High 5! The five fintech stories we’re following this week

  • Big banks show that they can find a path to innovate.
  • Millennials are set to enjoy a broad swath of new financial service providers.

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High 5! The five fintech stories we’re following this week

Big banks can bust a move

We get so caught up in innovative fintech startups that we sometimes lose perspective when a larger institution does something to shake things up. Gidon Belmaker had an interesting look into how ING inspires fresh thinking in its ranks and how it brings these ideas to fruition in new products and services. Through employee-targeted contests and an in-house incubator, the bank acquired 650,000 new customers in the first half of 2016. With outside help from technology and UX firms, big banks are also working on rolling out personalized banking experiences. “The banks are locked in on an ‘old model’ mindset,” said Pau Velando, general manager of Strands, a company that offers digital money management software to financial institutions. “They think more in terms of banking and less in terms of providing value added services to their customers.” USAA today has its own customer advocates. Hadas Tayeb focused on a particular disability advocate at the financial services firm who designed a new machine reader for check deposits for the visually impaired. In general, USAA has recently upgraded its check technology. Checks may be dead over the long term but that hasn't stopped the firm from providing services that people need and are asking for today.

Millennials enjoying more financial tools

If it can get out from under its debt load, the largest generation is going to have a lot of financial platforms to help it save and invest for the future. Student loan refinancer, CommonBond is betting on that scenario. With a recent round of funding, expanded debt facility, and acquisition, the firm has created what its calling a 401(k) for student debt, which essentially turns debt repayment into an employee perk. N26, the European digital bank, recently received a German and European banking license and Josh Liggett describes how the startup is stepping things up with increased focus on the customer and product offerings. "“We tried to be very transparent, and tried to change fundamentally the cost structure behind everything,” said CEO Valentin Stalf. “Our customers understand that the model has to be sustainable, transparent, and fair. We tried to respond honestly and transparently, and we focus on the core value proposition of simplifying your financial life.”

Finance connects to the world around it

No longer content to remain in its predefined in-store and internet boxes, payments is trying to bust out. Expect to see payments in almost anything that's connected. Soon, your jewelry, your fridge, and your car will be able to pay for things on the Internet of Things. Here are 5 innovative IoT payment products. Automation in the financial industry is also taking curious forms. Softbank robot Pepper is set to sell insurance at 80 stores in Japan. Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co will be deploying 100 Pepper robots across 80 branches in Japan to help out on the sales floor by 2017.

Financial services for the rest of the world

Financial services conform to the environments in which they serve. Different technology and pricing environments produce substantially different solutions. Take Africa, for instance. There, fintech isn't disrupting the banks. It's creating them. Mexico also has its own financial ecosystem that's showing signs of embracing new technologies. China will soon kick off the second round of awarding licenses for private banks. Five private banks had opened for business in 2015. Some of the aspirants said if they receive the banking license, they would concentrate on providing financial services to technology companies.

Fintech meets big data...er, big survey data, that is

There was a lot of research published this week about banking, banking customers, and financial ecosystems. Worth checking out are these various pieces:  

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