The Best of Finovate Global 2023: Digital Transformation, Financial Inclusion, AI and Automation

The Best of Finovate Global 2023: Digital Transformation, Financial Inclusion, AI and Automation

Our final Finovate Global column of 2023 celebrates the conversations we’ve had this year with fintech innovators from around the world.

Stay tuned in 2024 for more interviews with some of the most interesting founders, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in fintech and financial services.

“We developed BehaviorQuant because every financial decision is ultimately made by a person or a team. BehaviorQuant solves a core problem that underlies the entire investment industry: we don’t have systematic knowledge about the people and teams behind investment decisions. And that’s true for financial professionals and clients alike.” Dr. Thomas Oberlechner, founder and CEO of BehaviorQuant. Interview.

“Moniepoint solves the problem of fragmented, inaccessible, and low-quality financial services for businesses in emerging markets.  It is a full-service business banking platform seeking to provide all the digital financial services a typical business needs.” Tosin Eniolorunda, founder and CEO of Moniepoint. Interview.

“Eight hundred million voice conversations are recorded daily in Europe and many more worldwide. A tiny 1% of these conversations are checked for quality control, employee training, and business results improvement. Ender Turing is a conversations intelligence and automation platform to close 99% of the conversation gap for business growth.” Olena Iosifova, CEO of Ender Turing. Interview.

“Capital raising is broken. Private companies spend months and even years in the fundraising process, learning how to raise capital and repeating the same mistakes, approaching the wrong investors and often spamming them with irrelevant investment opportunities.” Ulyana Shtybel, CEO of Quoroom. Interview.

“At Refine intelligence, our mission is to help banks regain that superpower of really knowing their customers’ life stories, so their financial crime teams can quickly clear AML or scam alerts triggered by legitimate customer activity. We work with Risk, Financial Crime, BSA and AML teams. Fraud teams look at our technology to help with scam operations.” Uri Rivner, co-founder and CEO of Refine Intelligence. Interview.

“It was an honor to be ranked by CB Insights in its Fintech 250 list and, as one of only seven African start-ups featured, it speaks to the pioneering approach we are introducing to the world – revolutionizing payments and creating a financial services ecosystem for Africa.”

“As sub-Saharan Africa gains recognition on the global stage, we are seeing innovative and pioneering products emerge and rise in popularity amongst consumers, diversifying the products they can choose from.” Tayo Oviosu, founder and CEO of Paga. Interview.

Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.


Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Berlin, Germany-based cloud banking platform Mambu to power the new Neobank Engine launched by Trigger Software.
  • Mintos, a multi-asset platform based in Latvia, announced addition of personalized ETFs to its product suite.
  • Hungary’s OTP Bank partnered with Intellect Global Consumer banking (iGCB), the consumer banking arm of Indian banking technology copany Intelltect Design Arena.

Middle East and Northern Africa

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean

Photo by Markus Spiske

Founders Series: Five Conversations on Funding Strategies for Fintech Startups

Founders Series: Five Conversations on Funding Strategies for Fintech Startups

The Fintech Founders series, presented by our sister publication Fintech Futures, features fintech and financial services veterans sharing their insights and experiences on a range of topics important to businesses in our industry.

Today we share five conversations on fintech funding featuring our panel our fintech experts. As part of our Funding Series of discussions, our panelists talk about issues such as: bootstrapping versus external funding, finding the right investment partners, the importance of producing significant growth, as well as tips for entrepreneurs and surprises our panelists encountered in their own journeys in fintech and financial services.

Our Fintech Founders panelists:

Our five conversations:

Acquiring Funding – Bootstrapping vs External

Ideal Investors – Finding the Right Partnership

Funding Strategy – Producing Significant Growth

Tips & Surprises – From Founder’s Experiences

Rewind & Fast Forward – Managing & Predicting

Streamly Snapshot: How Disruptive Technology Shapes the Future of Finance

Streamly Snapshot: How Disruptive Technology Shapes the Future of Finance

How will disruptive technologies like Generative AI change the financial services landscape. How will these technologies impact our ability to expand financial wellness and promote financial inclusion?

The rise of disruptive technologies has created new opportunities for banks and financial services companies to bring new and better services to consumers and businesses. Here’s a look at what our fintech experts told us this year at FinovateFall about how disruptive technology will shape the future of finance.


