Banks and startups celebrate collaboration at London investor day
Major global banks have praised the FinTech Innovation Lab London, a project which partners senior bank executives with startup companies, for helping to energise the development of innovative new products in financial services, at an investor day presentation in London City Hall this morning.
“The lab has brought the outside into the city,” said Alistair Grant, CIO for EMEA at Citi. “We spend a lot of time innovating ourselves but to meet so many people with bright ideas has energised our own organisation. It’s given us the opportunity to hear the great ideas that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have heard, because it can be challenging to get visibility and access to major financial institutions. Startup companies are an essential driver of innovation and growth, and this programme has been fantastic for getting me some time with the right people.”
Supported by the Mayor of London and the City of London Corporation, the FinTech Innovation Lab London is a twelve-week programme in which participants gain support from the major banks and gather interest from venture capitalists and investors.
Announced last autumn, the London event is modelled on a similar programme that was co-founded by Accenture and the Partnership for New York City Fund. Seven finalists were chosen in January, including Kiboo, a US-based firm that aims to help young people to manage their personal finances, Germany-based Tesobe, which is working on the Open Bank Project; and Swedish firm BehavioSec, which has developed a biometric software platform that helps confirm desktop, website or mobile users’ identities by analysing the way they type, click and swipe on their computers and mobile devices.
“Here in the UK there is a very positive environment for financial services innovation,” Lisa Halpern, founder and chief executive of Kiboo told Banking Technology. “We know that the banks are keen to reach out to customers in a younger age bracket. We have the technology for that, and it’s fantastic to have this opportunity to partner with them and make it happen.”
Kiboo focuses on users aged 15-22, and includes tools that let users set goals and share them with friends and family, as well as tips, advice and community discussions on topics such as how to earn money at school, as well as how to give back something to society, for example through supporting projects to provide clean drinking water in developing countries.
Other participants included Waratek, an Ireland-based company that aims to help firms reduce their infrastructure costs by using Java to develop cloud based applications; Growth Intelligence, a UK-based firm focused on using predictive analytics to provide intelligence on companies that can help with risk management; and Calltruck, a UK-based company that provides call-recording technology so that users can search audio for specific words and phrases, which is useful for compliance and workflow efficiency.
“It’s having that first conversation with the bank that is by far the hardest step,” said John Matthew Holt, founder and chief technology officer at Waratek. “Having the idea is the easy part, but all the rest comes down to that conversation. It makes such a huge difference to us having this FinTech Innovation Lab to connect us with the people we need.”
Banks and other large financial institutions participating in the programme included Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Lloyds Banking Group, Morgan Stanley, RBS, UBS and VocaLink, the UK national payments infrastructure provider.
“We see fantastic opportunities here to improve our proposition, differentiate ourselves and make it richer and more customer centric,” said Alessandro Hatami, director of internet strategy and chief operating officer of digital banking at Lloyds Banking Group. “Business models we see here are things that we hadn’t thought of as a stimulus to change. They can make our proposition strong.”
The City Hall presentation day concluded with a short speech from Adam Sodowick, founder and chief executive of True Office, a company that ‘graduated’ from the New York innovation lab nine months ago. True Office is a training tool aimed at compliance staff; it provides games that help employees to learn about risks and compliance issues. Sodowick observed that over a period of 90 days, his company moved from an iPad app to a commercial entity.
“The procurement process is the most important challenge,” he said. “We came into the programme very raw, a company in beta. We are hugely indebted to the programme from transforming our company. We would still be trying to get a meeting with Alistair now if not for the programme.”