KONSULTA’s Roland Woerle on Innovation, Incumbency and Insurtech

The impact of technology on the insurance industry continues to be one of the more underrated developments in fintech. And while the level of disruption varies from one region to another, the intersection of insurance and technology is the growing source of innovation.

This year at FinovateEurope, we spoke with Roland Woerle, founder and partner of KONSULTA.eu, a boutique advisory firm, based in Austria, with a focus on the European insurance industry. KONSULTA helps insurers and brokers increase revenues, improve their customer experience, and manage business transformations.

“We are different, refreshing, highly-competent, fun, value-driven, and 100% customer focused,” Woerle described KONSULTA by way of introduction. “We are trying to help insurance players in their transformation, innovation, and customer/employee value propositions.”

Finovate Research Analyst David Penn talks technology and innovation in insurtech with KONSULTA’s Roland Woerle

Woerle is also senior representative at Vienna-based Match-Maker Ventures, where he helps startups that have already reached the proof-of-concept level scale their businesses. Previously, Woerle spent more than five years as Chief Operations Officer (Nordics/ Austria and CEE) for global financial services firm Aon, and more than ten years as Chief Operating Officer (Austria, CEE, CIS, and Nordics ) for leading insurance broker Marsh.

We talked about the role of technology in accelerating processes in insurance, and which business models benefit the most from the cost savings of technologies ranging from robotics to satellites. We also discussed the key distinction between companies with innovation teams and companies with innovation cultures, and the challenges businesses face in developing the latter from the former.

“Large insurance organizations they are still struggling with (this),” Woerle said. He pointed to issues with the company’s best and brightest often being pre-occupied with other, day-to-day tasks, as well as an incentive structure that does not reward what he called a “try and fail fast” approach to innovation, as major obstacles. Add to that insurance companies’ traditional risk aversion and it’s easy to see why “unconventional ideas,” as Woerle referred to them, face a challenging road to adoption.

Here are some of the top takeaways from our conversation with Roland Woerle this year at FinovateEurope in Berlin.

On platformification and the future of the insurtech

Woerle: (The platform economy) is highly relevant for insurance. We had a good debate in the afternoon, discussing where insurance companies might go into, and how they might become platform providers and solution providers for platforms. The industry as such might evaporate over time and morph into the platforms.

It’s a bit of a scary thought on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for those who actually partner with the right platform providers. They can actually grow and grasp new opportunities in the market.

On the main ways the technology is changing the traditional insurance business

Woerle: I think that there are probably three areas where technology is really changing (insurance). First of all, it primarily speeds up the processes along the insurance value chain. Whether it’s distribution, underwriting, customer service … there’s huge potential for claims … just to make the process faster.

I see also tremendous potential on the B2B side, especially the large B2B speciality insurance lines like marine, where you can actually use satellite tracking, blockchain contracts in much more innovative ways around data analytics to drive down the tremendous costs in that industry.

On the relationship between insurance incumbents and insurtech startups.

Woerle: It’s still a difficult relationship to make work. I guess it’s the same as in the fintech space. It’s one of the things that KONSULTA is actually focusing on. We are working with startups and working with industry leaders to better match them to make sure it’s a win/win case for both of them.

They need to be true partnerships. Incumbents cannot see a startup just as a supplier. This won’t work. They will fail any procurement process. They will not “tick the boxes” which they need to tick. (Incumbents) need to nurture (startups). They need to see them as strategic partners.

So bringing them together, speaking the same language, seeing where value is added on both sides, and how can they make a win/win situation … I think that is the way to succeed.

Watch the full, six-minute interview on Finovate TV.

Why a Focus on CX is More Important Now than Ever

The past couple of years in financial services have brought a lot of discussions about the client experience. In fact, that was the topic of my interview last fall with Martin Lange, Director of Client Experience Strategy at BNY Mellon. Is the sudden focus on customer experience all hype?

“Any of us who have been in client experience for a long time would say it’s been around for awhile,” Lange said, adding, “But the industry is looking for new ways of differentiation. And new ways of differentiation– as we’ve learned from other industries– is the client experience.”

Differentiation

So why is a focus on customer experience more important now than last year, last month (or even last week)? It comes down to differentiation.

