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Who is moving FinTech forward in continental Europe? Thoughts after FinTech Forum on Tour.

By Michal Rozanski, CEO at Empirica.

In the very centre of Canary Wharf, London’s financial district, in a brand new EY building, a very interesting FinTech conference took place – FinTech Forum on Tour. The invitation-only conference targeted the most interesting startups from the investment area (InvestTech) from mainland Europe. The event had representative stakeholders from the entire financial ecosystem. As Efi Pylarinou noted – the regulator, the incumbents, the insurgents, and investors, were all represented.

 

Empirica was invited to present its flagship product – Algorithmic Trading Platform, which is a tool professional investors use for building, testing and executing of algorithmic strategies. However, it was amazing to see what is happening in other areas of the investment industry. There were a lot of interesting presentations of companies transforming the FinTech industry in the areas of asset and wealth management, social trading and analytics.

 

The conference was opened with a keynote speech by Anna Wallace from FCA. Anna talked about the mission of FCA’s Innovation Hub; that is to promote innovation and competition in the financial technology field and to ensure that rules and regulations are respected. Whilst listening to Anna it became clear to me what the real advantage of London holds in the race to become the global FinTech capital – London has Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the Government in one place – and what’s most important, they cooperate trying to push things forward in one direction.

 

FinTech Forum on Tour

 

Robo-advisory

A short look at the companies presenting themselves at the event leads to the conclusion that the hottest sector of FinTech right now is robo-advisory. It’s so hot, that one of the panellists noted it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate for robo-advisory startups. On FinTech on Tour this sector was represented by AdviseOnly from Italy, In2experience,  Niiio, Vaamo and Fincite – all from Germany. Ralf Heim from Fincite presented an interesting toolkit ‘algo as a service’ and white label robo-advisory solutions. Marko Modsching from niiio revealed the motivation of retail customers, that “they do not want to be rich, they do not want to be poor”. Scalable Capital stressed the role of risk management in its offering of robo advisory services.

 

Social analysis/Sentiment/ Big Data

The social or sentiment analysis area, keeps growing and gains traction. Every day there’s more data and more trust in the results of backtesting as that data builds up over the years. The social media space is gaining ground. Investment funds as well as FinTech startups are finding new ways to use sentiment data for trading. And, it’s inseparably related with the analysis of huge amounts of data, so technically the systems behind it? are not trivial.

Anders Bally gave an interesting presentation about how to deal with sentiment data and showed  how his company Sentifi is identifying and ranking financial market influencers in social channels, and what they discuss.

Sentitrade showed its sentiment engine for opinion mining that is using proprietary sentiment indicator and trend reversal signals. Sentitrade is concentrated on German-speaking markets.

 

Asset management

From the area of asset management an interesting pitch was given by Cashboard, offering alternative asset classes and preparing now for a  huge TV marketing campaign . StockPluse showed how to combine information derived from social networks and base investment decisions on the overall sentiment. United Signals allows for social investing by making it possible to trade by copying transactions of chosen trading gurus with a proven track record, all in an automated way. And, finally BondIT, an Israeli company, presented tools for fixed income portfolio construction, optimization and rebalancing with use of algorithms.

 

Bitcoin and Blockchain

An interesting remark was given   by one of the panelist: ‘we have nearly scratched the surface for what blockchain technology can be applied to in financial industry’. Looking at the latest news reports that are saying that big financial institutions are heavily investing in blockchain startups and their own research in this field, there is definitely something in it.

A company from this sector of FinTech – Crypto Facilities, represented by its CEO Timo Schaefer, showed  the functionalities of its bitcoin derivatives trading platform.

 

Other fields

Hervé Bonazzi, CEO of Scaled Risk, presented its technologically advanced Big Data platform for financial institutions for risk management, compliance, analytics and fraud detection. Using Hadoop under the hood and low latency processing. Ambitious as it sounds.

Analysis of financial data for company  valuations, Valutico presented a tool that’s using big data, AI and swarm intelligence. Dorothee Fuhrmann from Prophis Technologies (UK) presented a generic tool for financial institutions to derive value and insights from data, interestingly describing indirect exposures and a hidden transmission mechanism.

Stephen Dubois showed  what Xignite (US) has to offer to financial institutions and other FinTech startups in the area of real-time and historical data that is stored in the cloud and accessible by proprietary API.

