Voleo, Social Trading, and Meeting the Investment Needs of Millennials

Voleo, Social Trading, and Meeting the Investment Needs of Millennials

By harnessing the collective wisdom of networked investors, social trading app Voleo helps individuals pursue market-beating returns. Voleo makes it easy for users to form and join investment clubs, contribute equally to the club portfolio, and make investments to grow the account.

The solution uses chat technology to enable club members to propose, debate, and ultimately vote on new investment proposals. Those new to trading and investing can take advantage of Voleo’s SimuTrader app, which allows investors to practice trading without risking actual money.

Awarded Best of Show at FinovateFall 2017, Voleo announced last month that it was partnering with OP Financial Group to help the Helsinki, Finland-based company develop a new social trading platform for the European market. Voleo also bolstered its advisory ranks in January, appointing B2B digital marketing executive Nicky Senyard to its board of directors. And last fall, the company launched its 2nd annual equity trading competition, in collaboration with Nasdaq.

Most recently, Voleo introduced a number of new features including advanced order types to enable investors to place and specify the date range for both limit and stop orders.

We caught up with company CEO Thomas Beattie (pictured) to talk about Voleo, the power of social trading and investing, and what to expect from the company in 2019 and beyond.

Finovate: What does Voleo do and how does it do it?

Thomas Beattie: Voleo is the first social trading app that makes it possible to team up and invest in the stock market with your friends.

Our patent-pending trading technology allows users to leverage the collective knowledge of their peers, and has revolutionized the way individuals trade stocks, ETFs, and proprietary products offered by partner financial institutions. Vancouver-based Voleo gamifies the investing experience and motivates users to collaborate through its community-building user experience. Voleo has established itself in the U.S. as a registered broker-dealer with FINRA and SEC, and now offers its social trading technology white-label to financial institutions.

Finovate: Who are Voleo’s primary customers and how does Voleo attract them?

Beattie: Our primary customers are career-oriented and ambitious individuals in their mid-30s. Current research shows that they have typically built some wealth, in the form of savings, but do not yet have self-directed trading accounts. Voleo’s target market socializes well in digital, mobile environments. They value the opinions of those in their network, and they are digital natives who learn, communicate and bank with their smartphones.

Firstly, we plan to reach this target market through strategic partnerships with U.S. banks and credit unions. These financial institutions have established brands that resonate with Voleo’s target market. This enables Voleo to naturally synergize and deepen relationships with current customers and acquire new ones.

Secondly, we have seen consistent and organic growth through our own iOS, Android, and Web platforms, which we thank the Voleo community for. On average, each club founded on Voleo’s platform has led to 13 members of their social circle being invited to join, with team sizes averaging nine members and growing. As our user base grows further, we are making continuous progress on product development to encourage further collaboration between our users and make investing more accessible to the general public.

Finovate: How does Voleo solve the problem better?

Beattie: The reality is that traditional investment options are not meeting the needs of Millennials due to high costs, time constraints, and inaccessibility. Young investors usually face a trade-off for the two most popular options for taxable investment accounts. For one, investment advisors are not interested in clients with minimal assets, and for individuals with money, these same advisors can end up being costly. On the other hand, self-directed investing can seem risky to novices who don’t know the ins and outs of the stock market.

From a customer acquisition standpoint, Voleo creates opportunities for financial institutions by merging the best of self-directed trading and social media platforms. We help reach new prospects by providing tangible value to customers, and authentic communication channels to financial institutions.

Finovate: Tell us about your favorite implementation of Voleo’s technology.

Beattie: Four years of R&D has gone into the development of its iOS and Android apps, which have seen steady user growth since the soft launch in early 2017. As of December 2018, Voleo has earned the opportunity to pilot with OP Financial Group, Finland’s largest bank with total assets of €140bn. This partnership came to fruition from OP’s Wealthtech Program, which serves to expose top international fintech companies to the Finnish market, and for OP Financial Group to stay at the forefront of innovation and adopt new technologies for their client base.

Our mission for this partnership is to help OP Financial Group convert savers into investors and help them along the way as they kickstart their wealth journey. Our white-label product will integrate the social sharing capabilities of Voleo’s platform with OP Financial Group’s product line. By creating a community around personal finance, we believe that we can increase activity among existing OP users and acquire new prospects as well.

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

Beattie: I began my career 15 years ago and have devoted time across several sectors, leading projects in financial services and capital markets before taking on the role of CEO at Voleo. I’ve always had a passion for investing and education, and this aligned well with our mission of enabling the general public to reach their long-term financial goals.

Finovate: What can we expect from Voleo in 2019?

Beattie: I am excited for 2019 as Voleo is currently taking steps to become a publicly listed company on the TSX Venture Exchange.

In the past year of soft launch, we have continuously refined our product and grown our community organically. Voleo is now at the stage where we are ready to scale up.

To assist in the company’s strategic growth in 2019, Voleo has recently appointed Nicky Senyard as our first Independent Director. We are extremely excited to have Nicky join our group, as she is a veteran in the marketing technology space, having successfully founded Income Access which was acquired by Paysafe for $30M in 2016. We’re excited to have her provide her expertise in scaling fintech businesses to achieve our business goals for 2019.

To learn more about this unique platform and how you can be an early-adopter to this coming revolution, you can message me on LinkedIn or send us an e-mail at partnerships@myvoleo.com.

Nvstr Brings Brokerage Optimized Investing to the Masses

Nvstr Brings Brokerage Optimized Investing to the Masses

New York-based Nvstr demonstrated its machine learning-powered stock selection platform just over a year ago at FinovateFall. By leveraging technology and the collective wisdom of the investing crowd, Nvstr offers individual investors access to the same sort of “smart processes” to discover good investment opportunities and build profitable portfolios that professional investors have long enjoyed.

Roughly half the U.S. population is invested in the stock market. But in reality, many people do not learn about investing formally. This makes it incredibly difficult to find information on investing intelligently – or to even know what to look for,” Nvstr co-founder and CEO Bernard George (pictured) explained in an email conversation.

“We understand that building a stock portfolio can be time consuming and intimidating, and that’s why we created Nvstr. Studies suggest that Americans are leaving $60 billion on the table each year due to poorly allocated portfolios,” he said.

We caught up with George to talk about the company’s technology and plans for the future. The company recently launched a promotion to add up to $500 to any newly-opened brokerage account.

Finovate: What does Nvstr do and how does it do it?

Bernard George: Our social trading platform empowers individuals to invest smarter by leveraging technology and the collective experience of other investors to make more educated investment decisions. Our software is based on independent Nobel Prize-winning research that works behind the scenes to guide users towards intelligent portfolio allocations in just one click.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

George: Our primary customers are individuals who already have some experience in investing. However, anyone can create a free simulated trading account to familiarize themselves with our platform and to practice investing risk-free. This is a great way for beginners or intermediate investors to get more comfortable investing before having to commit real money.

Finovate: How does Nvstr solve the problem better?

George: Existing brokerages are not designed to help customers achieve their fundamental goal, which is to build wealth by intelligently allocating their money for the long-term. Nvstr fills this void by bringing a social, technology-driven approach to investing. First-time users can buy and sell stocks (at cheaper fees than many competitors) with a front row seat for what other really successful investors are thinking and doing.

Not only can they view their portfolios, but they can collaborate and discuss investment ideas and their pros/cons. To make things better, everyone’s input on each stock is automatically summarized. This means everyone can access the key benefits – and risks – of each stock at a glance.

Finovate: Tell us about a favorite feature of the Nvstr platform.