Last year we wrote about fintechs vying for customer deposits and mindshare by boosting interest rates on savings accounts up around the 3% mark. With the Federal Reserve cutting rates to near-zero, that strategy will be increasingly difficult to follow through with.

Recognizing that this is a difficult time for everyone, banks can offer consumers two simple things that may be hard to come by to improve the customer experience (and no, it’s not toilet paper).

The first is kindness. When customer service representatives have a kind and friendly disposition over the phone it can bring customers a bright spot, especially if they are in isolation from other human beings. Kind words in email and social media correspondence are also easy ways to retain consumer attention.

Financial services companies can also differentiate themselves with compassion. Waiving certain fees, especially when they are small, can be an easy way to only maintain a customer when they are struggling. Even better, banks can follow in the footsteps of Goldman Sachs, GMC, Ford, and other financial institutions by waiving payments for a month without charging interest. When the economy improves clients will remember which firms stood by them during hard times.

Challenges

When it comes to challenges in creating a stand-out client experience, Lange noted two hurdles. The first is attribution. Firms need to know that a spike in sales or client acquisition is attributed to certain actions or events, such as an improved user interface, and was not driven by other changes such as pricing or an altered service structure.

“The other challenge is a culture challenge,” said Lange. He explained that instead of structuring operations around process improvements, where employees fall into the habit of looking for the next thing to fix, firms need to be proactive and design an experience first and allow the design to follow that experience.

Leading with a design idea, Lange said, “can be emotional, and it’s based on empathy. It’s not based on Excel spreadsheets, which the industry is very used to… there are human beings that are interacting and we want to design for human beings.”

Check out the full interview with Lange below:

How Banks Make Digital Transformation Work

One of the more consistently insightful observers of the fintech industry, author Chris Skinner, highlighted the rise of central bank digital currencies as one of the more surprising conversations at FinovateEurope this year.

“China’s about to launch one, there’s going to be a digital dollar from the Fed at some point probably,” Skinner said. “And the implications of that on cross border payments and infrastructure was one of the topics that was a little bit off track to me because it hadn’t come up before. So I enjoyed that immensely.”

That said, the man behind theFinanser.com and chair of the Financial Services Club spent the majority of our conversation in Berlin talking the discussions he’s had with leaders in the banking industry who are tackling the challenge of digital transformation head on – and succeeding. These insights are at the core of Skinner’s upcoming book, Doing Digital, to be published in April.

Skinner also shared some insights on banks and their role in digital identity management. He noted Head of OP Lab for Finland’s OP Financial Group Kristian Luoma who pointed out that even in a future in which banks aren’t involved in payments or authentication due to intermediaries like Square and Apple ID, for example, there is still a critical role for banks to play. But banks must be ready to share the ball.

“It’s one of the few times I’ve heard a bank actually stating that in such a clear way, because most banks still think they have to own and control everything,” Skinner observed. “The idea of being just a player in a system – that’s the way we have to think for the future.”

Here are some of the top takeaways from our conversation with Chris Skinner this year at FinovateEurope in Berlin.

On why a “bare-knuckle approach” to the challenge of successful digital transformation is appropriate – if not required

Skinner: Digital transformation is not easy, it’s really hard, it takes years, it involves balancing business-as-usual with business-as-unusual, and it’s something that had to be led by the chief executive and chairperson and cannot be delegated. I find too many banks think that digital (transformation) is a project or a function or a budget that can be delegated. But that’s absconding the reality. The reality is that you have to own it.

On the swim-or-sink approach companies that succeed in digital transformation have adopted to ensure a digital-positive culture

Skinner: The most difficult thing in any transformational project is getting the middle management to buy into the project and participate. And commit. Because often the middle management are the most worried about what’s happening. They think they are going to lose their job or they might lose their part of the organization or they might lose their power. They might lose their people. They might lose their promotion. So they fear change rather than embrace it. And it’s really a case of: how do you bring those people with you?

On the progress some innovative banks are making toward digital transformation.