 Qumram, in an energetic presentation delivered by Mathias Wegmueller, described technology for recording online sessions on web, mobile and social channels, allowing for the analysis of user behaviour and strengthening internal security policy.

 

Conclusion

London is the place to be for FinTech startups. No city in Europe gives such possibilities. Tax deductions for investors. Direct help from the UK regulator FCA. Great choice of incubators and bootcamps for startups. No place gives such a kick. Maybe Silicon Valley is the best place for finding investor for a startup, maybe the Wall Street is the centre of the financial world, but London is the place that combines both the tech and the finance. It has a real chance of becoming the FinTech capital of the world.

 

About organizators

The people responsible for creating both a great and professional atmosphere at the event were Samarth Shekhar and Michael Mellinghoff. Michael was a great mentor of mine who transformed my pitch from a long and quite boring list of functionalities of our product to something that was bearable for the audience. Michael let me thank you once more for the time and energy you have devoted to Empirica’s pitch!

 

And because the FinTech scene in our region is not well organized yet, I sincerely advise all FinTech startups from Central and Eastern Europe to attend cyclic events of FinTech Forum in Frankfurt organized by Techfluence professionals!

 
Read about our Lessons learned from FinTech software projects.

 

 

FinTech Companies

 

 

 

Empirica has been nominated for Best Fintech Startup at CESA 2015

 

Empirica has been nominated for the Best Fintech Startup in Poland at the CESA festival. CESA (Central European Startup Award) is the biggest no-pitch, no-conference start-up festival in the Central-Eastern European region. The festival brings together nearly 4.000 start-ups from 10 countries and it will be held in Vienna this year.

We are in good company, as other companies nominated in FinTech category are:

  • Zencard
  • Billon
  • WealthArc
  • our friends from FriendlyScore

The Central European Startup Awards is a series of events in the CEE countries, that aims to recognize and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and startup ecosystems of the region. This year eight categories will be awarded in:

  • Startup Of The Year
  • Best Investor
  • Best FinTech startup
  • Best Cloud/Data Application
  • Best User Experience
  • Best Social Impact Startup
  • Most Influential Woman
  • Best Coworking Space

 

CESA regognized FinTech as separate category this year reflecting that financial technologies are now the fastest growing technology sector worldwide. Incumbents in the financial industry – big banks and other financial institutions – are witnessing the emergence of new players that are profoundly changing the way individuals and business conduct their financial operations. Global investment in financial-technology (fintech) ventures tripled from $4.05 billion in 2013 to $12.2 billion in 2014, with Europe being the fastest growing region in the world, according to a report by Accenture.  Last year, fintech investment increased at more than three times the rate of overall venture capital investment. While it remains to be seen whether the burgeoning fintech industry will actually pose a threat to established institutions, it is clear that the sector is rapidly growing and many of these entrants are here to stay. Investors in the nascent sector are taking notice, profitable exits are on the horizon, and big banks are investing in new technologies to strengthen their competitive positions.

 

More on this year’s nominees:

http://centraleuropeanstartupawards.com/shortlisted-poland

cesawards-logo

Empirica joins advisory board of London’s FinTech Connect

FintechConnect logo

Michal Rozanski, CEO of Empirica, was invited to join advisory board of FinTech Connect. The main purpose of the board would be to share knowledge and experiences with new fintech ventures looking for support.

FinTech Connect is a new initiative for the global community of financial technology stakeholders – investors, financial institutions, fintech startups and solution providers.

Empirica definitely sees a need for one place where people interested in advancement of financial technologies could exchange ideas, experiences and good practices. We are already taking part in similar initiative but on different field – IT Corner association for local software companies – and advantages of such an initiative are obvious to us. When such an idea gets critical mass of people involved that want to be active, then the effect is much more than the sum of its parts. IT Corner is living evidence of that. Therefore we are great fans and we will happily support the development of FinTech Connect.

FinTech Connect provides a digital hub and meeting place for the fintech sector. It allows start-ups, tech providers, investors and financial institutions to connect and do business through community platform. FinTech Connect has already thousands of members and the count is growing daily. In addition to start up events, FinTech Connect provides global seminars and conferences on subjects such as banking security, cash management and commercial payment strategies for corporate treasurers, and cloud IT platforms for financial institutions.