George: Nvstr’s machine learning technology is used behind the scenes throughout the product to surface relevant and interesting ideas to the Nvstr community.  One of the most exciting implementations is the Collective Intelligence filter. This filter lets users quickly find stocks that our algorithm determines will be most interesting in based on a user’s actions on the site.

It will even tell them how these stocks might fit into their current portfolio. This list can be further filtered by traditional data like market cap, P/E ratio, industry, and more. It’s like browsing for a new TV series on Netflix, but for stocks.

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

George: We’ve been professional investors at some of the world’s most sophisticated institutions, but we’ve also experienced the frustrations of personal investing. Nvstr’s leaders are former hedge fund managers, game designers and ed tech engineers who left those industries to make intelligent investing easy and engaging.

Our team has spent time working for companies like J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch, The Carlyle Group, and Electronic Arts, and we know where the gaps in this market lie, and that’s what we have set out to fix.

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

George: Nvstr is the best place for people to discuss stocks with friends and find new trade ideas from their network and a community of smart investors. As our community continues to grow, more investors will benefit from the advanced portfolio allocation and machine learning technology within the platform.

Our ultimate goal is for Nvstr to be the platform of choice for investors of all skill levels to gain insights and to build and manage their portfolios – all in one place.

FI.SPAN Enables Banks to Maximize the Opportunity of Open Banking

FI.SPAN Enables Banks to Maximize the Opportunity of Open Banking

Helping banks and other financial institutions manage the myriad third party fintech solutions available to them will only become more necessary as the open banking revolution takes hold. And that’s where companies like FI.SPAN come in. The firm, which made its Finovate debut earlier this year at FinovateFall, provides a cloud-based, API services management platform for FIs that allows them to rapidly deploy a wide variety of business banking solutions to their corporate customers.

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, FI.SPAN lowers the time and cost to innovation for banks, as well as increases transactional revenues. The solution helps banks open up a new business banking channel via accounting and ERP apps which, in the words of FI.SPAN CEO Lisa Shields, “embed(s) your brand and your products into your client’s daily workflow.” FI.SPAN also enables banks to leverage any third-party fintech “under your brand and under your control and with no IT projects required.”

FI.SPAN co-founder and CEO Lisa Shields demonstrating her company’s cloud-based bank API services management platform at FinovateFall 2017.

A full, API banking system in its own right, FI.SPAN gives banks the ability to automatically control and specify which products and services are delivered and which channel is used. The company curates and pre-integrates third party apps technologies that FIs can use alone or in combination with their own solutions, and provides pre-built connectivity to major mid-market and enterprise ERP platforms. FI.SPAN currently has plug-ins for QuickBooks, NetSuite, SAP, and has many more under development.

“We believe banks can extend their brand into their customer sites,” Shields said. “(Banks) can as easily leverage fintechs as be leveraged by them, and have an opportunity to exchange rich data with their customers and become the trusted custodians of that data.”

Company facts

  • Founded in 2016
  • Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Has 15 employees

Recent headlines for FI.SPAN include earning recognition as a CIX Top 20 company, and being chosen to participate in the start-up pitch contest sponsored by the Canada FinTech Forum – both in October.

We met Lisa Shields (pictured) and company Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder Clayton Weir at FinovateFall 2017. We followed up with a few questions by email. Below are our questions and Ms. Shields’ responses.

Finovate: What problem does your technology solve?

Lisa Shields: FI.SPAN is reimagining the business banking experience. We provide banks the ability to deliver any service directly to its business customers via accounting and ERP applications.   

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Shields: FI.SPAN’s primary customers are regional and middle-market banks. These banks have outdated online banking interfaces and are struggling to provide the value-added services that their business customers are demanding. While fintech startups are well positioned to create compelling payment, lending, and analytic user experiences, banks are best positioned to deliver them. FI.SPAN enables banks to leverage any fintech service and deliver all of its services through the customer’s preferred application environment.

Finovate: How does FI.SPAN solve the problem better?

Shields: FI.SPAN powers true collaboration between banks and fintech companies. It’s an API marketplace for banks to select and offer the solutions their customers have come to expect, without requiring any IT projects since FI.SPAN pre-integrates all fintech components. Also, our platform centralizes all aspects of third-party service management, including transaction monitoring, limits and risk policy adherence and exception handling. 

A look at the FI.SPAN dashboard which features pre-integrated, best of breed fintechs for services such as lending and analytics.

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

Shields: Prior to starting FI.SPAN, I founded and built a global payouts company over 15 years. That experience provided me with an appreciation of what operating a regulated business entails and what treasurers and CFOs are looking for from their transactional services providers. As a veteran of the fintech industry, I was able to identify the opportunity emerging between fintech companies and banks. I also saw the hurdles banks were facing when it came to providing their customers with the services they needed, and I knew that FI.SPAN could be the solution.

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

Shields: We have gone live with our first customer this fall and are working on some very exciting bank pilots with both large and small financial institutions across the continent. Our product capability and partner catalog are both rapidly growing, and you will start to see announcements of multiple new product lines including lending, onboarding and accounts receivable.  

Finovate: Where do you see FI.SPAN a year or two from now?

Shields: Selling to banks has a long sales cycle, and we expect to reap the rewards of seeds we have been sowing with our bank partners over the last year. I expect that FI.SPAN will become a very important part of the banking API ecosystem as it continues to become more robust over time. 

CEO Lisa Shields and CSO Clayton Weir demonstrating FI.SPAN at FinovateFall 2017.

Stay Current with Financial Market Data Changes Courtesy of RateSeer’s Denoti

Stay Current with Financial Market Data Changes Courtesy of RateSeer’s Denoti

Accessing the most accurate, up-to-date financial data is a challenge for financial professionals as well as average investors and consumers. With Denoti, Canadian fintech RateSeer has introduced a solution that helps corporate clients, smaller financial institutions, and independent investors get the market and financial data they need in order to execute their business strategies or make investment decisions.

“Our dashboards are suitable for insurance companies, banks, wealth management firms, and all kinds of financial institutions,” RateSeer CEO Donna Tilden explained from the Finovate stage during FinovateFall this September. Along with Head of Business Development Brian Smith, Tilden showed an example of a custom dashboard designed to help a Canadian bank with its mortgage lending strategy. “Within one glance the client can see the average big bank rate just around 3% and the average high rate around 6%,” Tilden said, “they instantly get a general guideline on where to set their rates.” She compared this to the typical tedious tradition of “a team spending the better part of the morning scouring websites and news feeds looking for information on mortgage rate changes, news, and general information. Now it’s all on the screen.”

RateSeer CEO and founder Donna Tilden demonstrating Denoti at FinovateFall 2017.

Tilden went on to show how the dashboard provided access to real-time information for internal KPIs such as changes in mortgage application queue, average processing times, and/or delinquency rates. At the same time, Denoti monitors external, financial data from the thousands of economic and financial data points gathered via the system’s leveraging of cloud computing and powerful algorithms. This enables the platform to note changes in market rates, commodity, bond, and currency prices, and economic indicators in dozens of countries. When there is a match between a financial or economic event and a client’s pre-set rules, Denoti sends a notification of the event via a customized e-mail. “Denoti notifications are qualitative, not quantitative,” Tilden pointed out. “You only get one when the event that you defined occurs. This allows you to be freed up from your desk, yet your business objectives are being achieved,” she said.

Denoti provides custom dashboards that include custom news feeds, with machine learning, predictive analysis, and also market sentiment ratings and trends.

Denoti also provides economic and financial news, curated by machine learning technology so that the information delivered to the client is increasingly relevant over time. Market sentiment ratings and predictive analysis are also available to provide clients with greater insight into their industry. “In one view the client sees what’s going on internally and externally with sources of data coming from all over,” Tilden said. “It allows increased information sharing throughout the organization and increased collaboration.”