Skinner: One of (the banks I interviewed for Doing Digital) had a head of ecosystems. It’s the first time I ever met anybody at a bank who’s called the “head of ecosystems.” His pure role was to go out and find appropriate partnerships – in the world of APIs and apps and analytics – on open platforms and bring them in to work with the bank. At the time, they had about ten partnerships, and I think today they’ve more than doubled that number. So there are some banks taking it very seriously.

Watch the full, 10-minute interview on Finovate TV.

Nancy Giordano, Big Shifts, and How Exponential Technologies Will Change All

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African American comedian Richard Pryor joked after seeing the classic, 1976 movie Logan’s Run that the future didn’t look so bright to him. Why? Well, with no black people cast in the futuristic sci-fi flick, the legendary funny man surmised that, perhaps, “White folks ain’t planning on us being here.”

A similar thought comes to mind when anticipating the upcoming presentation by strategic futurist and TEDx Curator Nancy Giordano at FinovateSpring in May. In spite of the increasing evidence that the future belongs to women, the ranks of futurists – the people helping us understand, anticipate, and prepare for the world to come – tend to feature far fewer women than you might imagine.

This is just one of many reasons to look forward to Giordano’s keynote opening address “Navigating the Big Shift – How Exponential Technologies are Changing … Everything.”

A guest lecturer at Singularity University, and a ten-year TEDx curator, Giordano is recognized as one of the top female futurists in the world. A frequent panelist at South by Southwest, she has been on the board of the retail trade association, GMDC, and on the advisory council of both Retail Tomorrow and Future Frontiers, a fintech conference designed to help strengthen community banks. She also is a part of Austin, Texas-based, artificial intelligence services provider KUNGFU.AI.

And given her theme at FinovateSpring, of how big shifts change everything, it is easy to wonder how a shift in perspective on the future – from male-generated to female-generated – can fundamentally enhance our capacity to cope with technological change.

“You are also a human that is going through this. You are a parent, you are a son or daughter. You are part of a community that is wrestling with these questions,” she said in a compilation of remarks titled What Does the Future Expect from Us and How Do We Create that Future? “It’s hitting us personally, not just professionally.” She used the example of a group of women, all strangers, spontaneously consoling a young mother and her child at an airport as the model for the kind of take-action agency and humanistic focus she believes is required in order to build the future we need.

To this end, Giordano warns businesses to avoid the temptation to not make decisions. She uses the metaphor of training soldiers to act dynamically in the face of often existential uncertainty to explain why companies need to move beyond pining for “killer apps” or “the right time.” Often, she notes, by the time that’s happened, it’s often too late.”

Giordano’s futurism is a human-centered one. In response to an extended discourse from a cloud computing specialist who was extolling the virtues of the digital cloud during a conference panel, Giordano asked, “what is the equivalent of the human cloud? What allows us to level up in that same way? And are social technologies keeping up with digital technologies?”

Again and again, Giordano emphasizes less the new gadgets and gizmos to come from exponential technology development and instead reinforces how these technological changes will require new behavior on our part. “This is not just about understanding the Shift,” she says of the “permanent state of ambiguity” that characterizes our technological – and social – present and future. “It calls to a different kind of leadership, or ‘leadering’, or posture, or approach.”


To promote the gender goal of 50/50 diversity in financial services, women who register by this Friday, March 13, can purchase a ticket to any 2020 Finovate event at a 50% discount. Just enter the code EQUALITY on the booking form.

A VC Perspective on Balancing Investment in “Classic Fintech” with New Ideas

It’s a venture capitalist’s job to distinguish between winners and losers. Most of the time, however, funding in fintech is not that black and white. Regional differences each have pros and cons, and there is a balance between chasing the newest fintech idea and investing in proven technologies the industry knows work well.

We spoke with Manuel Silva Martinez, partner and head of investments at Santander InnoVentures (SIV), about regional differences in fintech, what he has his eye on for this year, and which of SIV’s investments he’s most proud of.

The U.S., Europe, and China are major fintech hubs. Which region do you view as the frontrunner?

Manuel Silva Martinez: Each region has built fintech on their own singularities. The U.S. has built fintech on a strong direct-to-consumer culture to address an extremely fragmented banking sector that has underinvested in technology, but consumes technology from vendors.

Europe’s banks have been more innovative and have driven the agenda, while start-up innovation has been hindered by national clusters, making smaller companies unattractive for growth funds. Only now are we seeing companies with regional ambitions fueled by larger VCs challenging bank-driven innovation.