Steve Clarke, the founder and CEO of FinTech Connect says: ‘We launched FinTech Connect because we wanted to provide a global platform and community for  the fintech industry. With the incredible amount of innovation going on within many different technology hubs around the World, there is a natural element of fragmentation between stakeholders and it can at times, seem like innovation is taking place within micro-communities; either in certain geographies, sub sectors or on a smaller scale again within accelerator or incubator programmes.’

FinTech Connect is also organizing Europe’s most exciting exhibition of fintech startup innovation – FinTech Connect Live. This conference will gather over 2000 fintech professionals, over 100 exhibitors and over 100 speakers and visionaries all in one place for two days in London in December 2015.

 

Learn more about FinTech Connect at: www.fintechconnect.com

and about FinTech Connect Live at: www.fintechconnectlive.com .

Trends in Wealth Management

To gain a distinctive view into the experiences of both customers and advisors as the wealth management industry faces change, Forbes Insights, in partnership with Temenos, surveyed more than 60 wealth managers all over the world and 35 High- Net Worth (HNW) clients about the evolving banking encounter —how they convey, their needs and the need for technology
One of the key findings:
• 42% of wealth managers believe that the mixture of offline and digital means of communication is perfect.
• 34% of HNW clients need either digital-only or a combination of offline and digital communication
• 62% of HNW customers say the digitization of wealth management services is good overall, but they nevertheless desire to meet regularly with the advisor.
• 17% of HNW customers say technology is not dispensable.
• 48% of HNW clients rate cyber threat and hacking as a top concern associated with the use of technology
• 45% of wealth managers believe comprehensive analysis of performance and financial results is the finest way to establish trust with clients.
The survey also affirms it is mainly a myth that young investors that are wealthy are entirely self sufficient and they convey mainly through virtual channels, with little or no interest in face-to-face relationships with advisors. True, they want to make their own decisions, and they are definitely at home in the digital world ; but they also need to work to validate their viewpoints, on the go, across any channel that is available and to get second alternatives.
Some other notable observations:
Investors over age 50 tend to be focused on the security of data when it comes to wealth management.
Understanding preferences and the feelings of clients on a deeply personal level is at the core of retention, the underpinning business object for the sector.
A substantial number (42%) of wealth managers surveyed consider that legacy systems are “somewhat of a difficulty. ”
Altering expectations of a younger generation of investors to wealth management will create opportunities. For example, it’s typical of Millennials, and also of some Xers and Boomers, to downplay expert guidance and believe in the ‘wisdom of their tribe.’ They also desire to engage in new ways: always and everywhere and through new combinations of digital and human -established channels. This has deep implications for every wealth management company. Additionally, the Xers and Millennials who command only about one-fifth of the states ’ retail assets today will command about half of them within the next 15 years. So the riches advisors who do business on their terms and can connect to young investors will have a leg up on future growth.
Innovation in wealth management will also come in the form of guidance that is holistic: consumers will search for advice beyond traditional portfolio allocation and performance standards into how you can achieve various life goals like healthcare, relocation, education, and leisure. This will necessitate access to broader bodies of knowledge and more comprehensive frameworks to incorporate advice across disparate targets.
We believe the Wealth Management sector is poised for significant innovation with regards to the use of analytics to support company objectives and better engage with consumers. In this respect, the sector is somewhat lagging behind other sectors (Retail, P&C) but will be catching up fast given considerable levels of investment being made in big data and sophisticated analytics capabilities.
Lastly, we see quite a few of startups dedicated to the democratizing of access to esoteric advantages categories (e.g., loans or choices) and institutional strategies or research tools. While some regulatory issues must be overcome (e.g., the definition of accredited investors), we expect to see continued innovation in this place.
Conclusions:
The changing expectations of the younger investor will create growth opportunities.
What are some measures businesses can take to address these challenges?
This really is not meant as an exhaustive list but rather a listing of especially significant – yet challenging – steps wealth management firms can require.
Embrace change: The status quo is not possible anymore: too many sources of disruption (in the the rise of robo guidance to a fresh generation of investors, new competitions, new regulations, etc.) are coming together to profoundly reshape the wealth management business going forward on (see our related report).
Build a culture of innovation: Most wealth management firms that are established are not very good at this. It is also about driving adoption through substantial bodies of counselors and product staff and providing empowering technologies. It is increasingly about prototyping and testing quickly.