Company facts

  • Founded in 2015
  • Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • On track to have 2,000+ Denoti accounts by end of year
  • Denoti is available on desktop, as well as on both iOS and Android

We spoke with RateSeer founder and CEO Donna Tilden at FinovateFall 2017 and followed up with a few questions by e-mail. Below are our questions and her responses.

Finovate: What problem does your technology solve?

Donna Tilden: Financial professionals are challenged to identify and exploit reliable, early internal and external information from huge flows of data but face access issues. Constant new sources of data make the goal of consolidation almost impossible. Many lack the efficient tools required to deal with the sheer volume of data. Consider the amount of information that financial professionals must ingest on a daily basis, the number of sources they scour, the amount of time wasted searching for the right information. We live in a data-driven world and although more is created every day, often corporations do not have the focused data they require to make informed and timely financial decisions. Denoti technology optimizes the way businesses capture, integrate, visualize and notify executives, employees and customers of changes to mission-critical information. We offer dashboards and custom notifications for thousands of market rates.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Tilden: Personal and/or corporate investors, wealth managers and private client groups, loan servicing departments, mortgage professionals, traders, financial advisors, and financial planners.

Finovate: How does Denoti solve the problem better?

Tilden: Denoti technology is low-cost, simplified, and streamlined. Denoti removes the unnecessary noise from market news and provides a way to access and visually focus on the data that is vital to business strategy.

Denoti’s dashboards are suitable for insurance companies, banks, wealth managements firms, and other financial institutions.

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

Tilden: I am a professional accountant with decades of professional experience in the financial services industry. While working for a large multinational I witnessed departmental data turf wars, data siloes, an inability to access multiple databases, and the unfortunate burden and cost of working with legacy systems. I witnessed hours of wasted time and energy. Business decisions were based on estimates and historical information. Colleagues would sit at super expensive terminals watching and waiting. You cannot succeed today in that environment. Businesses must have access to real-time data; it is the way the industry and really the world have evolved. Denoti technology solves these problems and is an absolute necessity.

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

Tilden: Given the sheer volume of useful financial data that we currently aggregate and house, we are in the process of adding APIs. We want to make it easy for our partners and really, any company, to make use of the data we collect in their own applications.

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

Tilden: We are currently working on several pilot projects and are looking forward to the insights that will result. With the addition of predictive analysis, and APIs to denoti.com within the next few months, our SaaS and DaaS customer base will have grown exponentially, as will our team. Denoti is already expanding our partnerships to include companies based in Europe and Asia-Pacific. The implementation of a few technical enhancements for self-serve and customization over the next year will solidify our position and market reach. RateSeer will continue to successfully respond to the emerging trends in fintech and big data, including blockchain technology.

RateSeer’s Head of Business Development Brian Smith and CEO/founder Donna Tilden demonstrating Denoti at FinovateFall 2017.

Unison Leverages Institutional Investors to Help Home Buyers Bridge Affordability Gap

Unison Leverages Institutional Investors to Help Home Buyers Bridge Affordability Gap

Is the most innovative insight in mortgagetech doing away with the idea of the mortgage in the first place? After listening to Unison the answer might surprise you.

“Homeowners have traditionally financed their homes with various forms of debt,” Jim Riccitelli, Co-CEO of the mortgagetech innovator, Unison, explained. “With debt, the homeowner pays interest and makes monthly payments. A Home Ownership Investment is home financing based on partnership, and it completely changes the game. It is not debt.”

Unison has developed a new financial services category – home ownership investing – which, in addition to providing new opportunities for investors, helps potential homebuyers manage and overcome the traditional challenges to financing a home purchase. The company’s Home Ownership Investments provide cash financing to homeowners for up to 30 years. And instead of a monthly payments or interest charges, Unison’s investors earn returns based on the change in value when the homeowner sells the property. Hence the partnership. “If the home value rises, the homeowner and the investor both profit,” Riccitelli said. “If the home value falls, both lose.”

Pictured (left to right): Co-CEO Jim Riccitelli and Director of Engineering Neal Behrend demonstrating Unison HomeBuyer and Unison HomeOwner at FinovateSpring 2017.

He adds that combining traditional financing with home ownership investing can be a powerful resource for homebuyers, especially those struggling to save enough for a downpayment in any one of America’s soaring housing markets. “A home ownership investment can double a buyer’s downpayment cash, which can eliminate the need for costly mortgage insurance, significantly lower the monthly mortgage payment, and enable the buyer to comfortably afford the home they really want,” Riccitelli said.

Home ownership investments can also help existing homeowners retire debt without incurring additional debt via consolidation loans and similar debt-incurring tactics. This product, the Unison HomeOwner Program, can also fund the launch of a new business, cover the costs of home remodeling, or pay for educational expenses for the kids. “All without adding to their monthly payment burden,” he explained.

For investors, Unison provides a long-term investment opportunity in residential real estate, the largest asset class in the U.S. Riccitelli points out that residential real estate is especially attractive to institutional investors who have long-term time horizons and a preference for inflation-hedging or inflation-beating investments. “For the first time ever, Unison’s HomeBuyer and HomeOwner programs have made residential real estate an investable asset class for institutional investors who represent the largest pool of investment capital in the world,” he said.

Company facts

  • Founded in 2004
  • Headquartered in San Francisco, California
  • Won Best of Show at FinovateSpring 2017 for its Unison HomeBuyer, Unison HomeOwner programs

We met with Co-CEO Jim Riccitelli (pictured) and Director of Corporate Communications Michael Micheletti at FinovateSpring and followed up with a few questions by e-mail. Below are the responses.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Riccitelli: On the consumer side, we help first-time buyers, millennials, trade up and trade down buyers, across all price points, in most of the major metropolitan areas in the country. We help them in the following ways:

  • We make it much easier for the buyer to income-qualify for the mortgage loan needed to purchase the desired home.
  • We enable the buyer to purchase the desired home with a lower monthly payment (typically 15-20% lower).
  • We can increase the buyer’s purchasing power by up to 100%, allowing them to choose the home they really want versus settling.
  • We can enable the buyer to retain cash after closing for important life needs such as college tuition, home remodeling, starting a business, investing for retirement or just as a cash cushion for a rainy day.
  • We allow the buyer to show a stronger offer (with a larger down payment), making them much more competitive in tight housing markets.

We also help existing homeowners unlock a portion of their home equity without borrowing, and without monthly payments or interest. They can use the cash for any purpose, including paying off debt, college tuition, home remodeling, starting a business, investing for retirement, or paying medical bills.

On the investor side, our customers are institutional investors, such as pension funds and university endowments, who have a natural need for long-term price exposure to residential real estate, the largest asset class in the United States. This asset class is particularly attractive to these investors who have a long investment horizon and an investment objective of hedging or outperforming inflation. For the first time ever, Unison’s HomeBuyer and HomeOwner programs have made residential real estate, the world’s largest asset class, an investable asset class for institutional investors, who represent the largest pool of investment capital in the world.

Finovate: How does your solution solve the problem better?

Riccitelli: Due to the game-changing nature of our innovation, we don’t just solve a problem better, we solve it in the first place; it was not previously solvable without our innovation.

On the consumer side, we provide very-long-term lump-sum home financing that enables more families to purchase homes and helps existing homeowners finance life needs, all without added debt and without monthly payments.

On the investor side, we make the largest asset class in the world, residential real estate, an investable asset class for the largest investors in the world, pension funds and university endowments, who have an investment objective of hedging or outperforming inflation and have a natural need for the exposure.