China’s banking regulation did not allow for much competition, so competing against state-owned banks did not make sense. Instead, innovation has happened at the fringes of the industry, boosted by the emergence of mobile, digital, ecommerce and new platforms.

While risking being excessively simplistic, I’d say the most disruptive new models come from China, the U.S. produces the best B2B technology, and Europe will be most changed by the emergence of new fintech client propositions.

Is there a fintech subsector in particular you have your eye on this year?

Martinez: We look across the entire fintech value chain but the quality of opportunities we see varies from theme to theme.

We have also been organically looking for opportunities in the capital markets; we are big proponents of B2B blockchain applications and have found that capital markets is the perfect space for that.

On a slightly more forward-looking note, we are developing a number of theses on how fintech interacts with important customer decisions, and on how those customer journeys are changing. This is making us look at opportunities in PropTech (as it relates to the mortgage cycle), Mobility (car ownership), Logistics (trade and supply chain finance) and EdTech (wealth and human capital), etc.

Overall, we try to keep very close to where ‘classic fintech’ is going while keeping an eye on how the industry is reshaping itself by challenging its boundaries and basic business models.

In a lot of industries location matters. Does the location of a fintech start-up influence your investment decision?

Martinez: It does and it does not. Today, knowledge and capital are more liquid than ever, and great companies can be built anywhere. This is a dramatic change from the old days where thriving ecosystems had to agglomerate capital, talent, and clients, which was self-limiting for smaller ecosystems to flourish. We go where the opportunities are, as opposed to waiting for them to come to us.

At the same time, we actively engage our companies and spend time with them, go through their strategy, chat with their teams – outside of the more formal Board setting. Thus, we would naturally be more engaged with companies where our team is located. We now have a small antenna team in San Francisco, London has been home to SIV since inception, and we are also traveling very recurrently in all the other major hubs in Europe that are just a short flight away.

What do you consider to be Santander’s most successful investment so far?

Martinez: Success is a very subjective concept. From a purely financial perspective, we are proud to be investors of companies that have made the headlines for reaching or aiming at unicorn status, like iZettle, Ripple, Kabbage, Creditas, Trulioo, Tradeshift, etc.

But we also look at success at the micro-level; I feel proud of how our actions, our support, whether through activating Santander or through our own skills and network, accelerate our companies. In that sense – and our CEOs are best to speak about this – I am particularly proud of how we have supported the likes of Autofi, Bonify, Crosslend, Elliptic or Roostify, among others, in driving growth and reaching their next level of success.

Commitment, FOMO, and Capital: How Smart Corporates Make Partnerships Work

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With one startup for every 1,400 citizens, Israel may have the highest “innovation per capita” ratio of any country on Earth.

That makes it little surprise that Itai Green, founder and CEO of Innovate Israel, would be the one to help explain what corporates need to do in order to make the most out of their collaborations with startups at FinovateEurope in Berlin last month.

Green advocates an innovation model – open innovation – in which corporates leverage their local ecosystems to collaborate and partner with startups, entrepreneurs, universities – even customers and other corporates – in order to develop whatever products or services will allow it to grow and expand. This argues against the in-house innovation model, which many have found to be an insufficient way of driving major innovation due to factors ranging from a lack of internal incentives to inconsistent and/or unclear support from management.

Green made the case to our audience that open innovation provides the lowest risk and the greatest return on investment a company can ask for – if they do it right.

In his presentation at FinovateEurope this month, Green outlined the most important factors that businesses need to keep in mind when working with innovative companies in an open innovation context. He listed nine distinct “Tips for Corporates” – a few of the more compelling ones are highlighted below.

Commitment – A theme that was quite common at FinovateEurope in Berlin this year – that bringing tech-savvy diversity to a financial institution’s board of directors was a must – was echoed strongly by Green. He advocated that companies have at least one technology/innovation-oriented board member – though having three, he noted, was far better. Green said that this kind of board representation was increasingly common in Israel where he pointed out that boards of directors typically had 20% of their members under the age of 40. Compare this to the S&P 500, where the age of the average board member is above 60.