For more on the latest trends in fintech and financial services, visit Streamly’s Fintech Hub.

Streamly Snapshot: Enhancing the Customer Experience in Financial Services

Streamly Snapshot: Enhancing the Customer Experience in Financial Services

How are financial institutions leveraging enabling technologies like AI to deliver better financial services to customers? What insights can be derived from data to make the customer experience in financial services safer, more relevant, and seamless?

This year at FinovateFall we heard from fintech analysts and financial services professionals on what financial institutions can and should do in order to bring better financial services to more individuals, families, communities, and businesses. Here’s a brief Streamly Snaphot sharing what our experts had to say.


For more on the latest trends in fintech and financial services, visit Streamly’s Fintech Hub.

Zafin’s Charbel Safadi on the Importance of Adaptability and Innovation in Banking

Zafin’s Charbel Safadi on the Importance of Adaptability and Innovation in Banking

What are the biggest challenges facing banks when it comes to modernization and digital transformation? We checked in with Charbel Safadi, President, Modernization and Transformation, with Zafin, to hear his thoughts on what banks and other financial institutions are doing to future-proof their businesses and better serve their customers.

Zafin made its Finovate debut in 2017 at FinovateFall. The company offers a cloud-based product and pricing platform that simplifies core modernization for the world’s biggest banks. Zafin’s platform enables business teams to collaborate in the design and management of pricing, products, and packages. At the same time, the platform empowers technology teams to streamline core banking systems.

Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, and founded in 2002, Zafin includes Wells Fargo, HSBC, and CIBC among its customers.

When you look at the current landscape for banks, what is their biggest technological challenge right now?

Charbel Safadi: The predominant technological challenge facing banks in the current landscape is the accumulation of legacy technology platforms that impede adaptability and innovation. These platforms, built over several decades, create a significant tech debt, hindering banks from promptly responding to changing market demands. This stands in contrast to agile fintech startups, unburdened by such legacy systems.

For banks, the challenge lies in modernizing these deeply entrenched platforms to enable transformative experiences and stay competitive in the rapidly evolving financial landscape. Despite significant time and financial investments, the traditional “rip and replace” approach has proven unsuccessful. This tech debt, rather than a lack of inherent competitiveness, is the primary obstacle for banks in delivering compelling value propositions, necessitating a forward-looking, progressive modernization strategy.

You just recently joined Zafin and are part of the company’s new transformation and modernization division. Tell us about why you joined the company and what this new division is all about.

Safadi: Zafin’s mission is to empower banks in reshaping their business models and updating technology platforms. As a leader in our organization, my role is to align our vision with clients’ business goals, fostering a cohesive team that mirrors banks’ transformation strategies. With a background in financial services consulting and experience with global banks, I recognize the market’s strong focus for the next decade and Zafin’s potential impact.

Being part of Zafin’s journey excites me, given its pivotal role in contributing to clients’ transformation agendas. Zafin’s strategic position emphasizes technology and business platforms, distinguishing it in the market. This allows us to provide significant value, aiding clients in kickstarting technology modernization while transforming their business models.

I am confident in our ability to guide clients through this journey, making a substantial impact and offering the necessary tools for success. Zafin’s forward-thinking strategy, coupled with our cohesive team and inclusive culture, solidified my decision to be part of this transformative organization.

Tell us about the launch of Zafin Studio. What challenge will it help Zafin customers resolve?

Safadi: Zafin Studio represents a significant advancement in the modernization of technology platforms, specifically addressing the challenge of crafting forward-looking propositions tailored to each client’s unique values and needs. Unlike existing solutions in the market, Zafin Studio adopts a comprehensive approach to banking propositions. Leveraging the Product and Pricing Index (PPI) tool, it rapidly gathers, filters, and segments data and insights for analysis from leading global banks, bridging a crucial market gap. This empowers various stakeholders within a bank, from business users to product managers and department heads.

