Wednesday 8 February 2017 1:40 pm

When fintechs and banks go speed dating

While the seemingly age-old debate about whether fintech startups will kill banks still rages on, FinovateEurope demonstrates why that question is now largely redundant – things have moved on.

The 80 startups on stage at the two day event in the heart of the City are pitching the banks, insurers and City institutions in attendance more than they are spinning some consumer app that will disrupt the incumbents.

They're handed a seven minute stage demo opportunity to sweet talk the 1,000-strong crowd, with the likes of executives from Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and other well known banks able to get the gist of just what it's about and whether it's worth their time.

Read more: UK fintech VC investment plunged by a third last year

For example, those in the financial services industry using WhatsApp were urged to adopt Pushfor, a secure messaging app that complies with laws covering communications wherever workers are in the world. It's already working with one of the big four banks to roll it out globally, though declined to reveal which one.

Among the jargon of "on boarding", "multi-channel","software suites" and other potentially snooze-inducing terminology are fewer headline grabbing wannabe bank killers and more fintech startups looking to create the next technology financial services must adopt to stay relevant.

It might not sound as sexy as an "uber for banking" pitch, but creating the infrastructure, APIs, solutions, and platforms that can solve bank's problems are in demand, judging by the audience – robo-advice, compliance, data analytics, artificial intelligence risk modelling, biometric security and digital identity are just some of the orders of the day.

Wealthify, the year-old robo-investor platform which raised £1m from crowdfunding last year and is currently seeking to raise a £5m-£10m series A, is launching its own white label product and API, directly targeting financial institutions alongside its own consumer platform which is due to launch as an app for iOS and Android shortly.

Read more: Forget Berlin, Dublin and Paris – Asia's a bigger rival to London fintech

Moven, a US-based neo-bank established in 2011, announced it will launch its app in the UK after developing it in just four weeks, letting users monitor their finances by plugging in information from existing bank accounts. But it has also pivoted, now offering a white label service, and is working with TD Bank in Canada and Westpac in Australia, integrating its technology with their existing services. 

A UK app launch is clearly not a play to become the next Barclays or take on ambitious challengers like Monzo or Tandem, it's a demonstration of how it is agile enough to move to any bank in the audience trying to figure out how to launch such a service to its own customers.

A group of banking executives noted the dearth of consumer facing product pitches compared with what might be expected and with previous years, even at what has always been an industry focused event.

Robert Churcher, from PwC's fintech practice, points to the "growth, diversification and increasing maturity" of what he calls the enablers – those looking to sell tech to institutions rather than the "disrupters" looking to compete.

Read more: An early investor in UK fintech unicorn Transferwise has reduced its stake

Amid a pullback in venture capital funding for fintech in the UK And US, fintechs are also looking to prove they're a sustainable business that can pay off for investors, suggested one venture capitalist. It is after all easier to pitch a handful of banks and reach potentially millions of customers than trying to pitch millions of individual consumers directly.

While anyone in the fintech know will say of course it's about collaboration, incubators and labs, friendly partnerships and proofs-of-concept have all been growing, while corporate VC investment in fintech is on the rise: A third of all fintech startup investment is now from corporates, according to the most recent figures from CB Insights and KPMG, with Citigroup, Santander and Goldman Sachs the most active.

But now, fintechs clearly want to be banks' customers. And we can finally put to bed the question of whether fintech will eat banks' lunch – it's more of a romantic first date at this stage.