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

Riccitelli: We have so many happy homeowner success stories that it’s difficult for us to name a favorite. But here’s a recent one as an example.

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

Riccitelli: Our team has a deep background in investment management, real estate, home finance, operations, and funding and building startup businesses, and that certainly gives us confidence. But we knew how difficult and lengthy the process would be to build something so revolutionary; that results in dramatic changes in a highly regulated industry where change is so hard to promote. So more than anything, our spirit of entrepreneurism and our sense of commitment and perseverance gives us the confidence we need.

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

Riccitelli: We have several new programs coming, including programs for rental properties and homeowners with lower credit. We also have some very exciting things in the works that we will introduce to the world in 2018, including another revolutionary home purchase finance program and a program designed for retiree homeowners. Stay tuned!

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

Riccitelli: We’ll continue to lead this large and exciting consumer finance category. We’ll have many thousands of happy customers and be well on our way to making Home Ownership Investment a mainstream financing tool. We’ll expand our geographic footprint. We’ll also be introducing a few more innovative alternatives to debt that give consumers additional flexibility and control.

Unison Co-CEO Jim Riccitelli and Director of Engineering Neal Behrend demonstrating Unison HomeBuyer and Unison HomeOwner at FinovateSpring 2017.

ACH Alert’s Fraud Prevention HQ Empowers Account Holders to Stop Suspicious Transactions

ACH Alert’s Fraud Prevention HQ Empowers Account Holders to Stop Suspicious Transactions

ACH Alert provides enterprise-grade, SaaS-based advanced fraud prevention solutions to financial institutions and fintechs. At FinovateSpring earlier this year, ACH Alert President David Peace and CEO Deborah Peace demonstrated Fraud Prevention HQ, which turns the challenge of fraud prevention into a revenue-making opportunity. ACH Alert’s fraud monitoring platform provides real-time, actionable, out-of-band alerts based on voice biometrics, and the rule sets are fully-customizable. The platform gives users a dashboard to view transactions flagged by the system before the transactions take place. But what is particularly Fraud Prevention HQ, as CEO Peace explained, is the way it empowers customers and clients. “This is the only platform available in the market that allows account holders to interact to stop suspicious ACH, wires, and check activity in real-time without financial institution intervention,” she said.

This is why, when it comes to cost savings of fraud prevention, Peace gives the credit to the customer. “In 2016, our system monitored $80 billion worth of transactions for the 70 financial institutions that we work with today,” she said. “And the account holders, not the financial institutions, were able to return $625 million.”

Pictured (left to right): ACH Alert’s David Peace (President) and Deborah Peace (CEO) demonstrating Fraud Prevention HQ at FinovateSpring 2017.

For the company’s live demo, the Peaces walked the audience through log-in on the client portal, which is integrated into the financial institution’s system and can be accessed online or mobile. They showed the Fraud Prevention HQ’s dashboard where basic information on wires, check, and ACH transaction activity is located, before focusing on the latter to show, for example, how easily a customer can respond to an alert by managing an individual ACH transaction entry. The ability to do this quickly and accurately is important for corporate clients, the team emphasized, because – unlike consumers – companies only have one day to detect and return a suspicious transaction. “We had one customer of a financial institution that returned a single item for $77 million one day,” Peace said. “So that saved them a significant amount of money.”

Fraud Prevention HQ: Dashboard View.

Features of Fraud Prevention HQ include debit blocks and filters for retail customers as well as corporate clients, electronic dispute forms that can be digitally signed, and automated exception settlement handling. Importantly, Fraud Prevention HQ’s dispute resolution process sends alerts before money actually changes hands. This way, in the event of a return, the customer doesn’t have to wait several days for the funds to come back to the account. The goal, as she explained, was to take financial institutions out of the backroom fraud monitoring and instead put those responsibilities “in the hands of paying customers.”

Company facts

  • Founded in 2008
  • Headquartered in Ooltewah, Tennessee
  • Won Innovative Solutions Award for Authentication/Fraud/Cybersecurity from BankNews

We spoke with Debbie Peace during the networking session at FinovateSpring 2017 in San Jose, and followed up with a few questions by email. Below are her responses.

Finovate: What problem does your technology solve?

Debbie Peace: It prevents unauthorized checks, ACH, and wire transfers from withdrawing funds from an account holder’s account. It moves costly fraud monitoring out of the backroom of financial institutions and into the hands of paying customers. It completely automates the return and dispute resolution process for the account holder and financial institution.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Peace: Banks and credit unions of all sizes across the U.S.

Fraud Prevention HQ’s Transaction History Current Status screen enables users to see and manage account activity.

Finovate: How does your solution solve the problem better?

Peace: It automates the verification process by alerting the account holder and giving them the ability to accept or reject suspect transactions.  Most financial institutions are monitoring for suspicious activity but when a suspect transaction is identified, they have to make a judgement call, process it or call the account holder. That slows down transaction processing time, it’s costly and it is not a good customer experience. Our solution allows a financial institution and account holder to agree upon customized rules related to their account, relevant, actionable alerts are sent to the account so fraud is stopped by the account holder, before funds are withdrawn from their account – without financial institution intervention.

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

Peace: My background consists of business management, credit underwriting and risk monitoring, software development for payment systems, and extensive sales and marketing experience.    

Adding companies to the Approved List from Fraud Prevention HQ’s Transaction History page.

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

Peace: We will be rolling out a cross channel payment services application, underwriting and monitoring system called S.C.O.R.E.  

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

Peace: I see our customer engagement, fraud prevention solutions being the standard for fraud prevention for financial institutions and their clients, widening our base of financial institution clients nationwide.

 ACH Alert’s Deborah Peace (CEO) and David Peace (President) demonstrating Fraud Prevention HQ at FinovateSpring 2017.

Newchip Helps New Investors Own a Piece of the Startup Economy

Newchip Helps New Investors Own a Piece of the Startup Economy

“There are 200 million new investors in the United States as of May of last year,” Newchip co-founder and CTO Travis Brodeen reminded the FinovateSpring audience at this year’s conference in San Jose. “They want to change the world. And we want to help them do it,”

Brodeen was speaking of Title III of the JOBS Act, which enables startups to pursue equity crowdfunding with non-accredited investors, bringing a new community of investors to the equity crowdfunding revolution. And while startups and small busnesses have been quick to adopt equity crowdfunding as a new way to raise capital (Brodeen pointed out earlier in the demo that many of these investments are often oversubscribed), encouraging millennial investors to get in the equity crowdfunding game – even with Title III – can be a challenge.

For Newchip, the key to a millennial investor’s heart – and their investable capital – is through their priorities and values. Just as Peter Lynch encouraged investors a generation ago to invest in the companies that built the products they saw and used every day, Newchip gives millennial investors the ability to align their values as millennials with their goals as investors.

Pictured: Newchip CTO and co-founder Travis Brodeen demonstrating Newchip’s DealMatch learning algorithm and new lending model at FinovateSpring 2017.

In Newchip’s debut Finovate appearance at FinovateSpring in San Jose earlier this year, Brodeen and Director of Operations Linda Phan demonstrated how the Newchip app enabled investors to fund the kind of companies and projects that reflected their interests, preferences, and values. Currently in beta, with an anticipated launch over the summer of 2017, Newchip’s solution uses machine learning to take advantage of trends toward social and more personalized investing that Millennials have embraced. “Millennials are voting with their dollars in things that they believe in, things that change the world,” Brodeen explained. “None of the applications out there are targeting this audience. They are all targeting the accredited investor.”

