What I Saw At Finovate

I’ve just returned from the Finovate spring session in northern California.

What did I see? Quite a few single occupant automobiles in the HOV lane on Highway 101.

Finovate, for the uninitiated, is a grueling two-day slog through 60-some-odd seven-minute demonstrations by FinTech innovators, many of them very early stage companies.

A general observation

Too many FinTech startups give UX short shrift. Good design springs from a deep understanding of the needs of your clients and a relentless focus on simplifying the complex. This is as important in B2B as it is in B2C. Your competition may still be using green screens and your users may be in the back office, but expectations for appearance and usability have been set elsewhere.

“That increase in customer expectation is thanks to companies like Apple and Uber,” agrees Thelton McMillian, founder of Comrade, a digital agency specializing in the design of user experiences for financial services firms.

Excellence in digital user experience design is a signal to your customers that you love them and know what they need. It’s a sign that you will deliver excellence from end to end. It’s also a powerful differentiator and a barrier to your competitors.

Thelton continues, “Everyone – from customer service, to operations, to marketing, to the board members – needs to embrace the role design plays in competing in today’s market.”

Kudos to the team from Privatbank

Presenters Maria Gururina and Kristina Chaiykovskaya of PrivatBank dealt with setbacks with resourcefulness and good humor. Their product, one of the few hardware innovations shown, is an ATM that doesn’t require a card. It runs on an Android phone and uses NFC. You use your phone – or Google Glass – to instruct the ATM to dispense cash.

The ATM they brought with them from Ukraine was damaged in transit and then held up in customs. In response, they changed their presentation on the fly and substituted video to show the functionality they could no longer demonstrate with their damaged machine.

The payoff? They earned the respect of the audience, and their product was one of three voted best of show that day. Next time one of my presentations encounters hurdles, I hope I respond with as much grace as they did.