Our goal is to equip them with the tools to comprehend market dynamics, enabling swift research on top banks worldwide and insights into their product designs and rate structures. The collected information is entirely external and does not involve customer data. Through Product Explorer, Zafin Studio unravels the intricacies of product offerings, merging external market research with an internal product explorer. The drag-and-drop feature of Proposition Canvas in turn empowers banks to seamlessly design and implement cutting-edge functionalities. Essentially, Zafin Studio acts as a governing methodology and framework, revolutionizing banks’ transformation approaches. We eagerly anticipate our clients utilizing Zafin Studio to elevate co-created value propositions to new heights.

Zafin is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. What are some of the top concerns for Canadian banks that might differ from those of banks in the U.S., the U.K., or Europe?

Safadi: In Canada, the banking landscape differs significantly from the U.S., U.K. and Europe due to population size and the number of institutions. Canadian banks are primarily concerned with population dynamics, competition, and the regulatory framework. The evolving regulatory landscape indicates that open banking is on the horizon in Canada. This, combined with the rise of innovative fintech firms free from legacy technology constraints, compels banks to prepare for the coming years.

While fintech companies lack the technological burdens of traditional institutions, they also lack the established customer base of incumbents. To capitalize on this, banks must pivot towards a more horizontally aligned approach to product development and proposition modeling. This involves adopting a holistic view of the Canadian customer, encompassing their entire financial journey and value chain. By consolidating data from diverse systems, including mortgages, lending, and deposits, banks can craft compelling value propositions that genuinely resonate with consumers. Prioritizing strong relationships over sheer customer volume is crucial. This means tailoring pricing, offers, and incentives to match the customer’s entire banking journey. This forward-thinking approach ensures sustained delivery of substantial value and the preservation of loyalty within the existing client base, thereby upholding a competitive edge rooted in customer trust.

Speaking of international activity, Zafin recently announced a new operational center in Dubai and the upcoming release of various AI-based solutions for the Middle Eastern market. Tell us about some of the top trends in fintech in the Middle East?

Safadi: Zafin is making significant investments in Generative AI, with Zafin Copilot serving as a central component in our technology portfolio. This tool is pivotal for both external client interactions and internal team processes. We’ve dedicated significant efforts to explore how AI can enhance product and pricing modeling, effectively harnessing continuously generated data, including customer details, transactions, and relationship data. We’ve made it a priority to equip our clients with the technological capabilities needed for full access to the rich data set within our platform.

Globally, AI forms a fundamental part of our strategy, with a notable emphasis on the Middle Eastern marketplace. This region’s substantial investments in AI makes it an ideal ground to explore dynamic pricing, especially in comparison to markets with stricter pricing regulations.

Our core principles of trust, transparency, and fairness in banking guide all AI development initiatives. We ensure strict adherence to regulatory frameworks across global markets. AI is viewed as an intrinsic element of our entire platform, offering benefits to our customers, end consumers, and internal teams while aligning with our commitment to ethical and regulatory standards.

What trends in fintech and financial services are currently being underestimated in terms of their potential impact in the next few years?

Safadi: Many organizations are considering the adoption of Generative AI technologies. The central question revolves around how AI can effectively be utilized to reassess and improve product design, customizing offerings for each individual. This transition not only poses a challenge but also presents an opportunity. AI has the potential to centralize and grant access to the everyday data encountered by most organizations. The focus should now pivot towards creating dynamic product offerings that align with the unique value of each individual, taking into account the customer’s current life stage, priorities, and preferences.

In addition to well-explored areas like AI, another crucial emphasis lies in the design of the next-generation product architecture. Through global discussions and collaborations with banking clients, trailblazing organizations such as Zafin are actively shaping a horizontal model for the next generation of product architecture in financial institutions. This architecture should span the entire spectrum of banking, delivering a tailored and dynamic experience precisely meeting the customer’s needs at any given moment. Banks should persist in prioritizing depth and loyalty in customer relationships, recognizing their significance in the forthcoming years.

What can we expect from Zafin over the balance of 2023 and into 2024?

Safadi: Zafin is firmly dedicated to executing its strategy, aiming to provide substantial value to our clients. This dedication empowers them to not only modernize their technology platforms but also to transform their business models. Our intense focus revolves around delivering the essential technology, capabilities, and skills required for both these endeavors. Through robust partnerships within our deep ecosystem, our goal is to offer comprehensive customer modernization journeys.

