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Tracking fintech, banking & financial services innovations since 1994
It seems like only yesterday when Finovate VP and host of the Finovate Podcast Greg Palmer was introducing his first guest (Jim Bruene, founder of Finovate, by the way). Nearly two years later, having sat down with fintech innovators and influencers from Jim Marous and Louise Beaumont to Brett King and Tosin Agbabiaka – Palmer is celebrating the 100th episode of the Finovate Podcast.
In this centennial edition, Palmer discusses the Three Gold Rules of Fintech that he has learned from his years in the industry and the conversations he’s had – both on-air and at our Finovate conferences – with professionals from every corner of the fintech and financial services ecosystem.
Launched in 2019, the Finovate Podcast began as a way to continue and extend the conversation beyond the live demoes and insightful observations of our fintech conferences. In the months and years since, the program has grown into one of the key forums for fintech’s most visionary entrepreneurs and thought leaders to discuss the most important trends in our industry – from the rise of challengers and neobanks to the growing emphasis on financial inclusion and bringing banking to underserved communities around the world.
Check out the 100th episode of the Finovate Podcast featuring the Three Golden Rules of Fintech – and then visit the Podcast archives for hours of great conversation and valuable insights into trends driving one of the fastest growing fields in technology today.
This week, Finovate Podcast host Greg Palmer talked about the ways that fintechs can help homebuyers – and lenders – deal with the painpoints of the mortgage process. His guest, David Jegen, is a Managing Partner with F Prime Capital, one of the largest VC funds in the world that invests primarily in technology and health care.
Asked why the mortgage process is so painful, Jegen points to the fragmentation of the market as a large part of the problem. “One bank gives you the mortgage. Another bank buys the mortgage,” Jegen explained. “You have another servicer. And somewhere in between you’ve got real estate brokers, title agents, notaries, lawyers, and so forth.” All of this adds up to greater complexity and more cost.
Find out how Jegen thinks fintech is helping alleviate these problems and why the future of the mortgage market could be a bright one if the industry embraces change.
Finovate Best of Show winner Dreams made its Finovate Podcast debut in June. The company, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, leverages cognitive and behavioral science to help banks better engage their customers.
Greg Palmer talked with Lucia Hegenbartova, Chief Commercial Officer with Dreams on how humans make financial decisions and how Dreams’ financial wellbeing platform is an example of how banks can increase digital engagement and pursue a “future-proof stance” on social responsibility and sustainability at the same time.
“We take the bank’s existing financial products and we frame them in a way that takes into account how the human brain works and the role that emotion plays in human decision-making,” Hegenbartova explained. “(That) allows us to effectively help people to develop healthier financial habits, which is crucial to eliminating the barriers to engagement that are, more often than not, rooted in anxiety and lack of confidence.”
To this end, Dreams’ product suite includes variety of modules such as a Savings Booster debt management product and an Investing module – all of which are easily embeddable into mobile banking apps on top of existing functionality and can be used individually or in combination.
One of the most interesting intersections in finance is the nexus between financial technology and agriculture. In many places around the globe, many of those who can benefit the most from advances in technology – including fintech – are the farmers who are undoubtedly among the most essential workers in the world.
In this episode of the Finovate Podcast, Greg Palmer talks with David Davies, founder and CEO of AgUnity. The company leverages the blockchain and smartphone technology to help build trust and efficient digital supply chains from farmers to consumers. AgUnity helps solve key issues for underbanked agricultural workers and farmers including the lack of digital identities, a lack of trust in local financial and governmental systems, money safety, data reliability, and more.
“We take low-cost smartphones, phones that cost about $50, and we transform them into a relevant and useful tools for the very lowest income farmers in the world in places like Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia,” Davies said. Most of these farmers AgUnity works with have never owned a phone, he explained, have relatively low literacy and are often in very remote locations. So the phones are redesigned to be relevant to their experience in terms of both interface and off-line functionality. AgUnity also provides the farmers with a digital identity and records transactions for them on the blockchain.
This helps build trust and cooperation between small groups of farmers and enables them to interact with buyers and suppliers more effectively and efficiently. Learn more about AgUnity and its unique contribution to fintech innovation and the cause of financial inclusion.