FOMO > NIH – Even among companies that have recognized the importance of digital transformation, there can be a reluctance by corporates to embrace non-native ideas. This “Not Invented Here” attitude can be especially harmful when working with innovative startups, who often arrive on the scene with a passion to, if not disrupt, then certainly make a clear difference for their partner and a strong representation of their technology.

Green argues that a “Fear of Missing Out” on the next big opportunity is a more healthy psychology for the corporate when working with a startup rather than any sense of injured pride at not having come up with the innovation on their own.

Show Startups the Money – Another highlight on Green’s list was the importance of paying for the work. This was a point that Steve Frook of Best of Show winner Horizn would underscore in his FinovateEurope presentation, Landing Your First Bank Customer, later that day. From Frook’s perspective, it was important that startups avoid the temptation to, essentially, work for free in an attempt to show their enthusiasm and eagerness to collaborate. Establishing a business relationship – even a modest one – was an important early step for startups to take, Frook suggested. Green, from the perspective of advising the corporate, concurred. Companies should come to collaborations with startups with a budget and be prepared to use it. Paying startups, Green explained, sends a positive, professional signal to the company and to the broader community of innovators and entrepreneurs, as well.


Founded in 2017, Innovate Israel helps partner global corporations with innovative entrepreneurs and startups in Israel to help them implement advanced technologies in their businesses.

Three Challenges Banks Face with Digital Transformation

For banks, digital transformation is a moving target. Perhaps that’s because it’s all-encompassing, or maybe it’s because it seems like an ambiguous buzzword with no real meaning. There is one overarching truth about digital transformation, however, and that is that it is a multi-faceted process, not a single solution.

In a conversation with Grant Spradlin, Nuxeo’s VP of Customer Success, Spradlin outlined three key challenges businesses have in achieving digital transformation.

1. Competition
Making digital transformation more complex are players in the bigtech arena such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. When it comes to customer experience, banks are not only competing against other banks or even other fintechs. Instead, they are pitted against the tech sector at large.

2. Gap in customer expectations
Customers are expecting more from banks than just acting as a safeguard of funds. This is because bigtech megaliths have redefined the user experience for their customers to such an extent that it has raised customer expectations.

3. Regulations
New and updated regulations are always a challenge, but are especially so with digital transformation. Fortunately, digital transformation also serves as an aid to comply with new regulations. Banks will have an easier time complying with GDPR, for example, when they update their data management practices.

As with most digital objectives, digital transformation all comes down to data. Spradlin noted that his successful customers have one thing in common– they are all using data management as a service. Nuxeo’s data management as a service offering is a single API that offers access to all of the content across an enterprise. “It’s all kind of the same use case at the end of the day,” he said. “That is, providing the right content to the right person at the right time.”

Finovate Launches New Gender Diversity Stream at FinovateEurope

FinovateEurope is innovative for us in a number of ways. This will be the first time our fintech conference has been held in continental Europe after eight years of hosting our event in London. We are also launching our new Startup Booster program, which is designed to help give fintech startups the information, guidance, and support they need in order to more effectively build, pitch, and market their innovations.

FinovateEurope will also feature the debut of our Women in Fintech stream. Held on the afternoon and early evening of Wednesday, February 12, our Women in Fintech stream consists of presentations, keynotes, a panel discussion, and an end-of-day networking opportunity with refreshments hosted by European Women Payment Network (EWPN).

Here are some of the women who will be speaking as part of our Women in Fintech stream.

Isil Ugurlu

Country Ambassador, Germany, at the European Women Payments Network, Ugurlu is also Head of Payment at Berlin, Germany-based Elumeo group, a firm that produces and sells high-quality gemstone jewelry. She is responsible for the firm’s global payment infrastructure and processes, and the company’s global payment partner relations.

Theodora Lau

Founder at Unconventional Ventures, Lau is a speaker, writer, and innovator. Her focus is on developing and growing an ecosystem of financial institutions, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to respond to the needs of an increasingly diverse consumer. She is a mentor to both fintech and healthtech startups, and supports a growing partnered portfolio.