We strive to spare our clients from spending excessive time — potentially three to four years or even longer — struggling to overhaul their technology landscape without having the capacity to contemplate new product architectures and business models. Everything we undertake is geared towards facilitating a low-risk approach to modernize their technology platforms, unlocking the potential to construct next-generation product architectures promptly.

Simultaneously, we remain committed to upholding trust, transparency, and fairness in how our clients deliver products and services to their client base.

Photo by Lukas Kloeppel

AI and the Fight Against Fraud: A Conversation with IDology’s Heidi Hunter

AI and the Fight Against Fraud: A Conversation with IDology’s Heidi Hunter

What are the opportunities and challenges of AI in the fraud prevention and identity verification space? We caught up with Heidi Hunter, Chief Product Officer for IDology, a GBG company, to find out.

IDology delivers a comprehensive suite of identity verification, AML/KYC, and fraud management solutions to help businesses drive revenue, deter fraud, and maintain compliance. Founded in 2003, IDology made its Finovate debut in 2012. GBG acquired the company in 2019.

Ms. Hunter joined GBG Americas in 2011 and has worked in both product innovation and customer success roles during her career with the company. She brings more than 13 years’ experience in supporting customers and helping them with their business needs through product innovation, support, and implementation roles.

Currently, Ms. Hunter is responsible for driving the company’s product roadmap and bringing new innovations to the identity verification market through strategic product development.

AI has brought on challenges and opportunities when it comes to fraud and financial crime. What are the principal challenges financial institutions are facing?

Heidi Hunter: There are four main areas of concern: cybersecurity and fraud, biased models, human oversight, and regulatory compliance.

Deloitte has written on the growing concern of AI as a cybersecurity and fraud threat, noting that 51% of executives interviewed believe that the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of AI are a major concern. One issue is the problem of more and better fake documents. AI will simplify creation of passports, driver’s licenses, and ID cards that are virtually indistinguishable from genuine ones. Another issue here is increased synthetic identity fraud. Generative AI is a productivity tool for fraudsters, creating highly realistic synthetic identities at scale.

Additionally, there is more effective phishing and social engineering. A recent study of 1,000 decision makers found 37% had experienced deepfake voice fraud. And Generative AI is used to fuel a surge in phishing tactics.

You also mentioned biased models, human oversight, and compliance.

Hunter: The use of AI and machine learning (ML) algorithms have come under scrutiny with concerns over data bias, transparency, and accountability. With regard to human oversight, 88% of consumers reported that they would discontinue a helpful personalization service if they didn’t understand how their data would be managed.

Lack of human oversight is also a regulatory concern. AI often lacks transparency, leaving businesses exposed when they must explain their decisioning, which has brought expectations of future regulation. AI-generated deepfakes are moving fast and policymakers can’t keep up.

Can the same technology that’s enabling fraudsters also enable FIs to thwart them?

Hunter: Yes, especially when AI is paired with human intelligence. AI benefits from experts charged with overseeing incoming and outgoing data. A trained fraud analyst accompanying AI-based solutions can catch new and established fraud trends. This includes novel threats that AI solutions on their own may miss.

From a compliance perspective, this means businesses can offer a more transparent solution and manage potential bias. Supervised AI can eliminate the need to manually verify an ID, and help provide the explanation needed for compliance and regulatory requirements.

Automation plays a major role in AI. So does human oversight. Can you talk about the relationship between AI and automation?

Hunter: Automation is typically rule-based and follows predetermined instructions, while AI can learn from data and make decisions based on that data. In other words, automation software operates on a set of predefined rules, while AI can make predictions and decisions based on the data it is presented with. The ‘predictions’ aspect of AI- and ML-based tech is where human supervision plays such an important role.

What is the proper balance between human oversight and AI? What role do humans have in an increasingly AI-powered world?

Hunter: Like with any tool, human-supervised AI is great when it’s one part of a larger identity verification (IDV) strategy.

Humans have a role at every ‘stage’ of AI use or implementation: in development, in terms of what data is being used to train a model; during deployment, where an AI-based tool is used and to what degree; and when it comes to holding AI-based tools accountable. This means analyzing a given output and what decisions a FI makes based on that output.

For identity verification specifically, how has human-supervised AI helped solve problems?

