The Top 5 Themes from FinovateFall 2018

With fintech startups fundamentally changing the way the industry operates and the ongoing shift to digital-centric consumers, the finance space is undergoing its biggest transformation yet. While many see this pace of disruption and change as a challenge or even a threat, many more are seeing it as an opportunity to focus on the constants of customer needs.

This week at FinovateFall in New York City, I joined more than 1,500 people from financial institutions, startups, and technology firms to witness four days of demos, fireside chats, panels, and breakout sessions. All addressed the changing state of fintech, showcased the latest digital banking and financial technologies and most of all, challenged conventional wisdom.

From the rise of digital payments to designing for trust in a “trustless” space, here are the key themes we took away from this year’s event.

A standalone application of any AI technology is not going to solve the problem.

While experiences that leverage AI are becoming increasingly sophisticated, designing a financial services customer experience strategy around an emerging technology alone is a huge risk. It’s not enough to rely on a product — you must form a holistic experience for the changing needs of the business. In other words, maintaining a continued focus and empathy for the customer first is the North Star for meeting tomorrow’s customers where they are.


Digital payments are on the rise, but physical payments aren’t going anywhere.

“Everyone here is on a mission to become a digital bank,” said Janice Diner, Founder and CEO of Horizn. With digital tech giants like Amazon Pay making strong entries into the payment world by leveraging predictive platforms, there’s no denying digital forms of payment will continue to gain traction in the finance space. Yet demand for cash has actually increased, with more than 85 percent of all global transactions still done with cash — especially in emerging markets, like Hong Kong.

Seth Harvey, President of Travelex Canada, said consumers’ needs will be best met by marrying emerging technologies with traditional ways of making payments. How will emerging technologies affect physical cash channels and sources like ATM machines? How will these traditional transactions evolve to provide new value? While this still remains to be seen, one thing is certain: the winner will be the play that has the most ubiquity and removes friction from payments with the most success.


Regulation and regtech are keys to making sure true innovation doesn’t get stifled.

Put simply, technology is providing capabilities that are outpacing regulation and the laws that are meant to keep our money safe. Leveraging automation, machine learning, and other emerging technologies is just as important for this as it is for enhancing the customer experience. Regtech must keep pace to ensure that true financial services innovation can happen.


Designing for trust is continuously evolving.

Traditional authentication and security protocols are the obvious areas, but capabilities like AI and voice will challenge and create needs for designing for true trust in the experience. People today trust the conversational experiences that provide tremendous value, convenience, and personalization in return for access to personal data, but there is still a large camp that isn’t willing to adopt out of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Increased focus on the personas involved in this mindset will be the key to adoption of “conversational financial services.”


Extreme personalization is the Holy Grail. Will you find it? 

Organizations that deliver personalized experiences will be the winners in the future of financial services. The data exists already, but the expectations are only getting higher. The customer experience is already so siloed that organizations that do not break down barriers and create truly contextualized experiences will fail. It is becoming increasingly clear institutions that leverage emerging technology and couple it with a great user experience will ultimately win.

As technology continues to disrupt the global financial industry, the key to sustained success and growth will be to focus on the constants. Less friction, more trust, and personalized services will always be core values for financial customers, and building empathy and understanding these needs will separate the industry leaders from laggards, regardless of what technology is used along the way.

This post was co-authored by Chiara Milioulis.