After the user enters some basic information such as net worth and preferred industries for investment, Newchip begins monitoring and learning how the user interacts with the different opportunities available on the app. The solution, which uses a Tinder-like swipe interface, notes which deals are liked, skipped over, as well as which deals are shared with friends and how widely. The investment opportunities themselves are arranged in sortable categories like investment type, industry type and rating, and most funded. Users can invest in their preferred deals through Newchip’s partner platforms or via its budgeted investment plans. Portfolios can be tracked and managed through the app, as well, and Newchip’s Crowdscore feature enables investors to rate deals based on criteria such as risk, ROI, business plan and social impact.

Platforms like Newchip are a boon for startups, creating what Brodeen called “hyper market validation.” He describes the phenomenon as “the idea that a company can list itself and determine right away (if) they have the marketing message to engage with that target market.” In this, the goal is not just to create more opportunities for millennial investors, but also to build better small businesses. “A well-funded, well-capitalized company with a great idea is very likely to succeed in this round,” Brodeen said. “They are going to execute on their plan, it’s certified by FINRA or the SEC and now we have a higher class of startups we’re dealing with.”

Company Facts

  • Founded in 2016
  • Headquartered in Austin, Texas
  • Raised $300,000 in funding
  • Re-invests 10% of profits to fund entrepreneurs in developing countries
  • Has thousands of early signups and 10k+ email list
  • Ryan Rafols is founder and CEO

We talked with the Newchip team at FinovateSpring 2017 in San Jose, and followed up with a few questions for co-founder and CTO Travis Brodeen by e-mail. Here are his responses.

Finovate: What problem does your technology solve?

Travis Brodeen: Newchip has developed a marketplace that connects crowdfunding startups with new investors.  We’re often referred to as the Kayak of investing.  The equity crowdfunding market is an emerging market and growing rapidly and due to the nature of the industry we’re seeing the platforms (or dealmakers) popping up all over the country.  The biggest challenge as an investor is sorting through all the platforms to locate the startup that’s right for you.  Newchip makes that easy.  When you create an account, we import your social profile and combine it with our machine learning algorithm.  Our system then displays every deal available to you sorted by what you’re most likely to be interested in as an individual.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Brodeen: We’ve strategically focused on the millennial demographic, who are new to investing but highly interested in helping support companies that make the world a better place.

Finovate: How does Newchip solve the problem better?

Brodeen: We’re combining the power of crowdfunding with the passion of the millennial generation, which is a historically underserved market with a pent-up demand to work together to change the world.  Our SmartMatch algorithm makes it extremely easy to find interesting companies to invest in, matched directly to your personal preferences.  Also we’re the only company in the U.S. with a custom-developed mobile app to interact with these opportunities.  We make investing fun, exciting, and social.

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

Brodeen: I’ve been directly involved in solving the millennial challenge for over five years, years before many companies even heard of the term.  Combined with a 20-year career in large-scale startup companies and also working with over 100 Fortune 500 companies over my career, I have a very unique set of experiences that all combined well into exactly what Newchip is becoming.

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

Brodeen: We’ve exclusively launched on the iOS platform but will be quickly expanding to Android and then desktop.  We’ll also be creating in-person investing events and connecting the application with real time experiences with companies who are raising capital.

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

Brodeen: We’re working to become a secondary market for private equity and a social impact community where new investors can join forces to support the companies they believe in.

Travis Brodeen (CTO and Co-Founder) and Linda Phan (Director of Operations) demonstrating the Newchip app at FinovateSpring 2017.

SuperMoney Brings a Kayak-Like UX to the Online Borrowing Process

SuperMoney Brings a Kayak-Like UX to the Online Borrowing Process

What is SuperMoney? CEO Miron Lulic urges you to think of the “serendipity” of real-time offers provided on platforms like airline fare aggregator Kayak, and imagine the same user experience in financial services. “SuperMoney guides our users to loan offers that are in their best interest,” Lulic said at the beginning of the company’s FinovateSpring demo earlier this year.

And “best interest” is key. As the company’s Managing Partner Harry Langenberg pointed out, SuperMoney is taking the same approach to loan comparison that “won Google the search engine wars.” He explained, “rather than ranking results based on payout, Google’s algorithms presented results based on relevance. Similarly, we believe that by representing the best fiduciary interests of our borrowers, that SuperMoney will become the number one site that consumers trust when searching for a personal loan.”

Pictured: SuperMoney Managing Partner Harry Langenberg demonstrating the Supermoney loan offer comparison tool at FinovateSpring 2017.

Langenberg demonstrated how prospective borrowers enter some basic personal information (type of loan desired, the loan amount, credit score estimate, education level, employment status, home type and location, military status if any) at the SuperMoney website. “All of this data that we are collecting is matched against a database of attributes that we have for every one of our lenders,” Langenberg said. “That way we’re able to filter out any of the results that don’t necessarily match to their underwriting interests.”

Lenders on the platform do a “soft pull” so as not to impact the borrower’s credit score and in moments the borrower is presented with a set of prequalified and/or preapproved loan offers. “Users can easily compare their APRs, loan amounts, payments, even their total repayment costs, origination fees, and other details for the loan,” Lulic said. The platform enables borrowers to search from among the offers using a wide variety of criteria – such as payment-for-payment affordability – and each loan offer also features user reviews which Lulic said “provides a qualitative dimension that users can consider in their loan search.”

SuperMoney also hosts a wealth of personal financial information on topics ranging from auto insurance and business credit cards to tax planning and wealth management. The website features more than 11,000 expert and consumer advice columns and reviews. Expansion into other verticals beyond personal loans is also in the plans for the company. “We will soon be launching our auto loan offer engine, followed by our mortgage offer engine, and eventually our insurance offer engines,” Langenberg said. For now, the company is partnering with lenders to help them better serve customers they are not able to work with (“turn-downs”) by sending them to SuperMoney.

Company facts

  • Founded in 2013
  • Headquartered in Santa Ana, California
  • Published more than 2,000 expert reviews and more than 9,000 consumer reviews
  • Generated more than one million clicks for its partners

We caught up with the SuperMoney team briefly at FinovateSpring during rehearsals and followed up with a few questions for company CEO Miron Lulic. Here are his responses.

Finovate: What problem does your technology solve? 

Miron Lulic: Within the personal loan industry alone, there are literally hundreds of lenders to choose from and all of them are different.  You can go from lender to lender to lender, filling out applications to try and find your best option, but that’s a ton of effort. Lending aggregators popped up to solve this problem by ‘matching’ borrowers with lenders. But the dirty little secret behind most loan aggregation websites is that they run on a ping tree model.

Ping trees chuck borrowers down a lead delivery waterfall that attempts to sell the lead to the highest bidder. If the highest bidding buyer rejects the lead, the system attempts to sell to the next buyer with the borrower ultimately being sold to whoever will pay the most for that lead. This ping tree model works quite well for the aggregating site, as it’s rigged to produce the highest payouts. But as you could probably surmise, the “matches” produced by ping trees seldom connect consumers with the loans that are most financially beneficial to the borrowers themselves.

Finovate: How does your solution solve the problem better? 

Lulic: When consumers shop for an airline ticket they expect real offers in real-time.  Well, we’ve brought that great Kayak-like comparison shopping experience to financial services. Our Loan Offer Engine transparently allows consumers to submit a single, soft-pull loan application to all the leading online lenders and returns real loan offers back. SuperMoney users can transparently discover the best option based on their needs and that serve their best interest.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers? 

Lulic: SuperMoney is a two-sided marketplace platform with consumers looking for financial services on one end and financial service providers on the other. On the financial services side, we have a wide array of financial verticals represented in our publicly accessible reviews website. Within the personal loan offer engine, we are currently partnered with leading marketplace lenders, direct lenders, and banks. We aim to extend the platform to integrate credit unions and other players in the ecosystem not currently represented. 

