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What are all these fintech startups actually doing?

It was an eye-opening conference. Under the auspices of the financial technology (‘fintech’) network started by Afiniation, 31 startups with ‘market-ready’ solutions presented their businesses to an eager audience of potential investors, customers and partners. It provided a snapshot of the digital disruption potential in wealth management and finance generally. Whereas other industries such as music, books, newspapers and videos have seen massive shifts to online services with severe revenue impacts, finance has to date been relatively unaffected.

The great, the good and the not-so-good

A curious routine spontaneously developed at my table. We would watch each presentation attentively, then everybody would look at each other and either give an approving nod, muttering some words like “That’s a good idea”, or frown doubtfully, saying “I don’t think so” or similar. And so it was possible to gain immediate market feedback on the quality of the idea.

My thoughts after the event were:

  • As with entrants to any new activity, some fintechs will flourish and some will crash. It’s difficult to judge the winners because it only takes one large customer to support a business and it can flourish, but without that slice of luck, it can run out of money.
  • Although it is not easy to raise venture capital, there is money available for the right ideas, well executed (the total global investment in fintech is estimated at $270 billion). One experienced VC investor told me, “Always start by investing in the person, not the business.” Which I’m sure is true but it helps if it’s also a good idea.
  • Many large banks and insurance companies are watching this space and are keen to partner with new fintech ventures. I asked someone from a major bank why they would not just put a few people on a project instead of paying a startup. He said that by the time they called a meeting of the right people, organised papers, set time lines and deliverables, gained permission from every affected party and tried to run regular meetings, the whole project would become mired in politics, lost time and extra costs. Much easier to let a startup prove the concept and then throw a few million dollars at them. He said, “There’s too much S.H. in front of I.T.”

Deloitte research

It was good timing in the same week when Deloitte issued a comprehensive study, linked here, called ‘The Future of Financial Services: How disruptive innovations are reshaping financial services.’ It identifies six areas expected to experience changing customer demands and the rapid growth of fintechs:

  • payments
  • deposits and lending
  • financial markets
  • investment management
  • capital raising
  • insurance

It highlights innovations around cashless payments, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and crypo-currencies that incumbents need to watch and reinvigorate their business models. Customers are familiar with online usage and solutions, and may embrace new entrants in a way that has not been possible in the finance industry before.

Presentations at the Afiniation Showcase

The list below shows the companies that presented with my understanding of what they do. Each business was given only seven snappy minutes to present. I am not involved in any of these businesses, and listing them here is not an endorsement, it is intended only to show the innovation and changes underway. Many of these companies are looking for venture capital funding.

Ignition Wealth - automated investment advice, making investing easy for everyone. Pitching B2B to advice groups more than B2C. Custody and execution remains in client system.

SuiteBox – Allows sharing of documents and interacting between users, including integrated video meetings. Improve the ways advisers engage with their clients, redefine the customer experience.

MyProsperity - Whole portfolio at your fingertips, including cars, loans, etc. All powered by data feeds, including rent statements, car values from Redbook, home values from RPData.

Einsights - Global business and data analytics, control decisions and amount of data using tools that think not do. Derive insights from data to take charge of your business.

My Angel Investments – Current focus on NZ, match investors with businesses (especially technology and engineering) under special NZ licence. Australia stymied by poor legislation.

Avoka – Approve personal loan in under two minutes, Avoka Transact creates world class sales experience, banking most important activity, build white label in a few days.

Cumulus Networks - Support open networking that is responsive and affordable, validated solution designs that empower people who use them.

BigFuture - Nudge people to a better understanding of their wealth, change the ways they live their lives to make their futures more sustainable, show what revealed preferences will look like.

Mclowd - SMSF services market place, core technology is free. Want to be ‘Elancer’ of SMSFs, creating a growing ecosystem by leveraging the crowd and cloud.

ML^2 - Online trading investment platform, especially derivatives and FX. CFDs and retail FX with links to brokers. What do I need to know to trade well?

Sharesight - Aggregate all your assets in online reporting, integrate with broker for immediate updates, set up historical trading and tax records, connect to Xero for reporting, open API.

Swipe – Converts documents into optimal format for reading and amending, 90% websites not optimised, such as annual reports presented in pdf form. Making reading documents easier.

MapMyPlan - Financial planning without financial planners, remove conflict of interest using virtual financial planner with no link to final product, demystify financial planning, single snapshot.

LAB Group - Application processes, connected onboarding, amalgamate product applications using forms linked to other providers. Data already entered, easier experience for customer.