Just over a month ago, Greg Palmer talked about the “democratization of payments” with Sesie Bonsi, CEO and founder of Finovate alum Bleu. Founded in 2014 and headquartered in Los Angeles, California, Bleu enables merchants to accept contactless payments using their smartphone or mobile device. The company’s wireless payment network supports a patented mobile transaction process that uses Bluetooth-based low energy beacons to communicate payment data between customers and merchants.
In this conversation, Bonsi and Palmer take on the challenge and opportunity of cryptocurrencies, looking specifically at how digital assets can serve as a source of wealth accumulation for marginalized groups.
“Something I tell a lot of people is that the single most important thing you can be doing for wealth creation right now is entering into the cryptocurrency space and getting involved and doing your research and buying crypto,” Bonsi said. He puts cryptocurrencies in the same category as land, oil and gas, mineral resources in that they all derive their value largely from their scarcity, and notes that acquiring finite resources traditionally been a successful strategy for wealth accumulation.
“From those assets,” Bonsi said, “they become collateral and from that collateral you can lend against it to buy real estate, or to open up a business, or to invest in stock, and thereby have assets to pass down for future generations.”
Last week, the podcast hosted Matthew Covi, co-founder and CEO of Signal Intent. A Best of Show winner in its Finovate debut this spring, Signal Intent builds financial calculators for banks, credit unions, and other financial services companies.
These solutions, designed for the digital age, help companies enhance the customer experience they offer with what Covi called “modern, digital tools that will help them compete in today’s landscape.”
“Calculators are a tool that exist on nine out of ten banking websites,” he explained. “But the options that exist really haven’t kept up with the times.”
In this conversation, Covi explains how financial services companies can leverage Signal Intent’s next generation calculators to gain valuable insights into customer preferences, and to use those insights to further enhance the customer experience.
Building a fintech company that lasts was the theme of Danny Shader’s conversation on the Finovate Podcast earlier this month. Shader is the founder and CEO of PayNearMe, a payments experience management firm that enables businesses to boost customer engagement, improve efficiency and drive payment costs lower.
Headquartered in Silicon Valley, PayNearMe made its Finovate debut more than a decade ago at FinovateFall in New York.
In the years since, PayNearMe has grown into a leading payments innovator, processing billons of dollars a year in all payment types ranging from ACH, cards, and cash, to mobile-first options like Google Pay and Apple Pay.
In this podcast, Shader talked about what he’s learned as a successful fintech CEO and why every startup needs to be prepared to re-envision, if not re-invent, itself in order to succeed in the long-term.
“I know of almost no hugely successful startup – with the possible exception of maybe Facebook – that ended up doing what it set out to do,” he said. “Your first business ideaI think of as a prop and its the excuse that lets you interact with customers.”
For more from the Finovate podcast, check out last month’s May lineup featuring:
Jeff Horvath of DigiPli on regulatory risk and the changing compliance landscape. Is showing you’re trying good enough?
Of all the trends accelerated by the global pandemic, enhancing customer engagement may be both the most critical and the most enduring as we transition toward a post-COVID world. In the latest edition of his Finovate Podcast, host Greg Palmer talks with Crayon Data founder and CEO Suresh Shankar about his takeaways from 2020 and what he expects from fintechs and their customers in 2021.
Shankar founded Crayon Data, a big data/AI startup, in 2012. The Singapore-based company helps businesses succeed by leveraging enterprise data to create digital-first customer experiences. Crayon’s flagship platform, maya.ai, enables businesses to boost revenues, reach inactive customers, and cut down on time and effort on low-ROI marketing campaigns – all by delivering highly relevant, highly personalized digital experiences to customers without compromising privacy. Crayon Data made its Finovate debut at FinovateEurope last year.
The Finovate Podcast is also a great source for 30,000 ft high observations on both the fintech landscape as well as the broader terrain of technological innovation. Greg Palmer’s recent conversation with futurist Nancy Giordano delves into what she calls the “Productivity Revolution” and its implications for fintech and financial services.
