FS Innovation Article RoundUp – December 2013

Every month I research what is happening in the marketplace both from an Innovation and Technology standpoint, the below is my roundup of Financial Services articles for Innovation throughout December. 

AIB embraces start-up culture for app development

Allied Irish Bank (AIB) has radically overhauled its approach to technological innovation, adopting a start-up culture in a bid to get new services to market in weeks rather than years. Having taken a reputational hammering during the economic crisis and facing the threat of competition from technology giants such as Google and Facebook, as well as new, nimble financial services-related start-ups, earlier this year AIB decided to completely change its approach to innovation. The bank set itself a deadline to build a mortgage processing mobile app from scratch in 13 weeks, COO Anne Boden told MarketForce’s ‘future of retail banking’ conference in London. By ditching big formal meetings and sitting down business and technology employees together, AIB managed to get a plan for the app together within three weeks and have it ready for customer testing after 45 days ahead of its launch just another 20 days later.

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Mashreq packs branches with interactive experience tech

United Arab Emirate-based bank Mashreq is filling a series of new ‘E-Cube’ branches with Microsoft ‘interactive experience technologies’. The five branches each have massive exterior interactive digital walls designed to attract customers by showcasing “lifestyle scenarios” – such as buying a house – where the bank can provide assistance. Working with vendor Infusion, the bank has tapped Microsoft Kinect sensors to let customers interact with the scenarios, walking through them using hand gestures. Inside the branches, more screens promote the bank’s products and services, with customers able to download information and application forms to their phones via QR codes. Individual kiosks let customers discuss options with bank employees, using Microsoft PixelSense (formally Surface) screens to work out customised products. Outside of office hours, kiosks offer access to services and call centre staff over video.

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Westpac launches app development challenge for Brits

Westpac’s New Zealand arm has sent out an SOS to the UK’s geeks, launching a mobile and Web banking app design competition, which will see the winning developer score a trip down under. Westpac is asking UK developers and designers to come up with a banking service or process that could be done easier and faster using a mobile or Web app. The Brit who comes up with the best idea will get NZD$20,000 and a contribution of up to $20,000 towards an adventure holiday in New Zealand. Another $60,000 is being promised to help bring the concept to market, while the winner will also retain intellectual property rights to the completed app and be able to commercialise it outside of New Zealand and Australia

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Barclays Bank kicks off fintech accelerator programme

The UK’s Barclays Bank is inviting ten start-up companies to take part in a 15-week fintech accelerator programme in conjunction with Techstars. Successful applicants will get a seed investment of £12,500 from Techstars – in return for a six percent equity stake in the finished product – and office space at Barclays Mile End Road, east London, within the Tech City boundaries. The chosen start-ups in the first wave will be challenged to create new apps using Barclays APIs and support from developers and designers who worked on the bank’s successful Pingit mobile platform. There will be two waves each year, adding up to 60 start-ups over the length of the three-year programme. Top-level mentoring will be provided by executives from Barclays, including Group CIO, Darryl West, and chief design officer, Derek White, alongside those from Techstars, including MD Jon Bradford, and founder and CEO David Cohen. “We’re not looking for experts in our systems, just creative startups with a visionary attitude and radical ideas,” says Barclays. “You’ll get access to our APIs and support from developers who’ve designed and built some of our most successful products and services, so you can learn how we work when you start the programme.” Applications are open now, with the chosen finalists notified in early May. The three-month accelerator programme will kick off in mid-June culminating in two investor demo days in September 2014 – including an internal presentation to Barclays executives and another to an invited audience of VCs and angel investors.

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SunGard runs global corporate hackathon

Fintech powerhouse SunGard is sharing the results of a two-day corporate hackathon which saw 103 teams in 17 cities around the world compete to develop innovative new financial service apps. The initiative was sponsored by SunGard CTO, Steven Silberstein, who previously helped build high-tech exchange Chi-X Global. Up to 425 SunGard employees signed up to the challenge, which saw a range of innovative applications come to fruition. In Oxford, the winners developed a new visualisation for credit risk data. A team from Tunis scored highly with a system that locks a computer whenever the user moves three metres away from it. Coders in Bangalore created an algorithmic trading tool that took its cues from analysis of high volume streaming data. In the US, a team from Birmingham Alabama developed a corporate action risk app which ranked events according to their risk profile. Silberstein says: “We gave the winners small prizes that demonstrate technical innovation to carry the mindset forward beyond the Hackathon. We are certainly looking forward to an even more exciting Hackathon 2014.”

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MasterCard begins recruitment campaign for New York innovation lab

MasterCard is advertising for software engineers graduating in 2014 to work in a new mobile e-commerce technology lab in New York City. MasterCard has announced plans for a multi-million dollar renovation of its headquarters building in Purchase, Westchester County alongside the creation of the new technology-focused office in New York City. The moves will lead to the creation of approximately 400 new jobs over the next five years, of which 122 will be placed in the NY lab. MasterCard is making a $39 million capital investment in the expansion of its headquarter building, with construction set to begin in 2014. The card scheme says it will also spend ‘several million dollars’ on the New York lab facility.

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Crowdfunding in the UK set to raise £1.6 billion in 2014

A Dutch start-up has released a new iPhone app that provides an overview of more than 7000 crowdfunding projects worldwide, as new figures are released showing a sustained boom in the use of alternative sources of finance by small businesses.

The CrowdWatcher app offers breaking news on crowdfunding and an overview of new projects, giving users up-to-the-minute status on individual projects via push notifications. Frans Wieringa, founder and CEO of CrowdWatcher says the demand for funding ‘in the crowd’ is far from transparent, both for entrepreneurs looking for capital and for financiers looking for new investments. As a result, it can be difficult for investors and entrepreneurs to find each other. “By bringing together various initiatives in our unique CrowdWatcher app, we provide the perfect meeting place for supply and demand, and by doing so accelerate the realisation of crowdfunding projects globally,” he says. A new report by innovation chairty Nesta in association with the University of Cambridge and the University of California, Berkeley, estimates that some £939 million was raised by P2P lending and crowdfunding sites in the UK alone last year, a 91% rise over the previous year.

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JPMorgan Chase looks for innovation lead

JPMorgan Chase is looking for an innovation lead within its new Digital Customer Experience (DCE) unit. DCE is a dedicated company set up by JPMC to pioneer the bank’s ambitious in the digital banking space. It includes design planning, user research, experience design teams as well as the supporting functions for systems and development. In addition, the bank is forming a new group within DCE called Chase Edge, focused on the “pioneering experience/technology/business model innovation” that will catapult the bank into a leadership position in digital banking.

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Author: Steve Wakefield

Steve Wakefield is an experienced Innovator presently based in London.

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