Construct new capabilities that’ll drive differentiation in the market place: Examples include digital client engagement; digital, slick onboarding process integrated with KYC; big data management and advanced analytics; and segmentation of advisers and clients. For many companies, this really is likely to require purchases or partnerships to construct capacities that are required quicker. Wealth management firms don’t have a very strong track record here.
Match them with front-line and fix to the evolving demographics of investors staff: This is crucial that you help businesses stay in tune with their customers’ tastes.
Anticipate and prepare the upcoming retirement tide by boomers: Boomers must consider their longevity demands and risks many years before retirement age. Their advisors have to find new methods to participate with them on this issue on. Gamification may be part of the solution in wealth management area.
Eventually, for large diversified banks or asset managers with several coexisting advisory models under exactly the same corporate umbrella (for instance a digital robo offering, a traditional full service brokerage, and retail banking wealth management model), transition from a referral and migration paradigm to a collaboration one. This will be truly challenging to many firms and will demand potentially new pricing and relationship management models. But wealthy customers are requiring access to several advisory models at once.
THE STATE OF GLOBAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT — COMPONENT 1: right FOR TECHNOLOGY DISRUPTION
“If (wealth management advisors ) continue to work just how you have been, you may not maintain business in five years” – Business leader Joe Duran, 2015 TD Ameritrade Wealth Adviser Conference.
The wealth management segment is a possible high growth business for any financial institution. It’s the greatest customer touch section of banking and is fostered on long term and extremely successful advisory relationships. It’s also the ripest section for disruption due to a clear shift in expectations and client tastes for their financial future. This three-part series investigates the industry trends, business use cases mapped to technology and design and disruptive themes and strategies.
As it broadly refers to an aggregation of financial services there is no one universally accepted definition of wealth management. Included in these are financial advisory, personal investment management and planning disciplines directly for the advantage of high- net-worth (HNW) clients. But wealth management has also become a highly popular branding term that advisors of many different kinds increasingly embrace. So this term now refers to a broad range of business models and potential functions.
Trends associated with shifting customer demographics, evolving expectations from HNW customers regarding their needs (including driving societal impact), technology and tumultuous rivalry are converging. Paradigms and new challenges are afoot in the wealth management space, but on the other side of the coin, so is a lot of opportunity.
A wealth manager is a specialized financial advisor who advises on how exactly to prepare for present and future financial needs and helps a client construct an entire investment portfolio. The investment part of wealth management normally entails the selection of individual investments and also both asset allocation of a portfolio that is whole. The planning function of wealth management often incorporates estate planning for people as well as family estates as well as tax planning around the investment portfolio.
There is absolutely no trade certification for a wealth manager. Several titles are commonly used such as advisors, family office representatives, private bankers, etc. Many of these professionals are certified CFPs, CPAs and MBAs too. Authorized professionals are also sometimes seen augmenting their legal expertise with these certifications.
State of Global Wealth Management
Private banking services are delivered to high net worth individuals (HNWI). These are the wealthiest clients that demand the highest levels of service and more customized product offerings than are provided to frequent customers. Usually, wealth management is a subsidiary company of a larger investment or retail banking conglomerate. Private banking also includes other services like tax and estate planning planning as we shall see in several paragraphs
The World Wealth Report for 2015 was published jointly by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and CapGemini. Notable highlights from the report include:
1. Nearly 1 million people in the world achieved millionaire standing in 2014
2. The collective investible assets of the world’s HNWI totaled $56 trillion
3. By 2017, the entire assets under management for worldwide HNWIs will climb beyond $70 trillion
4. Asia Pacific has the world’s highest number of millionaires with China and India posting the greatest rates of growth respectively
5. North America was a close second at 8.3%. Both regions surpassed for high net worth wealth
6. Equities were the favored investment vehicle for global HNWI with cash deposits, real estate and other alternative investments forming the remainder
7. The HNWI population is also tremendously credit favorable
This slower pace of increase now means that companies should move to a more relationship centric model, particularly among highly enviable segment : younger investors. The report stresses that now wealth managers are not able to serve different needs of HNW clients from both a mindset, business offering and technology ability perspective under the age of 45.
THE COMPONENTS OF WEALTH MANAGEMENT BUSINESS
As depicted above, services are broadly provided by full-service wealth management companies in the following areas :
Investment Advisory
A wealth manager is a private financial advisor who helps a customer assemble an investment portfolio that helps prepare depending on time horizons and their respective danger desires.