Juliane Schmitz-Engels

Head of Communications at Mastercard for Germany and Switzerland and a host at Fintech Berlin, Schmitz-Engels is also a host at Fintech Berlin and a curator at FocusCamp. Previous to her work at Mastercard, Schmitz-Engels led communications and public relations at technology and finance companies in Berlin and Frankfurt. She studied at the Universitat Potsdam and the Institute for Law and Finance.

Also scheduled to participate in our Women in Fintech stream are:

  • Akira Sasaki
  • Ria Shetty
  • Sabrina Small
  • Weina Wang

For more on our FinovateEurope agenda, visit our FinovateEurope page. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Berlin!

Stop Looking at Your Customer Base as a Faceless Mass

If you ask Balázs Vinnai, president of W.UP, one size does not fit all when it comes to banking. In fact, his company’s entire premise is built around creating a personalized user experience.

Earlier this month we chatted with Vinnai about the struggle that banks face when it comes to tailoring their user experience to suit each customer individually.

Balázs Vinnai

Finovate: Why do you think banks have such a difficult time creating a personalized user experience?

Vinnai: There are several reasons: patched-up IT systems, outdated vendors, a lack of entrepreneurial spirit, just to name a few. But legacy thinking is by far the biggest culprit. Many incumbents still think that digital transformation is about buying the right technology and streamlining a few processes. That’s part of it, of course, but mostly it’s about understanding customers as much as possible and catering to their very needs.

Finovate: What is one small step banks can take to improve their customer experience?

Vinnai: Stop looking at their customer base as a faceless mass. Banking customers are individuals with unique needs and problems, goals and habits. With the help of advanced data analysis, banks can do much more than segment or micro-segment them. They can create segments-of-one and laser-target each and every customer with the right financial solutions.

Finovate: How does improving the customer experience ripple out to add value into other areas of a bank, such as fraud prevention?

Vinnai: Personalization in general is becoming a means of survival instead of added value. Completely rethinking how customer experience is delivered might seem a bit radical today but, in the long run, failing to do so will have more severe consequences. A Gartner study says that by 2030 as many as 80% of traditional financial service providers will go out of business if they can’t catch up with digital-savvy competitors.

Finovate: Tell us about what W.UP does and what sets the company apart from its fintech competitors.

Balázs Vinnai: W.UP is a personalization platform that allows banks to understand and meet their customers’ needs in real time. It comes with pre-built use cases that are easy to set up and tailor to banking systems, processes, and goals. What makes it different from other AI-driven tools is that not only does it give customers a better insight into their finances, but it can also spot and offer solutions for key money moments and complex life situations.

Finovate: Last year was considered to be “the year of the customer” in fintech. Do you think that mentality will continue into 2020?

Vinnai: I think every day should be about the customer in banking and fintech alike, no matter what year it is. And it shouldn’t just be an empty motto or mission statement. It’s time incumbents and challengers teamed up and walked the talk together.


Check out W.UP’s Best of Show-winning demo at FinovateEurope 2019 and don’t miss the company’s upcoming appearance at FinovateEurope on 11 through 13 February in Berlin.

How to Engage the Customer in an AI-First World

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Which digital technologies will make the biggest differences in shaping the customer experience in the new decade?

FinovateEurope next month in Berlin, Germany, will feature a keynote address from Steven Van Belleghem, author of Customers The Day After Tomorrow. Van Belleghem’s book tells the tale of customer relations in a world in which AI and automation dominate commerce.

To Belleghem, the new AI-focused world we are entering will have profound effects on the kinds of exciting new technologies we will have access to. But the deeper impact of AI may be on the expectations customers begin to develop in the marketplace, expectations such as what Belleghem calls “faster than real-time service, hyper-personalization, and intuitive user interfaces” that deliver unprecedented levels of convenience.

Customers The Day After Tomorrow shows the key role data plays in what Belleghem calls an “AI-first world”. He writes of data both as a product of engaged users and as the fuel for future product innovation which, in turn, attracts a new cohort of engaged users. Understanding how to make this virtuous circle work for your business will be critical in the AI-dominated world of the future. Belleghem offers strategies – ranging from how to market to machines, the importance of enhancing the human touch, and taking advantage of the right communication channel at the right time – that will help firms not just compete in an AI-first world, but grow and thrive.