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

Lulic: Our founding team is the same founding team that launched Optima Tax Relief in 2011 and grew it from nothing to the #3 Fastest Growing Company In America according to Inc. Magazine’s 2015 ranking. We also co-founded another Finovate alum named LoanNow which is a direct lending business. Our experience there opened our eyes up to many of the challenges consumers and businesses face related to financial services online. 

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

Lulic: We are soon launching the same great loan offer engine experience in the auto lending vertical and aiming to follow that up soon after with a mortgage version. Our goal is to extend the framework we developed into all lending-related verticals initially, and then to other financial services where consumers can benefit from apples-to-apples comparisons and transparency. 

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

Lulic: Our goal is simple. To build the brand consumers think of first whenever they need a financial service. We aim to get there within two years. 

Miron Lulic (CEO) and Harry Langenberg (Managing Partner) demonstrating the Supermoney Loan Comparison Tool at FinovateSpring 2017.

banqUP Previews its Bank-as-a-Platform Solution for European SMEs

banqUP Previews its Bank-as-a-Platform Solution for European SMEs

Note: Demoing as bankUP at FinovateEurope, the company has since rebranded as banqUp.

There may or may not be a special place in heaven for those entrepreneurs and developers burning the midnight oil in a quest to build a better banking solution for small businesses. But there will always be a spot on the Finovate stage. This year at FinovateEurope, Antwerp, Belgium-based banqUP tossed its hat into the ring with a preview of its small business banking platform.

Calling itself a bank for people who live on their smartphones, banqUP is a digital neo-bank for small business that offers a business current account, credit and debit cards, and a hub of integrated financial solutions in a single, unified platform.  As Dimitri Leemans, a partner at Hedera Consulting explained during an introduction to the company’s demo, banqUP is designed to be the kind of bank young entrepreneurs in Europe have been longing for, one that prioritizes personalization, customer insight, and openness.


Pictured (left to right): banqUP’s Lukasz Chmielewski (CTO), Dimitri Leemans (Partner, Hedera Consulting), and Krzysztof Pulkiewicz (CEO) demonstrating the banqUP small business banking platform at FinovateEurope 2017.

banqUP CEO Krzysztof Pulkiewicz and CTO Lukasz Chmieleswki launched into the demo, showing how the platform provided dashboards with configurable widgets to help business owners track cash flow, budgets, contacts, payables, transactions, and other critical information. banqUP’s smart tagging feature scans transactions and groups them into budgets to keep expenses organized. Create a hashtag for a given expense category, select it, and all of the widgets on the various dashboards will update with information relevant to that category. “This is just the beginning of our smart business bank,” Pulkiewicz said. The platform also enables ready integration for outside parties such as external accounting software or even a real live human accountant, who can be set up on the platform’s accounting dashboard on banqUP and review the details of all transactions, including the original documents, and even leave notes right on the document image.

With its technology still in beta, banqUP is eagerly anticipating its official launch in the coming months. “We are still finalizing the development of our solution to provide our future users with the best possible digital banking solution,” Pulikiewicz said, adding “We have come a long way in a short time already and we are tremendously motivated to go even faster and keep ourselves continuously (focused) toward customer success.”

Company facts

  • Headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium
  • Founded in 2016
  • Partnered with German solarisBank AG
  • Launched as a PSD2-ready smart bank in Q1 2017

bankUP_KrzysztofPulkiewicz_newWe met with the banqUP team at FinovateEurope 2017 and followed up with a few additional questions by e-mail. Here are the responses from CEO Krzysztof Pulkiewicz.

What problem does your small business banking platform solve?

Krzysztof Pulkiewicz: banqUP is a digital fintech bank for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). We are offering core banking products including business current account and MasterCard, combined with a hub of integrated fintech services and functionalities that over a web and mobile business platform. We use mobile and web together with smart data analytics to solve the day-to-day problems of SMEs. By using banqUP, entrepreneurs can control all the aspects of their business via just one platform. Some of our features include personalized dashboards, the organization of your incoming and outgoing payments by simply tagging them (and yes, we have automated this as much as possible for you), the possibility to connect your account with all your team members including your accountant to delegate financial tasks easily … These are just a few of banqUP’s innovative features.

The SME segment is significantly underserved by the banks and as a team of entrepreneurs we aim to change this situation. We offer a tailor-made, unique digital banking experience for SMEs, providing a one-stop shop combination of core banking products and integrated fintech services. Business owners of SMEs are focused on driving their businesses and expect more from banks than just selling traditional banking products and processing transactions. It is all about partnering, insights, relevance, predictions, and integrating more into the business itself.


banqUP’s dashboard consists of configurable modules for managing everything from budgets and transactions to contacts and accounts.

Finovate: How does your technology solve the problem better?

Pulkiewicz: We provide the standard banking services seamlessly integrated with fintech services and business apps of the users’ choice. We do not believe in a “one fits all” approach. Based on your business type, industry and stage in the SME life cycle, we build a personalized user experience with features that are most relevant for your business. At the core of the personalized experience, we have advanced data analytics, and we learn from your historical data how we can help you now and in the future. In addition, we use machine learning and data tagging in order to organize your budgets, provide cashflow estimations, and setup the proactive business notifications you expect from the smart banking solution.

banqUP is open. We give you a free choice to work with your favorite accounting software (you can connect to it with a few clicks) or to work with your accountant. banqUP helps you to collaborate better and fully digitalizes this process (starting from uploads, OCR to online document sharing and one-click payments).


A look at banqUP’s RevenueIQ dashboard, which features a set of widgets that provide ongoing insight into the company’s revenue stream.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Pulkiewicz: banqUP has a double commercial model:

1. A direct, go-to-market model where banqUP focuses on “millennipreneurs” – a young generation of business owners and freelancers. Millennials experience life, work, and business through technology and they expect seamless interactions between their bank and the different tools for running the day-to-day activities of their business. We are determined to meet the needs of young entrepreneurs and bring them the tools they desire the most. But, of course, all digitally-minded and savvy business owners will see the digital added value of banqUP and form the target client group for banqUP.

2. An indirect, go-to-market model where banqUP offers its platform. This option redesigns business banking from the ground up by leveraging BaaS (Bank as a platform) to deliver SME banking services in the EU and to banks across Europe. Our platform is an enabler for banks; we are working to customize digital banking to a selected group of customers and provide them with fully personalized and relevant services. We are PSD2 ready!

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

Pulkiewicz: We are extremely proud of our own banking brand – banqUP and SME banking service – and we will start offering to small and medium businesses in the EU this year. This is a great example how our platform allowed us to enter the market and build a competitive value proposition in a very short marketing time and in an extremely agile way.


banqUp’s Cashflow planner provides a visualization of past cash flow to give business owners a sense of what future cash flow may look like.

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

Pulkiewicz: We are a group of entrepreneurs on a mission to solve the day-to-day problems of SMEs and we started banqUP to design the bank we, and many other business owners, desperately need. We know and acknowledge that every small business is different and operates in different contexts so we want to create better banks, which can be customized to the needs of specific industries, business models, and personal needs of entrepreneurs.

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

Pulkiewicz: Our main goal for the upcoming months is to finally officially launch our banking service. We are still finalizing the development of our solution to provide our future users with the best possible digital banking experience. We will attend some international conferences in order to present our idea to experts from the banking and fintech industry. We have come a long way in a short time already, and we are tremendously motivated to go even faster and keep ourselves continuously sharp towards customer success.

