Money, money, money! That was the topic that was on my mind for the beginning of my trip to the West Coast. Well, it was much more than money that was on my mind: it was the current and future states of financial services and how technology is going to impact the space in the coming years.
In general, I’m a big fan of conferences. I find them to be a great way to keep on top of trends, meet new people, and learn a lot of things in a short amount of time. In going to these two conferences and participating in them, I also found that I’m a big fan of speaking at them.
This was the first time I had attended any financial services conferences (let alone participated in one), so I thought I would share some key takeaways and observations from my experience.
Taking Centz on the Road
I had the pleasure to speak at, not one, but two conferences about my experience designing Centz and participating in (and winning!) the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge.
My first stop was in Phoenix for the ATM, Debit & Prepaid Forum 2012. I participated in a two panel workshop titled “The Gamification, Mobilization and ‘App’lication of Financial Services.” The first panel focused on the gamification of financial services. Representatives from D2D Fund, Fablevision and PayPerks talked about how they use gamification and incorporate gamified elements into their products.
I participated in the second panel, which focused on the mobilization and “app”lication of financial services. Jonathan Chao, from Credit Karma, talked about how Credit Karma went about creating a mobile app for their product. Richard Trask, who was the first runner-up for the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge for his design My Next Car!, and I talked about our app designs for the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge.
After my short stint in Phoenix, I jetted off to Las Vegas for Money2020’s inaugural event. On the final day of the conference, I participated in a panel with Richard, Chris Bishko (a judge and funder of MyMoneyAppUp), Karim Bhalwani (from Yodlee), and John Weiner (a judge for MyMoneyAppUp). Tim Flacke from D2D Fund facilitated the panel and we all shared our experiences with the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge and upcoming relationship to the FinCapDev Competition.
There is a lot going on in FinTech right now – and it’s exciting time to be in the industry!
There are a lot of lively discussions happening in the FinTech space: mobile payments, mobile wallets, data, prepaids, and so on.
What is awesome about financial services technology is that there are just so many ways you can approach it to solve common, everyday problems. I learned about a ton of new apps and services during my three conference-packed days: PayPerks, Save Up, Credit Karma, and Lemon are just a few new companies that I learned about.
The excitement isn’t just at the level of individual products and services either. Money2020 brought in a lot of big name keynotes that talked about the future of financial services at the broader level. Suze Orman, the U.S. Treasury Department and others all shared their big picture views of the industry throughout Money2020.
People are very friendly at conferences – especially when you are a speaker.
By design, conferences are a great place to meet other people. Ample snack breaks and lunch at round tables aren’t just to make sure you are well-fed. They help to facilitate conversations between old colleagues and new contacts.
I think conferences are interesting from a sociological and cultural standpoint. People will go up to complete strangers and start talking to them at conferences and you don’t even bat an eye to think that is weird. If that were to happen randomly “on the street,” it would be a completely different story. I think it has to do with the fact that by being at the conference, you already have already broken the ice. You know that you at least have something in common, which makes it that much easier to talk to new people.
One great thing that I discovered in participating as a speaker in these conferences is that being a speaker helps make meeting new people easier. At both conferences, people went out of their way to come up and talk to me after the session.
If you are shy or not as comfortable randomly introducing yourself to people you’ve never met before, speaking at a conference can help ensure that you have plenty of people to talk to. There are plenty of people out there who are willing to make the first move, and if you’ve just spoken to a group, it makes it that much easier for them to come up and introduce themselves to you!
Creating financial services products is complicated business, but important and crucial for the future.
One of the takeaways I had from the conferences was that creating a product or service in the financial services space is no easy feat. Regulations, banks, technologies, etc. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of moving targets when it comes to creating and then subsequently building new products and services.
Saying “It’s complicated” is probably an understatement.
It’s easy to wake up one day and say, “I have a great idea for an app!” It’s another thing to actually go ahead and build it, no matter what the idea is. And then, it’s a different thing entirely if it’s a financial services app or product.
There is arguably a lot more time and investment required to bring a financial services app to market. However, it’s important to keep innovating and pushing forward even in the face of obstacles. It’s more important than ever to keep encouraging business owners, startups, innovators and the like to keep coming up with new solutions – especially in the financial services space.
That’s why competitions like MyMoneyAppUp and FinCapDev are exciting. They are pushing the boundaries and spurring innovation in people who might not have come up with their idea or solution otherwise.
After I found out about MyMoneyAppUp from the Mint.com blog, I decided to go ahead and tackle a problem that I had personally been facing. If I hadn’t heard of the competition, my idea may never have come to fruition.
I hope that others like myself can take these opportunities and seize them. After all, that’s what living in flux is all about: taking challenges head on.