“There was a way we approached building the industrial era of the 20th century and prior that now no longer holds up and we have to have a really different way of thinking as we move into the future. ‘Leadering’ (the title of her new book) is the contrast to ‘leadership’. It’s a verb that’s dynamic and inclusive and caring and allows us to build the future that we really want to build … It sounds lofty, but it’s actually pretty practical.”
A guest lecturer at Singularity University, a ten-year TEDx curator, founder of Play Big Inc. consultancy, and one of the premier female futurists in the world, Giordano consistently underscores the role of the individual in times of rapid change and disruption. Her new book, Leadering: The Ways Visionary Leaders Play Bigger, connects the rise of innovative technologies with changing societal expectations to give individuals insight into what it takes to create human-centered solutions and long-term value.
A new year brings a new roster of guests to the Finovate Podcast. Hosted by Finovate VP of Strategy Greg Palmer, the Finovate Podcast showcases the latest in fintech thought leadership, with innovators, analysts, bankers, and entrepreneurs sharing their insights into the future of fintech today.
From the Fintech in Extraordinary Times series documenting fintech’s response to COVID-19 to discussions on future tech and financial inclusion, the Finovate Podcast is a great way to get up to speed on the conversations in fintech that count.
Check out Greg’s guests from 2021 so far. And be sure to catch the show every week.
Raul Rodiguez, Managing Director, Innovation Accelerator, Charles Schwab – Lessons on what it takes to build and foster a culture of innovation at a large-scale financial institution. LinkedIn
Mark Goldberg, Partner, Index Ventures – Data privacy is going to be a massive concern for fintechs and banks in the next few years. Mark Goldberg of Index Ventures shares his thoughts on how privacy will evolve, and what banks and fintechs need to do now to prepare. LinkedIn
Srinivas Njay, Founder and CEO, Interface.ai – Finovate Best of Show winner Interface.ai joins us to talk through turning your call center from a cost center into a revenue generator, and how financial institutions can go about picking the right organizations to partner with. LinkedIn
Bhavin Turakhia, Co-founder and CEO, Zeta – FinovateWest Best of Show winner Zeta Technologies talks about the influence of neobanks and the future of banking. LinkedIn
Jim Van Dyke, CEO, Breach Clarity – FinovateWest Best of Show winner Breach Clarity talks about the aftermath of data breaches, creating individualized responses, and helping consumers safeguard their identities. LinkedIn
With a global pandemic reshaping the way we live and work, Finovate VP Greg Palmer and his Finovate Podcast turned to two of our industry’s most insightful observers this week to help put the current challenges to fintech in context.
Ron Shevlin, Managing Director of Fintech Research at Cornerstone Advisors, is one of the world’s top fintech influencers. Author of the book Smarter Bank and a columnist for Forbes, he has provided keynotes and moderated panels at industry events including FinovateFall.
On the challenges facing business leaders during the COVID crisis
We’re wrestling, all of us, with three major concerns: our physical health, our mental health, and our financial health. And if you’re an executive at a fintech company, a bank, a credit union, whatever it might be, you’re wrestling with those things in multiple dimensions: your personal physical, financial, and mental health; your family’s physical, financial, and mental health, your employees’ three areas of health and your customers’. You add that up and it’s pretty daunting …
Alyson Clarke is a Principal Analyst with Forrester Research. Among our Analyst All-Stars at FinovateFall 2019 last year, she is a specialist in digital business transformation, creating digital and customer “obsessed” cultures, and digital strategy and innovation.
On how a likely post-COVID-19 recession will affect fintechs and financial services firms
I think we’re clearly going to see fintech funding slow – especially for new or less established startups. In fact, I think it will slow across the board from VCs to corporate funding. I think that will be some of the downside for the fintechs.
In terms of financial services and banks, they’re going to do what they naturally do and that’s focus on cost-cutting and making the operations more efficient. Sadly, some of that focus will be on automation and things like that for the sake of reducing headcount. The problem with that is that they really need to be focused on productivity, not just cost-cutting, because (managing) recessions is about preparing for the upturn.
IdentityMind Global Acquired by Acuant – The deal offers Acuant access to IdentityMind’s digital identity product, a SaaS platform that builds, maintains, and analyzes digital identities and helps companies perform risk-based authentication, regulatory identification, and detect and prevent synthetic and stolen identities.
