Finovate 2009: Online Financial Services Showcase

Finovate 2009 logoI spent the day at Finovate2009, a conference where companies with innovative web-based financial products and services strut their stuff for an audience of potential customers, analysts, and reporters. I’ve covered personal finance and accounting software for years, and watching its migration to the web is fascinating: You don’t hear much anymore about the privacy concerns that once dogged anything to do with accessing financial information online, or entrusting it to a Web service.

The clearest trend of the day: Business models that depend on financial institutions to pay for consumer-facing services. It seems that few firms expect to make money from consumer fees, ads or marketing offers.

The services themselves were all over the map. I was particularly fascinated by a couple of electronic check deposit services. MShift has technology that lets you electronically deposit checks by submitting photographs (front and back) captured with any 2-megapixel or greater phone camera.

Fidelity National Information Services has developed technology that not only lets consumers submit a scanned checks, but gives institutions tools to assess the risk involved in accepting the check. Is it from a valid account? Does the depositor have a history of bounced deposits? Is there anything unusual that might justify placing the funds on hold? If so, the service raises a red flag.

A couple of personal finance management services designed for financial institutions to offer customers showed off nifty new bells and whistles. Yodlee will introduce a highly customizable user interface for which third parties can develop widgets; FinanceWorks (from Intuit-owned Digital Insight) will integrate with Intuit’s TurboTax to make entering tax info easier than ever. Both were among the best-of-show winners based on Finovate attendee votes.

Another show winner was First ROI and BancVue’s Kasasa–basically a rewards checking program created for small community lenders. BancVue provides the technology and, perhaps more importantly, brand marketing services that these small banks and credit unions wouldn’t be able to afford on their own. I was also impressed by S1 Enterprise‘s suite of template applications that institutions can customize and offer their customers.

Also present at the show were Mint.com, which is in the process of being acquired by Intuit (and is taking up residence on Yahoo’s home page), and Simplifi, which is making its financial planning and management service available to banks.

A couple of companies have created applications designed to educate kids (Skill-Life’s Cents City) and novice investors (TILE Financial-TILE stands for The Investment Learning Environment). Of personal interest to me as a newly self-employed writer is Outright.com‘s free small business accounting service. Billeo flags Google and Bing search results that have special offers (e.g. online coupon codes) for something you might be shopping for.

Finally, a number of companies are working on payment services. Bling Nation provides consumers with chip-equipped stickers to slap on the back of their cell phones and use, a la RFID, to make payments to merchants with Bling terminals. PayByMobile envisions a system where you’d fund an account (much the way you fund a prepaid cell phone account) that you could draw on to pay participating merchants using a SMS short code message.

CashEdge’s POPMoney (for Pay Other People Money) would empower people to send and request payments using e-mail and existing bank accounts. Payments to accounts at banks participating in the CashEdge network would occur immediately; otherwise, the user would have to provide wire transfer information.

I could go on, but it’s late. You can peruse the full list of presenters on the Finovate site.

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