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Tech Tools for Financial Services

Tech Tools for Financial Services

Yvonne Garand said she was looking for inspiration. A 51-year-old financial services marketing executive in Vermont, she travelled 300 miles from Montpelier to New York’s Manhattan Center hoping to get a glimpse of the bleeding edge of her industry’s future.

Along with 1,100 other financial services executives, Garand was there to attend Finovate, the annual conference and showcase for new technology in the banking and financial services industry.

Over the course of two days, tucked away in one of Manhattan’s more youthful neighborhoods far from Wall Street, dozens of entrepreneurs would get seven minutes each to pitch the crowd. From apps that turn budgets into animated bubbles to cloud-based programs that alert banks to when their customers actually click on a phishing email, most of the presenters offered tools that automate, digitize, mobilize and even beautify wildly analytic endeavors. The tools are largely meant to augment the user’s experience and improve the services supplied by the human being on the other side of a financial relationship.

Some in the audience are simply trying to get a sense of the future. Others were looking for the technology that might help them stand out from the competition. Garand said she was hoping to find some leads on how to bring her firm, the Vermont State Employees Credit Union, into the digital age and maybe find some ways to bolster the union’s advisory services. “I’m here to find out what I don’t know,” she said. Clients “still want bricks and mortar engagement, but they want the stickiness of what technology can offer.”

Some of these early stage companies will succeed and some will never be heard from again. Regardless, technology will play an ever-greater role in how clients interact with their financial advisors and institutions. Here is a short list of firms that presented at Finovate that are worth paying attention to in the future.


TipRank: Analyzing the Analysts

Analysts play a big role in how advisors and managers select investments for clients, but sometimes they turn out to be as accurate in predicting the future as a storefront psychic. TipRanks believes they have an app that will give reps and consumers an easier time to quickly assess the likelihood of a particular researcher’s prediction.

TipRanks is a cloud-based application installed on a browser that automatically highlights the names of analysts found on a research site or news page. Depending on the version, readers can pull up a report on an analyst and see their previous advice and how accurate they were on the timing of a sell, buy or hold rating, among other details. The service calculates a total score for an analyst that can be used to compare him or her to fellow analysts. Other stock-picking experts outside of the large institutions, such as blog contributors, are also included. The service could demonstrate that the best analysts aren’t inside the major firms, which could erode their, and possibly your, credibility.

There are three versions ranging in price from free to $24.95 a month. The latest version will likely be more attractive to advisors as it offers all analysts ratings by stock, as well as a live feed into analyst ratings as they’re made.


Motif:Make Your Own ETF

Launched in 2012, the San Mateo, Calif.-based Motif is akin to a fantasy football league for funds, except here the results are real. Users select real stocks to invest in and build their own funds through the lens of themes, or “motifs.” The firm started by building motifs of their own: collections of stocks around ideas such as “Biotech Breakthroughs” and “Cloud Computing,” among others.

In its latest version users can tweak the motifs, such as one for Banks with Cash (which is up 3.6 percent for the month ending Sept. 10th) and one for Apartment REITS (down 3.3 percent for the month ending Sept. 10th.) On the site you can view returns, volatility and valuation of the motifs, and even customize a motif by adding or deleting stock or weighting stocks the way you see fit.

CEO and co-founder Hardeep Walia sees his company as assisting advisors rather than replacing them. “We believe advisors play a critical role in helping investors and we want to support them,” he says between meetings after his pitch. “Some advisors want to make their lives easier and some want to build their own models for clients.”


BizEquity:When It’s Time to Sell The Shop

Michael Carter, president and CEO of BizEquity, spent some of his presentation time telling the audience that most small business owners don’t know what their company is worth. His pitch? To help them come up with an accurate valuation in under 10 minutes. Although owners can sometimes figure out rough estimate by looking at similar companies and their values, that method takes time to refine and most will ultimately turn to a business broker or investment bank for help.

BizEquity promises a simpler route, particularly for independent advisors who may want some assistance in knowing what they can capture when they’re ready to retire. It could also help advisors looking to assess what a client’s business is worth.

BizEquity is far from a pretty app, but the interface is simple to use. In less than the seven minutes that Carter took to make his pitch, companies can enter their relevant numbers, from debt and equity to cash flow. Using proprietary algorithms and a database of previous transactions, the service will generate a 24-page report with a financial analysis and summary, industrial comparisons on over 40 different key performance metrics and 4 different business valuations.


MoneyDesktop:Getting Goals In Order

Financial advisors can tell their clients how to best prioritize their debts. High-interest loans come first, of course, but sometimes a picture says it best. MoneyDesktop has a visually compelling platform that helps clients put loan payoff schedules in the appropriate chronological order, creating pathways that they can walk through to see their debts prioritized.

Tabs show how many financial goals the client has reached, lets them change the priority of those goals, and marks when they are completed.

To date, more than 400 financial institutions have signed up with MoneyDesktop, linking data into its candy-colored platform for both web-based browsers and mobile devices. The firm is also able to private label the technology to institutions that aren’t able to develop their own, making it a good possible solution for independent advisory firms struggling to develop their own technology.


Versafe:Real Time Cyber Security

Clients are mostly inured to phishing requests now, yet some continue to fall prey to these fake e-mails where malware can capture bank and investing account details within seconds. While financial institutions can send e-mails and notes warning their clients to avoid these ruses as much as they can, it’s often to no avail.

Versafe promises a better way by detecting attacks before they even occur, from the very code embedded on the site, and copied by attackers.

“We’re bringing the fight to our turf, to a ground where we can win,” says Jens Hinrichsen, vice president of marketing and business development of Versafe.

Hidden code is embedded on Versafe’s clients’ sites. When attackers copy the firms’ sites’ code (a common phishing technique) to bring users to their rogue site, the code alerts the firm and the fraudulent site is shut down. If e-mails go out before the site can be shut down alerts are sent letting firms know exactly which clients were tricked.

The code regularly changes. Attackers can’t locate it much less re-write it, says Hinrichsen. And while that may not impress your clients, sometimes the best solutions are the ones they don’t even know are there.

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