Vymo Offers Work From Home for Sales Professionals – Vymo, the company whose intelligent sales assistant makes life easier for on-the-go sales pros, has unveiled a new enhancement to help sales teams at this time when customer engagement is even more challenging.
Azimo Partners with Siam Commercial Bank – SCB clients will benefit from Azimo’s digital money transfer program that uses RippleNet, a blockchain-based money transfer service. Using RippleNet, Azimo will be able to instantly deliver payments from Europe to SCB client accounts.
CRIF to Acquire Strands – The union will bring Strands’ personal financial management and business financial management solutions to CRIF’s client base that includes 6,300 banks, 55,000 businesses, and 310,000 consumers across 50 countries.
Kick off your high-heeled sneakers – fintech’s got a brand new podcast.
The new program, the Finovate Podcast, was launched this fall by host Greg Palmer, Finovate VP of Strategy. New episodes of the show are released twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays.
We talked with Greg about what the Finovate Podcast brings to the fintech community, what topics the podcast will focus on, and what guests the podcast will feature in the weeks and months to come.
Finovate: You just posted your 14th Finovate podcast. What kind of reception has the podcast received from the fintech community so far?
Greg Palmer: So far the reception has been really positive! Certain episodes have been more popular than others, but listeners seem to be responding well to the format. Part of the reason I wanted to do this podcast in the first place was because I feel like I’m always talking to interesting people who know so much more than I do, and I wanted to share their insights with a broader audience.
I’m finding that a lot of people aren’t really aware that some of the things that they take for granted would surprise others in the space, and it’s always fun when we can uncover something like that. And on the other side, the folks I’m interviewing all seem to believe that I’m making them sound smart – they are smart, of course, but I’m glad I’m making them sound like it!
Finovate: How does the Finovate podcast differ from some of the other fintech or technology podcasts out there?
Palmer: A lot of podcasts in the space are longer-form, and require a lot more time and attention. I deliberately wanted to create a podcast that was shorter, punchier, and more efficient. Partly that’s because of how my brain has been wired after working at Finovate for so long, and partly it’s because I think that’s the show I would want to listen to. Our episodes top out at about 13 minutes, which makes them a lot more digestible. And just like with the content on stage at Finovate events, if an episode isn’t your cup of tea, no worries, the next one will have a completely different focus.
Finovate: Who are some of the guests you’ve already had on the program? If someone were to go back and only listen to one or two of your previous podcasts, which ones would you highlight and why?
Palmer: We’ve already had a number of great guests, including our Best of Show winners from FinovateSpring 2019, and some non-product folks like Ghela Boskovitch, Karen Mills, Wayne Miller, and Alissa Knight. If you were going to start with one, I’d take the Ghela one first, she’s such a fascinating person, and we were able to get into some really good stuff on our first chat. Karen Mills was great, and so was Alissa Knight. I’m not supposed to play favorites with the Best of Show winners, but I really enjoyed speaking with Jeff LoCastro of Neener Analytics. Kevin Gosschalk from Arkose Labs was another fun one.
Finovate: Podcasts are an increasingly popular media channel. What can podcasts do to help stimulate interest in, conversation about, and broader coverage of financial technology?
Palmer: For me it comes back to the difference between the way people converse vs. the way they communicate in writing or other channels. I think fintech as an industry has a lot of mystique around it, and some of the concepts can be really intimidating. That intimidation can put people off or keep them from engaging with solutions that they should. A conversational podcast can really help to make some of the basic concepts easy to understand, and it can humanize the people behind the tech, which really helps. The more open, honest conversations we can have about the tech that’s driving the space, the better it is for everybody, and that’s where a podcast can really be an important asset.
Finovate: How has the podcast experience been for you? You are typically either on the stage talking to large audiences or behind the scenes working with startups. What do you get to do differently as a podcast host that you enjoy the most?
Palmer: I have to say I love it, and not just because I got to go out and buy some cool new audio toys to play with! My role on stage at Finovate events is to put other people in a position to shine, and my work behind the scenes with presenters ahead of time has very much the same goal. I want the people who come across our stage to be able to reach the audience in a meaningful way and create a real connection with them, even if they only have seven minutes in which to do it.