Hunter: Consumers also set the bar high for seamless interactions. For example, 37% of consumers abandoned a digital onboarding process because it was too time-consuming. Overcoming this challenge requires a comprehensive strategy. Human-supervised AI can play a critical role in the process, as it can quickly scrutinize vast volumes of digital data to uncover patterns of suspicious activity while also providing insight and transparency into how decisions are made.

Are businesses embracing human-supervised AI? What hurdles remain to broader adoption?

Hunter: Yes, because while there is a lot of excitement around what AI can do, several businesses and people in the academic community believe AI isn’t ready to make unsupervised decisions. As mentioned earlier, businesses show concern over AI operating on its own. Concerns range from ethical questions, to cybersecurity and fraud risks, to making a bad business decision based on AI. On a positive note, businesses are becoming more aware of benefits of supervised learning models.

Photo by cottonbro studio

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nick Christian and the Future of Fintech on the Finovate Podcast

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nick Christian and the Future of Fintech on the Finovate Podcast

With more than 100 new loans in Q2 and over a billion dollars in new loan commitments, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is “doing the same thing we’ve been doing for over 40 years,” according to SVB’s Head of National Fintech and Specialty Finance Nick Christian. Now a division of First Citizens Bank, Silicon Valley Bank has been a key component of the innovation economy since 1983, providing critical financial services to Bay Area technology entrepreneurs and their companies.

Nick sat down with Finovate Vice President and host of the Finovate Podcast Greg Palmer earlier this month in the wake of SVB’s recently released Future of Fintech report. The report looks at the outlook for innovation in the fintech sector based on SVB’s unique sector knowledge and proprietary data. How are cash reserves holding up for fintechs? Which direction are valuations going? What can we expect from funding growth heading into 2024? Nick and Greg discussed these issues and more including:

  • The resilience of early-stage companies in the face of the funding slowdown
  • The importance of becoming cash-flow positive
  • How embedded finance is revolutionizing payments and putting new emphasis on monitoring and compliance

Check out the conversation!

Photo by Faik Akmd

Atomic, PayLink, and the Consumer-Centric Transformation of Financial Services

Atomic, PayLink, and the Consumer-Centric Transformation of Financial Services

What is the future of open banking in the U.S.? Today, financial connectivity innovator Atomic launched PayLink, a new suite of solutions that streamline payment switching for consumers.

The new offering provides for an improved user experience for financial services consumers. It is also a big step towards helping banks and other financial institutions align themselves with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s goals with regards to open banking.

We talked with Andrea Martone, Head of Product for Atomic, to learn more about PayLink, and the drive toward a more open banking system in the U.S.

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, and founded in 2019, Atomic made its Finovate debut two years ago at FinovateFall 2021. Jordan Wright is co-founder and CEO.

Congratulations on the launch of PayLink. Tell us more about this new suite of products.

Andrea Martone: Thank you! We’re thrilled about the launch of PayLink. We’ve taken our expertise in building user-permissioned connectivity for sharing and updating data and expanded it to merchant accounts, streaming services, and recurring bill providers, enabling consumers to seamlessly update their payment methods on file and retrieve information on upcoming payments. Building PayLink was a natural next step on our journey towards helping consumers update their primary banking relationship as it helps overcome a major point of friction in the process. To build it, we leveraged our cutting-edge TrueAuth technology that allows users to authenticate directly on their devices, without ever sharing login credentials.  

For our readers who are new to Atomic, can you tell us a little about the company?

Martone: At Atomic we believe that making it simple for consumers to access, share, and update their financial data is key to unlocking new financial opportunities. By embedding Atomic’s SDK into their online and mobile banking applications, financial institutions can enable consumers to easily update direct deposit instructions, verify income and employment, import W2s and, now, update payment methods on file with merchants without leaving their application. With our solutions, financial institutions help grow new account adoption, qualify borrowers, and streamline tax filing.

Open banking was a major topic of conversation at our FinovateFall conference a few weeks ago. What is your take on the state of open banking in the U.S.? 

Martone: Open banking in the U.S. is at an interesting juncture. With the CFPB taking bold steps in their public commentary, there’s an exciting momentum building around the consumer-centric transformation of financial services. While Europe has been ahead in this race, the U.S. is catching up, and I believe we are headed for an ecosystem that allows for significant innovations to support both consumers and financial institutions. 

