with our newly gained license, we have the possibility to work both with banks and other entities that can gain access to the opportunities provided by open banking thanks to our solutions.

Finovate: You also recently announced that the company will focus fully on its B2B2C open banking platform. Can you tell us a little bit about the thinking behind this decision?

Pulkiewicz: For banqUP, the main reasons of moving from an idea of a fintech bank to a platform integrating banking APIs were challenges related to the acquisition of customers, especially on mature digital banking markets like Poland. There were also several limitations like opening accounts in polish zloty. On the other hand, we were already closely working with banks interested in our technology. We have seen that a number of our partners were interested in our open banking solutions. We have been working in a sort of a schizophrenic environment – both working with banks and building our own bank as well.

Multibanking was a core element of banqUP fintech bank from day one, and we have decided to focus on this aspect of the platform. We knew that sticking to what we are really good at – technology and data analytics – will be working for us. And it proved true.

banqUp’s platform adds new functionality such as analytics and data enrichment in addition to data aggregation.

Finovate: In line with this, the company has decided to launch a TPP-as-a-Service business line. Why do this and how large are the opportunities there?

Pulkiewicz: This is something we have been thinking about since we have started considering open banking. Multibanking solutions are the beginning of the open banking ecosystem, but we are sure that what the future brings, are the new ideas and products that will come from PSD2. There are many companies that do not consider getting their TPP licenses, as it is not a core of their business.  However, they are willing to use the information provided by the banking system, and our solution is created for such partners.

The number of inquiries we are getting from prospective partners is really astonishing – and these are both new companies and major players from different industries. 

Finovate: You mentioned in an email that you plan to open the next generation of your platform to the public early next year. Can you give us a preview of what’s new and what to expect – as well as any update on the timeline?

Pulkiewicz: Our main focus is on what we call “open banking building blocks.” We are extending our platform with best-in-class API and SDK that will offer effective integration capabilities for developers. On the functional level, we are adding new functionalities on top of data aggregation (analytics, data quality management, and data enrichment) as well as provide and expand on all the components that can support different businesses in connecting to the open-banking world (consent lifecycle management, data streaming, combining PSD2 APIs with other data sources). We know that data aggregation and payment initiation is just a starting point and we are positioning our platform as a one-stop shop for open banking.

The team from banqUP during their live demonstration at FinovateEurope 2017.

Finovate: BanqUp operates in both CEE and non-CEE Europe – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Bulgaria on the one hand, Belgium and Ireland on the other. Are there categorical differences between working with financial institutions in Central Europe compared to Western Europe? Are attitudes toward open banking the same or different?

Pulkiewicz: The ecosystems differ, but the main distinction we see is not between Central and Western Europe, but between individual countries. Ireland’s ecosystem, for example, is very open. It is not only a reaction to the British banking regulations that have been the basis for PSD2 and had an effect on Ireland, but also the number of fintech companies from the U.K. and Ireland that had quickly started working with banks as they have opened. Poland’s banks have been working on many innovative banking tech projects, and banks have implemented many solutions of their own, making their ecosystems quite closed. When you look at Hungary, it was very fast with opening its own data – with eight out of 10 of the biggest banks in the country providing their API access in March of 2019, well before the final implementation of PSD2 in June. The central bank of the country has also created a fintech cooperation strategy. The differences here do not come from geographical divisions, but from the local ecosystems.

Finovate: In addition to the platform enhancements expected in 2020, are there any other announcements you can preview? New partners, new investors, new markets?

Pulkiewicz: We are definitely planning to expand to new markets – mostly focusing on the CEE region. We have a number of really promising talks with new, large partners, but we cannot really disclose any names at this moment. When it comes to investors – we have been very proud we have managed to come to this moment without any external support, but we are now also looking for strategic partnerships and alliances.