In the podcast, though, I get to be a more visible part of the conversation, which I appreciate, and it lets me try out some of my own thoughts on the space in a way that I haven’t been able to before. I think the biggest change since I’ve been doing the podcast, though, is the way I look at the people I interact with. Now that I have an amplifying outlet for the insights that I discover, I’ve started to look at people through this lens of “What can you tell my audience? What do you know that other people don’t know?” It’s a really interesting way to talk to people, and in my limited experience so far, I’m finding that I’m learning a lot myself as I ask those questions in my own head.
Finovate: Where do you see the Finovate podcast a year or two from now? What are your goals for the program?
Palmer: I want to grow the show, obviously, and I want to keep bringing a variety of guests in from all across the fintech ecosystem. My ultimate goal, though, is to use this platform as a way to share knowledge, and push the ecosystem to be better. There are a lot of exciting aspects of fintech, but there is so much work to do, and I hope my podcast can help people move forward in a confident way. If the Finovate Podcast can get to a point where it’s helping to inspire people, excite people, or even scare them a little bit, then it’s a huge success in my book.
Find out more about the Finovate Podcast. Want to amplify your message? Get involved as a supporter of the show.
Some of the features built into financial websites are at least as much for show as they are for actual customer utility. Podcasts probably fall into that category. Really, who wants to listen to a bank's four-minute treatise on "home loan jargon" or nine minutes on "paying off your home loan sooner" (see screenshot below)? The answer: people serious about understanding the mortgage process and getting a fair price, an important market segment.
Podcasts are just rebranded versions of streaming audio, a technology that predates Web 2.0, iPods, and even broadband. But today, the name has a definite cachet thanks to Apple, and they draw website viewers, and the occasional listener.
Because of the low cost and favorable ROI, it makes complete sense for financial institutions to repurpose marketing, service, and educational messages into audio files and post them to your website (see previous coverage here). Many of the programs will have a multi-year shelf life, so over time they will get a significant number of plays.
While you are at, spend a few more dollars to do the things Australia's ANZ Bank did in their podcast microsite at <anzpodcasts.com.au>, the best banking audio education center we've seen.
Create a microsite with fresh graphics and modern colors (see screenshot below)
Use a unique URL to find the site, in this case <anzpodcasts.com>
Allow users to subscribe via RSS and iTunes (see bottom of screenshot below)
Make it clear that the "podcasts" can be streamed directly to the desktop, right now (see green play buttons below)
Post a FAQ with more detail on the podcasts
Post a survey to see how the podcasts resonate with customers
Finally, the most important way to leverage the podcast, something often overlooked:
Post a transcript of the audio program so that those preferring to skim the information can do so
Note: The top background has moving bars that provide the look of music playing through a graphic equalizer or some type of meter. It's a nice touch, but the bank should turn it off after a few cycles so that it doesn't distract the viewer.
We are starting to see RSS feeds used at public financial institutions, primarily to keep shareholders up-to-date on new filings and press releases.
Consumer feeds are still relatively rare, but are growing quickly. By this time next year, we predict as many as half of all major U.S. banks and credit unions will be producing feeds as part of their online marketing mix.*
One bank in front of the curve is Beverly Hills-based CityNational Bank <www.cnb.com>. The bank has seven RSS feeds and three podcasts (see below). They've even added an RSS feed button on the bottom of most website pages (see End Notes). The podcasts are just read-throughs of the articles. That's OK, but the bank should let customers know not to bother subscribing to both.
Newsfeeds The newsfeeds are geared primarily towards business users (2 feeds) and shareholders (3 feeds), but there's also a PersonalFinance feed and a Market Perspectives feed. The bank has published three Personal Finance articles so far: the first on Aug. 16; another two weeks later on Aug. 30; then, after a two-month hiatus, a third one today.
Podcasts The bank is also podcasting more thoroughly than we've seen before, with not one but two monthly podcasts: personal finance and international business. The company also produces a weekly market perspectives podcast (see list below). Users can subscribe to the audio reports via a newsfeed (RSS) or directly into Apple'siTunes using the appropriate button.