One of the issues that came up in our discussion on open banking was the idea that open banking is integrally related to the issue of digital identity. Do you agree? Why is this so and why is it important to keep in mind?

Martone: Digital identity is the backbone of a secure open banking ecosystem. As we democratize access to financial data, establishing secure, verifiable digital identities becomes crucial. It’s not just about sharing data, but ensuring that the right data gets shared with the right entities for the right purposes – securely. Our TrueAuth technology, for example, is designed to enhance credential security while empowering consumers.

The CFPB is working on regulations that could impact personal data rights. What are your thoughts on these potential regulations and their impact on companies in the open banking space – as well as the impact on consumer adoption of open banking? 

Martone: I view the CFPB’s focus on personal data rights as a necessary step toward fostering a fair, transparent financial ecosystem. Giving consumers greater portability over their financial data opens the door for increased innovation and competition in the financial services space. However, it also creates a wider surface area for exploitation and misuse of data, as well. As a result, regulations will need to set the standards that ensure consumer privacy and data security and, in turn, build consumer trust. For companies evolving into the open banking space, this is an opportunity to align their products with consumer-centric values, which I believe will accelerate consumer adoption and loyalty in the long run.

Atomic is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve seen a surprising number of innovative fintechs headquartered in Utah. What is it like to be a tech startup in the Beehive State?  

Martone: Being headquartered in Utah has been fantastic for us. The state offers a thriving tech scene, a highly skilled workforce, and a business-friendly environment. We also have a dynamic team located throughout the country, which ensures that we comprise a diverse workforce. 

What can we expect to see from Atomic over the next few months and into next year?

Martone: We have a busy roadmap ahead! You can expect to see more advanced features being rolled into PayLink, further strengthening its capabilities. You will also see us double-down on our strengths in expanding connectivity where it can benefit consumers to access, share, and update data in secure, transparent, and reliable ways to expand their financial opportunities. Key to this is continuing to advance our authentication methods, including our TrueAuth technology. Additionally, we’ll be focusing on strategic partnerships to widen our reach. Our aim is to continue leading the charge in making open banking a tangible, beneficial reality for all. 

Photo by Stephen Leonardi

Meet Merlin Investor: Democratizing Access to Investment Strategies for a New Generation

Meet Merlin Investor: Democratizing Access to Investment Strategies for a New Generation

Launched in the fall of 2021, Merlin Investor is on a mission democratize access to investment strategies. The fintech offers a while label, multi-asset, educational, strategizing and tracking tool that helps investors accomplish two critical goals: building long-term positive results and limiting potentially catastrophic losses.

Merlin Investor’s technology is compatible with all trading platforms. The technology is suitable for both retail and professional traders, and is available for both the desktop and mobile. Merlin Investor enables users to retrieve market data and sentiment from multiple sources and apply that data to a massive range of tailor-made investment strategies.

With offices in both West Palm Beach, Florida, and Lugano, Switzerland, Merlin Investor made its Finovate debut at FinovateEurope earlier this year. The company returned to the Finovate stage in May for FinovateSpring. We caught up with Merlin Investor founder and CEO Guido Petrelli (pictured) this summer to learn more about the company, its mission to democratize access to investment strategies, and what to expect from the company in 2023 and beyond.

What problem does Merlin Investor solve and who does it solve it for?

Guido Petrelli: Merlin Investor was born as an intelligent protection and conscious guide for a more farsighted management of investments aimed limiting potential catastrophic losses while building long term positive results. Thanks to the Merlin platform, retail investors can educate themselves, study the markets, and create and track their own investment strategies to easily understand, balance and diversify investment risks. 

In other words, we help and empower a new generation to invest with strategy in mind. This is the key to becoming successful and is the only factor distinguishing between gambling and investing. As we are on a mission to democratize financial inclusion and investment planning, our technology was built to allow anyone, regardless the level of knowledge or experience, to become independent and the one and only master of their own financial future.

How does Merlin Investor solve this problem better than other companies?

Petrelli: In the retail investor space, we see many companies focusing on execution, meaning focusing on the act of buying and selling assets. But executing without evaluating multiple sources of information first, combined with the lack of a diversified and balanced investment strategy, can lead to uncontrolled and unlimited potential losses because of the market’s ups and downs. While it may imply the chance for quick gains, it’s actually not the norm as wealth is usually built over time by managing a positive-sum game. 