“How will our relationship with customers change when AI platforms like Amazon Alexa will hijack the relationship with our customers?” Belleghem asked in the introduction to a recent ebook anthologizing many of his top blog posts on the future of customer engagement. “What will be the impact on our brands? How can we keep reaching out to our customers without becoming invisible?”

“I’d love to help you think about the next steps that you could be taking in preparation for when the AI gatekeepers will slide in between your brand, and your customers,” he wrote.

Check out the above trailer for Belleghem’s book, Customers The Day After Tomorrow for more. And catch Steven live at FinovateEurope in Berlin, Germany next month. To reserve your spot, visit our FinovateEurope page and pick up your ticket today. Take advantage of big savings when you register before January 31!


Interested in demoing at FinovateEurope? If you’re an innovative fintech startup with new technology to show the world, send us an email to heather@finovate.com. We’ll give you all the details you need to know about how you can join us on stage at FinovateEurope as one of our demoing companies.

ITSCREDIT’s João Pinto on the Digital Lending Opportunity

ITSCREDIT CEO João Pinto

We recently spoke with ITSCREDIT CEO João Pinto. Founded in 2018, ITSCREDIT is a spinoff from ITSECTOR and is a fairly new player in the digital lending space. The Portugal-based company focuses on placing the consumer in control of the lending experience by making the entire process digital.

In this interview, Pinto talks to us about the digital lending opportunity, how his company fits into the current state of this fintech subsector, and what we can expect to see next.


Finovate: There is a wide range of borrowers out there– some who may not be comfortable on digital channels and others who are digital natives. How does ITSCREDIT adapt to this variety?

João Pinto: The main focus of ITSCREDIT is to evolve the lending process so that different types of customers can perform all lending origination actions using online channels. Our aim is that the customers can perform all origination operations online with minimum data input. We do this by retrieving necessary application information from various systems (personal data, financial data, and so on). Our approach to digital lending is to provide processes that are intuitive, attractive, simple, and fast in an online environment to revamp many of the bureaucracies often associated with traveling to the banks’ physical branches.

The customer can access the ITSCREDIT platform via online channels, such as mobile and internet. ITSCREDIT provides interfaces for other channels, as well, such as branch, contact center, and backoffice, which all have access to the client and their application process. This means that the client can start an application in any channel and get information or advice and can continue the process in any other channel. This way, more traditional users that are not as comfortable using digital channels can use traditional channels either in an isolated way, or– more interestingly– in a combined way. The multi-channel approach offers them full control of their application.

Finovate: How does ITSCREDIT underwrite credit risk and how does that approach differ from incumbent players?

Pinto: The ITSCREDIT platform contains four main modules: Flowcredit (Loan Origination), Calculators, Risk Analysis, Scoring, and Collections. Each can operate in isolation or can be combined in any way. Also, the platform is open so that implementations can use as much data as is available in order to have a more complete view of customers and their financials. We believe this is a huge strength of the platform. It allows banks to garner richer information for the risk analysis from both individuals and corporations (through Risk Analysis and Scoring modules), and also makes data available from credit applications processes (through Flowcredit).

In many situations our clients have, in the past, invested heavily in building their credit application analysis. The Flowcredit module easily integrates with such systems and then adds additional information and rules to make underwriting even more accurate and tailored to suit the financial institution needs.

Finovate: Tell us about the role that open banking plays in ITSCREDIT.

Pinto: As we mentioned previously, one of our strengths is that the ITSCREDIT platform is open so that implementations can use as much data as is available in order to have a more complete view of customers and their financials. In this scenario, open banking is a key element. It not only makes much more data available from different players, but also makes integrations much easier.

On the other hand, our platform is based on a services architecture, so that it exposes services that can be consumed by third party entities. For example, the use of calculators and loan origination components can easily be used in different commerce sites and therefore originate completely new lines of business for the institutions. For example, a travel agent can have a payment method on their website for their clients based on a personal loan.

Finovate: Looking broadly at the credit and lending industry as a whole, what changes do you anticipate 2020 will bring?