Retirement Planning
Retirement planning is an obvious function of a customer ’s private financial journey. From a HNWI perspective, there is certainly a need to supply retirement services that are complicated while balancing taxes, income needs, estate prevention and so on.
Estate Planning
A key function of wealth management is always to help customers pass on their assets via inheritance. Wealth managers help construct wills that leverage trusts and kinds of insurance to help ease inheritance that is smooth.
Tax Preparation
The skill to reach the right mix of investments from a tax perspective is a capability that is key.
Full Service Investment Banking
For refined institutional customers, the ability to offer a raft of investment banking services is an incredibly appealing capability.
Insurance Management
A wealth manager needs to be well versed in the sorts of insurance bought by their HNWI customers so that the hedging services that are appropriate can be put in place.
Institutional Investments
Some wealth managers cater to institutional investors like pension funds and hedge funds and offer a number of back office functions.
It really is to be noted that the wealth manager is not always a professional in all these places but rather operates nicely with the various places of an investment firm from a preparation, tax and legal perspective to ensure that their clients can accomplish the results that are greatest.
Customer Preferences and Trends
There are not unclear changing preferences on behalf of the HNWI, including:
1. The wealth management community is mostly missing the younger customer ’s needs, while powerful satisfaction scores were given by elderly customers to their existing wealth supervisors.
2. Regulatory and price pressures are growing leading to commodification of services
3. Innovative automation and usage techniques of data assets among new entrants (aka the FinTechs) are leading to the rise of “roboadvisor” services which have already begun disrupting existing players in a massive manner in certain HNWI segments.
4. A need to offer holistic financial services tailored to the behavioral needs of the HNWI investors.
Technology Trends
There has been an understanding that other regions have been trailed by wealth management as a sub sector from a technology and digitization perspective. As with banking organizations that are wider, the wealth management company has been under considerable pressure from the perspective of technology and the astounding pace of innovation seen over the last few years from Big Data, a cloud and open source standpoint. Here are a couple trends to keep an eye on:
1. The dependence on the Digitized Wealth Office
The younger HNWI customers (defined as under 45) use cellular technology as an easy method of socializing with their counselors. A large proportion of applications are still individually managed with distinct user experiences which range from customer onboarding to trade management to servicing. There is a crying demand for IT infrastructure modernization ranging to Big Data to micro across the sector from cloud computing -services to agile customs boosting techniques such as for instance a DevOps approach.
2. The requirement for Open and Smart Data Architecture
Functions that were siloed have led to siloed data architectures working on custom built legacy applications. All of which positively impacts the client experience and inhibit the programs from using data in a fashion that always. There exists certainly a demand to do more with existing data assets and to have an integrated digital experience both internationally and regionally. Current players possess a huge first mover advantage as they offer exceptionally established financial products across their large (and largely loyal and tacky ) customer bases, a wide networks of physical locations, and rich troves of info that pertain to customer accounts and demographic info. … .. Nonetheless, it isn’t enough to just have the info. They must manage to drive change through heritage thinking and infrastructures as things change around the entire industry as it struggles to adapt into a major new section (millennial customers) who increasingly use mobile apparatus and require more contextual services and a seamless and highly analytic- driven, unified banking encounter —an experience similar to what consumers typically experience via the Internet on net properties like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Yahoo and so on. … ..
3. Thee need for more  automation
The need to invent a closer banker/client experience is not just driving demand around data silos and streams themselves. It’s driving players to move from paper based models to highly automated model, digital and a more seamless to rework countless existing rear and front office processes —the weakest link in the chain.
4. The Demand to “Right- size” or Change Existing Business Models predicated on Opinions and Customer Preferences
The clear continuing subject in the wealth management space is constant innovation. Firms have to ask themselves if they’ve been offering the appropriate products that cater to an increasingly affluent yet dynamic clientele.
Judgment
The following post in this string will concentrate on the company lifecycle of wealth management. We’ll begin by describing granular use cases across the whole lifecycle from a company standpoint, and we’ll then examine the pivotal role of Big Data empowered architectures along with a fresh age reference design.
In the final and third post in this string, we round off the discussion using an examination of strategic business recommendations for wealth management firms —recommendations which I will consider will drive astounding business advantages by providing a first-class customer experience and finally innovative offerings.