I think that should be the tag line for Finovate, a conference focusing on the innovation in financial industry. Last week, I attended Finovate Spring 2011 to see what companies were up to this year. I owe a special thanks to Netbanker for the press pass. Similar to previous years, there are companies selling products to other financial institutions and there are companies that focus on products that are intended directly for the consumer. For the purposes of personal finance blog is seems best to focus on the companies and products that, well, can help you with your personal finances. With that in mind, I decided to round up some of the best products. I was going to do it David Letterman style, but there were a few extra companies that I thought were worth mentioning.
Top 13 Best Personal Finance Innovations from Finovate Spring 2011
13. Kiboo - They seem geared to putting Lazy Man and Money out of a job. In other words they help young people learn about money. They claim not to be an online bank... "Kiboo isn’t an online bank; it’s a place where you learn about your money and your money learns about you." However, they present themselves as one, "Kiboo is an alternative banking platform that is a fee-free, FDIC-insured online banking service developed for 15-22 year-olds and their parents." So I'm going to take that Kiboo tries to be more than an online bank with the value-add being the educational aspect.
12. BillFloat - This company is the nicotine patch for those addicted to payday loans. Essentially, you pay a fee to have them float this months bills for you when you can't pay them. The service isn't cheap at 36% APR and a fee of up to $14.99 per bill. However, it is a lot cheaper than a payday loan. Like the patch being in-between evil smoking and healthy smoke free, Bill Float sits in-between evil payday loans and healthy fiscal responsibility.
11. Wikinvest SigFig - The upcoming SigFig product looked interesting. It was a way to track various portfolios and combine them to see a total investing picture. It looked more advanced at least for investing than Mint. Their demo was impressive enough that I am very sure I'm going to sign up when it becomes available. It should help me keep track of my investments as they are in multiple accounts.
10. Bills.com - Bills.com showed off their Debt Coach product. It is always difficult for bloggers to send people to places to help them with their debt. There are just too many scammy debt consolidation and debt settlement companies out there. This is one of the few companies out there that I would stand behind as reputable. (Another tool that I like in this space is Credit Sesame.)
8. Balance Financial - This was probably one of the most polarizing companies when talking with SVB of The Digerati Life. Essentially the company aims to outsource your money management. They offer a "personal bookkeeper" who will receive and pay all your bills... a little like Earth Class Mail. They will also give you detailed reports of where you money is going. During the presentation, I thought this would be helpful for a lot of people. However, in retrospect, I'm having second thoughts. Most of my bills are paid through my credit card and as I explained in my Chase Sapphire Review, they will grab the right amount of money out of my bank account each month. This gives me automatic bill pay. I can register the card with Mint and get detailed spending reports. I'm not sure what value the "personal bookkeeper" would bring to the table.
8. TILE Financial - The Investing Learning Environment (TILE) is kind of a social network for children and their money. I can see people graduating to this from Money Island (mentioned below). I like the concept of a dashboard for kids to keep track of their finances. If I had a teenager, I think I'd better be able to give input on this one. It seems like they partner with banks, so you might not be able to get your teen on board.
7. Billshrink - They showed off a Chase account that had links to various deals. The idea is that as you are looking over your statement, they can pair your previous Best Buy purchase with a Groupon-style coupon. In this way, it is a very targeted advertisement that can likely lead to a sale. It is similar, but in my opinion not as good as what BankOns (mentioned below) is doing. Billshrink needs to partner with financial institutions to deliver this vision, which could slow adoption.
6. Bundle - This company does a lot of data mining of bank statements and trends. They aggregate data from 20 million households. One thing they showed off was their Discover Your City part of their website. You can see loyalty scores for merchants and figure out what similar people like. For example, I see that PinkBerry customers in San Ramon, CA like to shop at LuluLemon. In related news, I'm going to send a nastygram to Bundle for spying on my wife.
6. ChargeSmart - They showed off a system of where you can use your unused gift cards to pay off necessities like your mortgage or utilities bills. You'll only get "up to 92%" of the value of your gift card (hey the ChargeSmart people need to make money too), but it's a lot better than what your gift card is doing for you in a drawer at home.
5. Currensee - This company opens up the world of currency trading to the "average Joe." Currency trading isn't designed for the average Joe, so this company allows you follow the trades of "leaders" and build a portfolio around them. This would seem to mitigate a lot of the risk in my mind. Of course "seem" and "does" are two different things. I would love for this company to give me a $1000 to play with. Okay that isn't likely to happen. How about some fake money so I can see how I would have done?
4. Free Monee - This companies goal is to give you free money. That alone should push it near the top. The idea is that nothing brings customers into a store like a gift card. So why not give people free gift cards to spend at a store instead of spending money advertising? I'm hoping there's a way to manipulate the system to get lots of free goods and services.
3. Hello Wallet - This company's goal seems to be a better Mint. How do they plan to be better? They are going to use behavioral science from a bunch of smart researchers from top universities. They started by offering their product only through partnerships with other companies. However, it seems like people can sign up and use it today. When I talked with them, they mentioned that it is not free like Mint. However, I can't see pricing information on the website.
2. BankOns - I love the potential of this company. They aim to bring the long-awaited innovation of location-based coupons, using your cell phone, to reality. Instead of just walking down the street and getting buzzed by any company offering a coupon, it combines data from your bank statements to offer you coupons that you would be reasonably interested in. So my wife wouldn't get an alert about Baby Gap (we don't have children), but the phone might literally explode at a Pinkberry (I will pay for laying this Pinkberry thing a little thick). Anyway, I love it... I want it... just get it to HP WebOS instead of iPhone and Android.
1. BancVue's Money Island - This is a game geared towards teaching kids about money. I compare it to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego except that it's based on money instead of geography. I'm the first to admit that I'm a child at heart, but I just lost a half hour of my life playing the game. It's really quite good. There are some parts that have nothing to do with money like an arcade game like Kaboom. However, there was a great budgeting primer from a Paris chef. After learning a bit, you answer questions to earn rewards (i.e. money) and then use that money to save it, invest it, spend it, or donate it to charity. The investing game can be seen similar to Drug Wars... though instead of investing in drugs to sell at higher prices, you invest in gems. The game also has emergencies that pop up and cost you money.
There are a couple more notable companies and products out there. I feel they are worth mentioning.
Intellaegis MasterQueue - This company billed itself as trying to be the next Big Brother - spying on people's online activities and essentially trying to destroy all privacy. The point of the company is to help debt collectors, but I don't like the premise, especially as I'm an anonymous blogger. In this day and age, we need more tools to protect our privacy not destroy it.
Hoyos - This company came out with an iris scanning device that will manage your passwords for you. Just put the device up to your eye and log into Facebook. CNET decided to profile them which is usually a sign of an interesting company.
It may seem like highlighting 15 companies is a lot. It sure felt like a lot when I was compiling this list. However, to put it in perspective, there were 64 companies presenting in a two day span. At least I was able to trim more than 75% of the fat.
What companies and products sound most intriguing to you? Let me know in the comments.
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