That’s why from the very beginning Merlin was designed as a complementary product to a trading platform and not as a substitute solution. Merlin Investor addresses the strategic essence of investing while the majority of the competition just focuses on enhancing the trading experience – which is already well supported by several financial institutions in a pretty similar way.

Who are Merlin Investor’s primary customers. How do you reach them?

Petrelli: Our primary customers are financial institutions focusing on educating a new generation of retail investors and offering the possibility to trade different asset classes through their digital banking platforms. We attend multiple fintech events in several countries that are attended by financial institution decision-makers responsible for delivering an innovative and digitalized experience to their clients. We also analyze the markets to identify those prospect clients we believe to be a fit in terms of services and client base. Then we look for the people focusing on retail digital products and platforms and reach out to them to introduce our company and technology. Last, we work to be featured in fintech-specialized magazines having financial institutions as target audience.

Can you tell us about a favorite implementation or deployment of your technology?

Petrelli: We offer our technology as a white-label solution that financial institutions can easily embed into their own digital platforms through API keys, while having the possibility to customize product’s appearance and features. As result, our product is delivered to the final users in the bank’s name and as a sub-section of the same app/e-banking they are already familiar with. Through our B2B partner’s portal, we grant to financial institutions the flexibility to choose from the full Merlin product those asset classes, sections, features, and contents they intend to integrate based on their own specific needs. In this way, they can design a tailored solution and experience for their own clients, while sticking to the overall structure and design of the banking platform they already offer.

What in your background gave you the confidence to respond to this challenge?

Petrelli: In a nutshell, it was the combination of my knowledge around investing and the problem I personally experienced as a retail investor that led to Merlin Investor. In fact, I was just a teenager when I first started to trade. Then I quickly realized that executing trades “per-se” – meaning the simple action of buying and selling assets – is the less strategic and relevant part to achieve long term positive results. Instead, studying different market sources, and then designing a diversified and balanced investment strategy, are what make the difference in the end. Still, (available) banking and trading platforms were not enough to educate me about investing, or to (help me) design and analyze my own investment strategies.

As a result, for years I was forced to create time-consuming and unfriendly spreadsheets to the point where I couldn’t accept it anymore – not in a world like today’s where we have an app for everything we do! At the same time with trading platforms booming basically everywhere, it became more and more clear that a new generation wants to invest autonomously and in the right way. As I couldn’t find any product in the market like the one I envisioned, I decided to create it. And that’s how Merlin Investor was born.

Merlin Investor founder and CEO Guido Petrelli demoing the company’s technology at FinovateEurope this year.

You recently demoed at FinovateSpring and will be demoing your technology at FinovateFall in September. What brings you back?

Petrelli: This year I’ve demoed the Merlin platform at FinovateEurope and FinovateSpring, so FinovateFall will be my third appearance. So far the experience has been great. We have been able to show our cutting-edge technology to major financial institutions in Europe and North America, while receiving much interest and establishing meaningful connections with decision-makers within the banking industry. The high visibility and key connections with prospect clients are the two main factors which bring us back to FinovateFall. The well-organized events and the team at Finovate are also a plus.

What are your goals for Merlin Investor?

Petrelli: Our goal is to be recognized by the major global banks as the innovative partner to work with when it comes to educating and empowering a new generation of retail investors. We focus on establishing solid and strategic partnerships with a limited numbers of players in the banking industry to achieve our mission of democratizing financial inclusion and strategic planning globally, while helping young investors to reach financial independence and to become the masters of their own financial futures.

What can we expect from Merlin Investor over the balance of 2023 and into next year?

Petrelli: We’ll continue to prioritize continuous and never-ending improvement of our technology by looking to upgrade the experience we offer either to financial institutions and to the final users to whom our product is deployed. We will also continue to work to boost our market presence to make the Merlin platform known to more financial institutions serving retail clients in several countries. We will eventually concentrate on scaling the team and operations to be able to manage expectations. We will accomplish all of this without forgetting our mission to make conscious and strategic investing accessible to anyone through strategic partnerships with financial institutions.