Pinto: In the past years we have seen financial institutions start to approach digital lending for their clients. This journey is still in its early stages, with few institutions providing such functionalities for a few products. We are sure, though, that in 2020 we’ll see more institutions adopting full digital lending with simpler models more adequate to their clients needs. The launch of PSD2 in Europe and other Open Banking initiatives around the world make it much easier to obtain personal and financial data from credit applicants and therefore make the loan origination simpler and faster.

The other area that we foresee a great expansion is through a space we refer to as dPOS (digital Point-of-Sale). A dPOS enables merchants to provide payment methods for their ecommerce platforms with digital lending, providing lower rates on credit cards for end customers and a lower cost and even extra income for merchants.

Finovate: What’s next on the horizon for ITSCREDIT?

Pinto: ITSCREDIT is a spin-off that will be 2 years old in May. We already have 13 clients on three continents: North America, Europe, and Africa. Our journey on the commercial side is to present the advantages of our solutions to more institutions and get more implementations.

In terms of product evolutions, we are enhancing the digital lending capabilities and models and launching new versions in 2020 for brokers and merchants.

Overall, our big aim is to position ourselves as a world-class player for credit solutions, providing innovative and modern solutions for our customers to help them differentiate from their competitors and become more efficient with higher loan volumes.


You can watch ITSCREDIT demo its latest technology on stage at FinovateEurope next month. Register now to save your seat!

If you’re interested in demoing on the FinovateEurope stage this year, reach out to heather@finovate.com or take a look at our event page for more details.

Fintech, Financial Services and the Case for 5G

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There were more than a few provocative presentations at FinovateAsia last fall. And Celent’s Dan Latimore was the man responsible for delivering one of them. Latimore, who is Senior Vice President of Celent’s Banking group, weighed in on a topic that is increasingly on the minds of technology analysts inside and out of fintech: the impact of 5G (which stands for “fifth generation wireless”) on financial services.

“Banks need to think about the implications of being able to access really heavy compute power remotely and centrally, whether it’s over the cloud or on premises,” he said during his presentation on 5G late last year. “What that does is turn every device into a thin client- which will have some very interesting implications.”

Dan Latimore returns to the Finovate stage next month in Berlin for FinovateEurope. He will host an afternoon interactive Q&A session titled What’s Hot: Money Disrupt on February 11, and later will share his views on “What’s Hot & What’s Not in Fintech” as part of our Analyst Insight showcase on February 12. Check out our FinovateEurope conference page for more details.

Calling 5G “something banks aren’t even thinking about,” Latimore said, “we believe the effects of 5G are going to be subtle and profound over time.” He dared indulge the “superhighway” metaphor – previously coined to describe the rise of the Internet in the late 1990s – to compare the potential of 5G with its predecessor technology 4G (to say nothing of the “dirt road” that was 3G). Relative to 3G, he noted, 5G’s “fiber over the air” approach represents a 26,000x improvement in speed, as well as major improvements in capacity and latency (“the time it takes for the stimulus to create a response”).

For reference, the first commercial 3G networks were introduced in 2000. The first commercial 4G networks were introduced less than ten years later in 2009.

While it is generally (though not universally) acknowledged that 5G will represent major opportunities for innovation in a variety of industries – from entertainment to autonomous vehicles to the Internet of Things (IoT) – many observers have overlooked the potential impact of 5G on financial services. Because 5G will enable mobile devices to serve as thin clients which can simply “point back” to the backend server, Latimore explained, banks will be able to leverage massive computing power to provide everything from centralized updates and better contextual advice to personalized interfaces on ATMs.

To this point, Latimore indicated that 5G would be one of the key avenues toward a post-smartphone future, as well. “Don’t forget about wearables,” he warned, “because that’s now a thin client that can be a much more viable way for people to interact with their bank, probably activated by voice.”

Check out more from Dan Latimore on 5G, including the shift from hardware spend to data spend, how institutions can negotiate the transition from 4G to 5G, the potential for new security challenges, and more. Celent subscribers can access his report. To see his presentations live next month at FinovateEurope, visit our registration page and pick up your ticket today.


Demo spots for FinovateEurope are still available! If you’re a fintech company with innovative, problem-solving technology, FinovateEurope is your opportunity to show the world!

Contact our Event Team today for more information on how to join us on stage as a demoing company at FinovateEurope next month in Berlin!