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

Pulkiewicz: There are many important steps on our planned roadmap where we want to launch banqUP and make it available on the market throughout Europe. We will quickly extend our operations and service availability to EU countries as well as connect with new, global and local partners that offer financial services that truly add value for business owners and entrepreneurs.

Lukasz Chmielewski (CTO), Dimitri Leemans (Partner), and Krzysztof Pulkiewicz (CEO) demonstrating the banqUP small business banking platform at FinovateEurope 2017.

Caxton Leverages the Blockchain to Provide Faster, Safer, API-Free Connectivity

Caxton Leverages the Blockchain to Provide Faster, Safer, API-Free Connectivity

Just when you thought it was safe to enlist yourself in the API revolution, along comes Caxton with what founder and CEO Rupert Lee-Browne described as “the next generation of connectivity using the blockchain.”

“We believe the future of the API is dead,” Lee-Browne said, kicking off Caxton’s live demo at FinovateEurope 2017 in London earlier this year. Calling blockchain, “faster, more secure, and cheaper than API connectivity,” Lee-Browne explained how Caxton had used APIs to connect with its partner companies for years, but ultimately sought a better solution. “Any CTO will tell you: APIs frankly have really quite significant limitations, particularly when it comes down to implementation,” Lee-Browne said. “So our vision is to be the choice of millions who wish to send or spend overseas – either using our brand or other people’s – and blockchain connectivity is the way we’re going to be doing that.”

Pictured: Caxton CEO and founder Rupert Lee-Browne demonstrating the Firebird Payment Engine at FinovateEurope 2017.

Lee-Browne introduced Caxton’s new payment platform, Firebird, and explained how his team built a private blockchain overlay to Firebird and is using that blockchain to connect with third party services. For the company’s live on-stage demo, Caxton presented a partner-developed, Firebird-connected payment app and showed the behind-the-blockchain look at a hypothetical transaction between a motorcycle buyer and a seller.

Caxton CTO Russell Stather emphasized both the security inherent in Caxton’s blockchain-based approach to connectivity and the high degree of control achieved. “(With blockchain) every transaction is digitally signed by all parties involved using a private key stored on each device,” Stather said. “Blockchain itself is immutable,” he continued, “that means it is impossible to change any transactions after the fact.” And there are other benefits to the API-free route, according to Stather: “Having no API means everything is under your control. It’s on your infrastructure, so it’s your specifications,” he said.

From e-commerce merchants looking to multi-currency prices delivered and settled instantly and securely, to app developers with payment apps looking for regulated partners, Caxton is at heart a cross-border payments company looking to leverage its own success with the blockchain into better opportunities for its partners. “It is here today,” Lee-Browne said. “It’s not theory. It’s practice.”

Company Facts

  • Headquartered in London, U.K.
  • Founded in 2003
  • Processed more than 7 million transactions in 2016
  • Serves more than 400,000 customers with annual turnover of more than €1 billion
  • Named a 2016 Customer Service Awards Prepaid Currency Card Trusted Provider

We met with Caxton CEO and founder Rupert Lee-Browne and his team at FinovateEurope to learn more about the company’s technology. We followed up with a few questions by e-mail. Below are his responses.

Finovate: What problem does your technology solve and how does it solve the problem better?

Rupert Lee-Browne: APIs often create problems: security risks and require a lot of maintenance. Blockchain is a revolutionary new technology that makes it safer and easier to send money than ever before. Our blockchain technology removes this risk while making it cheaper and faster for companies to process payments. It also provides a quick and easy white label payments solution for businesses looking for a fully regulated multicurrency banking platform.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Lee-Browne: Businesses looking for a fully-regulated, white label payments provider.

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

Lee-Browne: We’ve partnered with a motorcycle app called Motopay. They have developed an app for buying and selling vehicles securely. They aren’t regulated with the FCA, so they need a backend provider for client take-on, AML, anti-fraud, payment in, transaction processing, and pay out. We’re able to do all of this using our new blockchain technology.

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

Lee-Browne: Caxton is a payment and cards company founded 15 years ago with £25k, a phone, and an advert on Google. We now serve hundreds of thousands of customers and have a projected turnover of over £1bn.  We’ve also been profitable since day one.

We have a penchant for innovation – we were the first company to offer genuine straight through online currency payments back in 2006. Then we created a proper market for prepaid currency cards. And now we are using blockchain technology to offer real fast, safe and lower cost.

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

Lee-Browne: We have a long list of exciting enhancements to our core banking platform planned. Sadly you’ll have to wait and see on those, though.

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

Lee-Browne: We are hoping to rapidly scale our blockchain offering to businesses across the U.K., and potentially further afield. 

Caxton CEO and founder Rupert Lee-Browne and CTO Russell Stather demonstrating the Firebird Payment Engine at FinovateEurope 2017 in London.

Neener Analytics is Biometrics for Personality

Neener Analytics is Biometrics for Personality

As social media analytics company Neener Analytics says on its website, “we may not be superheroes… but we’re pretty darn close.” As proof, the company is backed by an advisory board, whose members have Ph.Ds in fields such as game theory, behavioral economics, and decision science.

Furthermore, the company itself has received its share of accolades. CIO Review Magazine named Neener Analytics among Top 20 Most Promising Data Analytics Companies 2017, CIO.com honored the company in Top 20 Fintechs to Watch in 2017, MergerMarket U.K. listed it as a Top 4 U.S. Fintech To Follow in 2017, and Neener Analytics won Best of Show at FinovateSpring 2017 last month in San Jose.

In the company’s award-winning demo, Neener Analytics CEO Jeff LoCastro showed off what the company is doing to earn such accolades. “We’re here to unveil today at Finovate social media decisioning analytics that actually works,” LoCastro said. He went on to explain that Neener Analytics goes further than just “measuring likes and friends,” what he described as the “you-are-who-your-friends-are” approach that is unfounded because “we’re not who our friends are.”

Instead, Neener Analytics looks at each user’s individual social media presence and leverages social biometrics to determine their risk. LoCastro pointed out during his demo that the question is not can the user pay the bank back, but rather will they pay them back. It is this perspective that distinguishes Neener Analytics from others that use social media data for underwriting.

Company facts

  • Headquartered in San Jose, CA
  • Typically reduces lender defaults by 25% to 33%
  • Can accurately predict or project a consumer’s FICO score range almost 80% of the time

Above: Neener Analytics’ Jeff LoCastro (CEO & Founder) and Marc Tomlinson (CTO & Co-Founder) demo at FinovateSpring 2017

We spoke with Jeff LoCastro after his demo at FinovateSpring this year. The following is the written interview.

Finovate: What problem does Neener Analytics solve?

Jeff LoCastro: Well, current credit and financial risk assessment systems using historical, transactional, and relational data simply don’t provide individually actionable projective insight.

Think of us as the Biometrics of Personality. We’ve developed a regulatory compliant social media analytics technology for lenders, insurance companies, and other risk-centric businesses. This technology enables them to better decision and understand specific individual risk outcomes of thin-file, no-file and credit challenged consumers using our patent-pending personality and behavior analytics technology. We decision individual human characteristics, not transactions, history, or relationships.

We’ve also redefined the idea of the social login. No longer is it simply a way to prepopulate applications or registrations. That’s old stuff. We’ve turned it into a portable financial persona.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

LoCastro: Lenders, insurance companies, or any consumer-facing business trying to understand the risk of the engagement. Our sweet spot right now are those really trying to understand the thin-file, no-file, and credit challenged consumers out there… about 56% of American consumers. And internationally, it can be as high as 90%.

Finovate: How does Neener Analytics solve the problem better?