Photo by Kei Scampa

ICBA’s Charles Potts on the Role of Community Bank Partnerships

ICBA’s Charles Potts on the Role of Community Bank Partnerships

How are community banks keeping pace with rising customer expectations and the demands for greater financial inclusion? What role do fintechs play in helping community banks offer their customers the latest innovative fintech solutions?

I spoke with Charles Potts, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer for the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) to discuss this and other issues, including:

  • Key challenges faced by community bankers today
  • New opportunities and customer expectations
  • The role of partnerships in helping community banks respond to new opportunities
  • The challenge of technology adoption

Check out the full interview below.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

Innovation, Opportunity, and Ethics: The Role of Generative AI in Financial Services

Innovation, Opportunity, and Ethics: The Role of Generative AI in Financial Services

What is the role of Generative AI in financial services? It seems as if every week another fintech or financial services company is announcing that it is integrating ChatGPT – among the most popular Generative AI applications – into its products. This week alone Avalara announced that it is launching a sales tax calculator plugin for ChatGPT, and cryptocurrency exchange Bybit reported that it is integrating ChatGPT into its trading tools.

As part of our Streamly Future of Finance Series, we asked Rocio Wu, Principal at F-Prime Capital and a recent speaker at FinovateSpring, for her thoughts on the role of Generative AI in financial services. What unique services will Generative AI make possible? Are banks ready to take advantage of what Generative AI has to offer? And what are the ethical concerns about the use of Generative AI in financial services? Wu discusses all this and more in her Streamly Future of Finance Q&A: “The three main categories of Generative AI innovation in financial services.”

Check out more insightful analysis from our Streamly Future of Finance series. And for more on Generative AI, be sure to watch Bain Capital Ventures Partner Sarah Hinkfuss on why it is important for financial services to pay attention to Generative AI.

Best of Show: The Finovate Podcast’s Greg Palmer Chats with the Faves of FinovateEurope

Best of Show: The Finovate Podcast’s Greg Palmer Chats with the Faves of FinovateEurope

Join Finovate VP and host of the Finovate Podcast Greg Palmer (@GregPalmer47) as he catches up with the innovators that earned top honors at FinovateEurope earlier this year!

Greg Palmer talks with Karan Jain of NayaOne on streamlining and de-risking the onboarding process. Episode 168. Demo video.

“NayaOne is a digital transformation platform that helps you leverage the fintech ecosystem. We work with product, innovation, and tech teams in banks and insurance companies to help them get their products to market much, much quicker. We have synthetic data sets and building tools on the platform. Typically, it takes companies nine to twelve months to begin working with a fintech. Our customers can get to that outcome in about six to eight weeks.”

Greg Palmer and Nickolas Belesis of Fintech Insights discuss understanding the competitive landscape in fintech and financial services. Episode 170. Demo video.

“We provide the industry with a digital banking market research platform that’s analyzing the digital offerings of banks, fintechs, credit unions, across the U.S. and worldwide. We analyze – from A to Z – what the banks, fintechs, and credit unions are offering, how they offer it, (and) how well they offer it, all while providing them with the ability to benchmark against the market and organize their product roadmap to implement their digital banking strategies.”

Greg Palmer chats with Nicole Sanders and George Broom of 10x Banking on streamlining product development and getting to market faster. Episode 171. Demo video.

“10x is a cloud-native banking platform that acts like a real-time operating system for banks. It allows you to build and run your bank at record speed at a fraction of the cost. We demonstrated that at Finovate through the use of our Bank Manager UI application. This allows product managers at banks to build products in minutes rather than months. In that seven minutes, we built a current account with a card and also a loan ready for launch to production.”

Greg Palmer interviews Zehra Cataltepe of TAZI AI on using AI where it will impact the bottom line. Episode 172. Demo video.

“We are a scale-up, San Francisco-based, that provides a software-as-a-service, machine learning platform which enables business experts to stay in control of their AI models. We also empower the data science and engineering teams through our technology that consists of the ability to continuously learn from the data as the business world changes. We provide continuous explanations to business users and give them the ability to give feedback to the models so that the models are aligned with the business all the time.”

Stay tuned for more insightful conversations from Greg Palmer and the Finovate Podcast!

Photo by Magda Ehlers