*Preliminary forecast. See the final forecast numbers in our upcoming report, Online Banking Report #135, Web 2.0-itizing your Bank (to be published in early November).
End Notes (click on link below for more screenshots)
City National homepage includes links to newsfeeds (lower left) Note also: link to remote deposit capture service (mid-page)
RSS page loads whenever clicking on an RSS link from another City National page (see RSS button in lower-right corner)
City National podcast directory (note the integrated iTunes button)
So far, two U.S. financial institutions have jumped on the podcasting bandwagon:
The first financial podcaster was Stockton, CA-based Financial Center Credit Union <fccuburt.org>. Its rambling, 56-minute first effort, Personal Finance Tips, from CEO Michael Duffy, was posted on Apple’siTunes on August 30. The program is more philosophical than factual and sounds almost unscripted, as if the CEO just sat down and talked about whatever came to mind for an hour. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than his mother or marketing manager listening to the whole thing. Since then, they’ve published two more installments of the series: a 31-minute Personal Finance Tips, posted Oct 17, and a nine-minute discussion of phishing and pharming on Dec. 14. The latter program, which did NOT feature the CEO, was a more appropriate length and dealt with facts and actionable information. – While the content is of questionable value, the website design is good, positioning the CU as hip and with it. The podcast series is entitled, Talkin’About the Benjamins, and features a clever visual of Ben Franklin with the signature Apple earphones on his head (see inset above left). The credit union has a link on its homepage to a dedicated podcast page (click on inset above for closeup) that explains how to subscribe to the series via Apple’siTunes site or to download directly from the CU site in MP3 format. –
The first bank to post a podcast was UMB Bank <umb.com> out of Kansas City. The first of the three planned recordings was posted Dec. 5, The Ins and Outs of 401(k) Retirement Plans. The bank also makes its podcast available for free downloading at the iTunes store or directly at the bank’s website. The recording is a question-and-answer session with UMB Portfolio Manager Casey Matthews. The UMB program is also relatively amateurish, with the participants nervously chuckling at their own jokes. At more than 24 minutes, it’s too long, but for a listener with little knowledge of retirement plans, it’s not a bad educational program.
In contrast to the marquee placement of FCCU’s podcasts, UMB bank buries the program in the middle of a long list of content within the News and Information part of the website (click on inset above for a closeup). This considerably diminishes the marketing value.
Analysis The question isn’t really whether to podcast or not, but rather whether audio/visual content should be added to your website. The answer to the second question is a resounding YES. It’s time to leverage the high-speed Internet connections enjoyed by the majority of your customers with professional audio and video content. There are numerous programming tools that can be used; the most common is Macromedia FLASH, to develop good audio and video programming.
There isn’t really a pressing need to provide the information in the proprietary iPod format. The number of users who will want to download your sales pitch and listen to it on the train ride home can be counted on one hand. However, given the hype surrounding everything iPod, it’s not a bad idea to post your work as an iPod recording.
If you do end up with a podcast, keep these tips in mind:
Keep it short and to the point: Strive for a tight, overall length of no more than 5 to 10 minutes. If the subject matter needs more time, break the broadcast into multiple parts.
Make it professional: Listeners expect a degree of professionalism from their bank that they don’t expect from other podcasters. If you can’t afford to hire a pro to develop the program, try tapping into the eager broadcasting majors at a local university or community college. At the very least, develop a script and practice before broadcasting.
Use a Q&A format: We like UMB’s format, pairing an interviewer with a bank expert. Had they kept to the 10-minute limit, it would have been worth listening to.
Lose the humor: Banking is serious. It’s OK to use some humor in advertising and promotion, but a broadcast from the bank should not include any attempts at humor, and NO laughing at your own jokes.
Post it at iTunes: Easily explain how to find it, so that users can quickly subscribe to future broadcasts.
Most important,marry the audio broadcast with visual aids:UMB’s 24-minute podcast on retirement savings would be much more effective with supporting visuals, especially as they run through several examples of after-tax returns of various investment options. A standard webcast using PowerPoint and an audio presentation would be far more effective, although less likely to land you a write-up in the local newspaper.