Hashching - Online place to access home loans, they negotiate rates on behalf of borrower, even go back to previous lender to see if want to match. Other loan websites not a great experience.

Banqer - Online financial education for classroom, turns class into economy, we would grow the economy if people knew more about finance, motivate students with fake currency. (This business won the ‘Best in Show’ award).

Simply Wall St - Share investing infographics, not stock recommendations but explore company statistics with interesting pictures, able to visualise the ratios of over 10,000 companies.

DomaCom - Fractional property investing, matches buyers and sellers in any residential property, undertakes a book build to get to market price, like a syndication to create a secondary market.

SMSFCheck - Early stage analysis of SMSF investment strategy before go into adviser, shows range of returns and outcomes and asset allocations.

Listcorp - Platform that connects listed companies to private investors, paid for by company who maintain own profile online in consistent format, helps investor discovery process.

CapitalPitch – Platform that matches startups with investors as a capital-raising accelerator, structured six step process to show how to become worthy of the money, like an online adviser.

Stocklight – Investing app, research tool for listed companies, track ratios to find good investments using quantitative analysis inspired by Ben Graham’s value investing methods.

Adviser Intelligence - Manages everything advisers do, including insurance, investments, customer relationship data, office efficiency, client goals.

Serko – Corporate travel expense management system, records business expenses and cuts the cost of corporate travel.

StrykeTax - Simple tax return process allows submitting tax information to accountant using an app, review and sign online makingtax returns easier.

CapitalU – Online financial advice including comprehensive SOA using Yodlee to connect various accounts, recommends how much to save, how long to work and includes implementation.

Ezidox - Collects home loan documents and streamlines workflows involved in home ownership.

Paydock – Gateway agnostic low cost payments solution, including transaction processing, billing platforms and cloud payments, real-time notifications and automated engagement.

SuperEd - Build client engagement and financial literacy over time, democratising investment, people who receive financial advice are better off, parts of financial advice better done online.

Eight Wire – smart data migration onto the cloud quickly, reducing data errors and reducing costs, establishes connections when moving from on premises to the cloud.

Airdocs - self-service, cloud-based document delivery.


Graham Hand is Editor of Cuffelinks and attended the Showcase courtesy of Afiniation.

The results of the Cuffelinks roboadvice survey will be published next week. The survey remains open based on this article and we welcome more opinions.


October 03, 2015


Couple points as observations

This link below details the global fintech space - you will see what is happening in Australia is certainly replicated in Europe, US etc - so for every Australian robo adviser there must be 20 overseas - same for share valuation applications - and peer2peer lending

Robo advice I suggest will pivot over the years and with perhaps ArtificiaI Intelligence advancements will move [or have to, given weight of VC expectations] into the full advice field - so today is the base model BMW
- or perhaps they are looking to be acquired by the like of the banks, stockbrokers, advisers, fund managers as an exit like Blackrock did
- but Vangard and Fidelity moving into this space is a killer for some of them
=> so perhaps the financial advise industry has peaked as it is the 25 - 35 that will grow wealth linked to robo advisers who then become pensioners = grab em young keep em

Also - dont financial advisers use model portfolio's along the lines similar to robo adviser platforms models - except their APL do not necessarily have cheap ETFs

Gone are the days it appears when stock brokers or advisers had the upper hand in their access to the information [their IP] - now it is all freely [cheaply] available - so say use sharelight and robinhood, combined with wealthfront or motifinvesting and you can manage your own portfolio - so cheap research => free trading => and portfolio balancing and construction [relatively cheaply] => who needs a stock broker

So why didnt a stock broker figure out something like sharelight or simplywallstreet - or even stockspot - now perhaps the gig is up

Other disrupters are coming after currency transfers - taking after western union - this is a space to watch => zero cost or low fee currency transfers - with implications to OZ forex

But an interesting thought - the cash burn for some of these is small - given incubators, low cost technology and access to Indian developers - as was highlighted by one of the participants with $750,000 in bank saying he couldnt understand why incumbents spend multiple millions

fun times as an observer => all good for consumers who frankly are still being ripped off in financial services + in Australia

October 02, 2015

+1 Greg

Greg Einfeld
October 02, 2015

Hi Graham

An excellent summary of a jam packed day.

In hindsight - it would have great to have an app which rates each idea based on audience feedback. The feedback would be useful to the presenters in improving their products (and in some cases hinting that we should give up and get a real job).


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