LoCastro: Again, think of us as the biometrics of personality. What if you could sit each customer down with a psychologist and ask them, “are you REALLY going to pay us back?” or “Why should we trust you?” And have everything that customer says predict, with almost 80% accuracy, whether they will default on their loan, transact or revolve, predict/project a risk-correlated FICO score, or tell you if they are likely telling the truth. With one click and a 20-minute implementation, we’ve automated that psychologist.

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

LoCastro: Sure. We recently completed a comprehensive, nine-month long validation for a U.S.-based high-volume consumer products lender doing about 30,000+ applications per month. Their market leans generally toward thin-file and no file individuals, but does also include those we would classify as simply “credit challenged.” They wanted to see 1) if we could improve on their current underwriting models to better predict default, 2) How many turn-downs we would predict default or succeed compared to their current approaches. We also used this validation as an opportunity (although not a use case for them) to predict collection reinstatement and charge-off.

We reduced their defaults by 33% and demonstrated a revenue increase of 22%. In our collections validation, we demonstrated that we could predict (post default) who would likely be reinstatable with a 79% accuracy.

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

LoCastro: I was a part of the initial executive team of the inventor of the online social network, Classmates.com, and was extracting insights from social media long before it became a thing. I can’t for certain say that I invented it, but I sure did pioneer the cost-per-action model. It worked for us (and our customers) because I could prove insight, and that insight created clicks. While the rest of the market was bragging about “investor” revenue, we were out there actually making money and being, at the time, one of the fastest growing web properties in the world.

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

LoCastro: There’s a couple that we are not quite ready to announce, but we are grinding out 16-hour days developing new ways to deliver insight. We are, in particular, honing our ability to predict ‘veracity,’ that is, whether they are likely telling the truth or not. Our initial testing has been out-of-this-world promising.

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

LoCastro: Let me answer this way: I see the future of social media itself being almost “avatars of self.” Now this is me saying this, not Facebook or whatever. People are pouring themselves into their media and it seems to me to be the next logical step. And with the coming of functional AI, I can see social media being defined as a “conversation” with that user, their AI avatar of sorts, instead of being defined as a page or “profile”. We are definitely poised for that. But that’s perhaps longer than two years.

So the next couple years, I see us with double-digit in-roads into the four major lending verticals and having cracked the insurance markets. Ambitious, yes. Do-able, absolutely. With the right partners and strategic relationships… very doable. I’ve made sure we think big and that’s never going to change.

Check out the live demo from Neener Analytics at FinovateSpring 2017 with Jeff LoCastro (CEO & Founder) and Marc Tomlinson (CTO & Co-Founder):

Market Earlybird Helps Market Professionals Identify Trading Opportunities First

Market Earlybird Helps Market Professionals Identify Trading Opportunities First


With a lighthearted observation about the current President of the United States, Market Earlybird founder and CEO Danny Watkins acknowledged the power of social media like Twitter to broadcast ideas and gauge the sentiment of the crowd. But for many financial professionals, taking full advantage of Twitter presents a wealth of challenges in terms of regulations and compliance.

And that’s where Market Earlybird comes in. Market Earlybird is a cloud-based, Twitter platform designed specifically to handle the compliance issues faced by financial professionals like traders, researchers, and brokers. While recreating the Twitter experience on the platform, Market Earlybird is read-only, has no direct messaging functionality, and is fully recorded to meet compliance requirements. The platform is easy to integrate, requiring neither installation or firewall changes.

Pictured: Market Earlybird CEO Danny Watkins demonstrating the company’s technology at FinovateEurope 2017.

This leaves financial professionals free to take advantage of the analytics on the Market Earlybird platform to get faster and deeper insight into potentially market-moving events. This includes SmartTracks, which enable users to scan a set of preferred stocks, currencies, or news for financial relevance. The platform focuses on the qualitative, considering the Tweeter’s reputation and degree of engagement across the platform (retweets, likes, etc.) to determine which tweets are most likely to “go viral” and potentially have the most impact. The result is a Twitter experience that is designed to provide the most relevant tweets to the financial professional.

“We stop everybody (from) shouting at once. We really make sure you are able to get to the value of  Twitter,” Watkins said.” “We enable you to organize your follows, organize your priority feeds, get notifications. And we start to do that really clever stuff of not only seeing tweets as a flat structure,” he said, “but seeing tweets for the actual value they provide.”

Company facts

  • Headquartered in London, England
  • Founded in February 2012
  • Raised £250,000 in funding
  • Serves a dozen banks including two Top 10 global banks

We sat down with Market Earlybird CEO Danny Watkins during FinovateEurope and followed up with the company’s Chief Evangelist, Stuart Hunt (pictured) with a few questions by email. His responses are below.

Finovate: What problem does your EarlyBird solve?

Stuart Hunt: EarlyBird solves the problem of Twitter access in regulated financial environments. Twitter is now part of the very fabric of how political and financial news moves today, which makes it an essential tool for traders and analysts who need to see that news as it breaks. However, the challenges and risks of Twitter being used for market abuse, through its secret person-to-person channels, can be huge, and therefore it is often blocked from trading and research desks. EarlyBird solves this problem by providing a read-only Twitter service that is safe and optimized for financial professionals.

Finovate: How does your technology solve the problem better?

Hunt: EarlyBird blocks all outbound tweeting and messaging, and all tweets received by its users are recorded for compliance to review. All activity, such as who you follow and what you’re tracking, is also invisible to anyone outside your organization. But EarlyBird does much more than that. It’s a layered product, with increasingly rich capabilities to sift, filter, sort and analyze tweets. EarlyBird’s AI curated company searches, SmartTracks, cast a wider net than regular Twitter searches and return Tweets with real market relevance. It’s Twitter, but optimized for financial professionals.

Finovate: Tell us about your favorite implementation of EarlyBird.

Hunt: We’re always delighted when we hear from traders, analysts and compliance teams about how EarlyBird is solving the problems it was designed for. Most recently, we had a lot of positive feedback about our $TRUMP SmartTrack, which we created ahead of his inauguration to enable users to easily track financially relevant tweets and news on Twitter regarding Trump. Trump has thrown a curve ball into financial markets with his fired-from-the-hip tweets, so it was pleasing to know we were helping our customers manage the uncertainty.

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

Hunt: EarlyBird was created by our CEO, Danny Watkins, a chartered IT professional and former senior technologist at a multi-national investment bank. Danny’s extensive experience in the industry led to him recognizing the need for an FCA-compliant, read-only Twitter feed. The software was built independently of the bank, supplied under license and piloted on multiple trade floors for several years before its full commercial launch in 2015. Because EarlyBird was tested so rigorously before launch, we knew there was a strong need for the service.

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Hunt: Our primary customers are investment banks and hedge funds. They are highly protective of their use of the service and we aren’t able to give names or specific details of how they use it. What we can say is that they are getting information using a combination of direct follows and our artificial intelligence curated feeds, which are giving them market insights that others are missing.

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

Hunt: At the moment we’re putting the finishing touches to a new tweet translation feature for the platform. We’ve been working on this for the upcoming Europe elections so readers not only see the most relevant tweets, but can instantly see the content in their own language. We’re also going to be launching a brand new EarlyBird mobile app very soon as well.

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

Hunt: FinovateEurope was our first major conference after receiving funding from an Angel Investor at the end of last year. Since the event we’ve had many people approach us interested in EarlyBird, and off the back of those discussions have issued a number of new pilots which is really encouraging. In the coming two years, we hope to grow our user base, find new ways to enhance the software, and make EarlyBird the go-to platform for those looking to manage the risks and opportunities of Twitter in regulated finance firms.

CEO Danny Watkins demonstrating EarlyBird at FinovateEurope 2017.