Corporates have long since realised big business isn’t the best environment for creativity. This goes double for banking. The FinAppsParty hackathon is Caixabank’s latest attempt to build new technology and stay ahead of the fast moving curve. Patrick Brusnahan reports
Caixabank’s annual FinappsParty, in collaboration with Global Payments, brings together developers around the world in a 24 hour frenzy to develop a new mobile banking app. Last year’s event saw a total of 37 projects, developed by 46 teams and 122 participants.
When asked why CaixaBank supports this event, the bank told EPI: "The analysis of external trends and the feedback from internal and external sources is crucial for CaixaBank’s business model. New ideas and suggestions help to improve processes and products and, by extension, the standard of services offered. The hackathon gives us a first mover advantage in finding new business opportunities and trends that will ultimately shape new business models."
The judges look for the best functionality, quality performance and originality in graphic interfaces and the winner this year receives a prize of 4,000. 120 developers are already registered for the event in Barcelona with a joint event, for the first ever time, in Atlanta.
Connection between the two venues will be continuous throughout the event to strengthen co-operation and combine knowledge among developers with different skills and levels of experience.
The newly added second venue in Atlanta can be attributed to the addition of Global Payments as a partner. As a card processing provider, it would naturally benefit from getting in on the ground floor of new technology. Its participation, however, is not for that reason alone, it is also puts a spotlight on the technological hub of Georgia.
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Amy Corn, senior vice president of corporate communications and marketing at Global Payments, said: "We believe Georgia is the epicentre of the payments industry. In Georgia, over 85 billion payment transactions pass through computer systems of Georgia’s Fin Tech companies. FinAppsParty is a great fit for Georgia and this type of event will allows us to continue to develop and strengthen our product offerings in the marketplace."
Last year’s winner, the four-person ‘Foobar’ team, developed an application that allowed virtual wallet users to share information on the purchases they make using NFC technology. An extra feature is to recommend promotions and businesses to other users of the app, with even a ‘gamification’ system to attract users.
In 2012, the winning team of Valenti Freixant and Erola Rabat created an application that used mobile geopositioning to locate ‘la Caixa’ customer retailers, as well as sharing information with them via social networking. The judges were so impressed by Rabat that she works at CaixaBank to this day.
On the experience, Rabat said: "The need to find a good innovative idea in a limited period of time ended up being the motivation of the party. Needless to say, the overall experience was full of joy. The final result, apart from tiredness, was an achievement of great personal satisfaction and a huge desire to carry on continuing with the innovation."
While a handful of banks have launched hackathons, including Citi and Omaha Bank, CaixaBank are the first bank to focus on wearable technology. With the emergence of devices such as Google Glass and smartwatches, CaixaBank wants to take full advantage of their emerging popularity.
The Spanish bank has adopted the technology early with the first banking application for smartwatches. It allows users to choose stocks and indices from international markets with more detailed information sent to the user’s phone.
CaixaBank already has another app available on Google Glass that utilises its built in voice service and assists customers in finding their nearest branch, with directions and a helpline.
CaixaBank says: "FinAppsParty gives us a first mover advantage in finding new business opportunities and trends that will ultimately shape new business models. As a result, CaixaBank is a worldwide pioneer."
A few fintech start-up successes
TransferWise is a peer-to-peer money transfer service launched in January 2011. The commission charged is usually 0.5% and money is converted at the interbank rate, in contrast to the company setting a premium rate.
In its first year, transactions through TransferWise amounted to 10m.There is full support for 17 currencies and six more operate on a ‘send only’ basis. Their head office is in the UK.
In a peer-to-peer business model, money a user is sending from their own country is rather swapped with money someone else in the same country is receiving.
Square is a financial services, merchant services aggregator and mobile payments company based in San Francisco, California. The company markets several software and hardware products and services, including Square Register and Square Order. The company was founded in 2009 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey and launched its first app and service in 2010.
Coin is its own credit card that stores other cards inside it, letting you switch between your corporate card and your visa to pay for things.
The card is also connected to your smartphone, ensuring that you don’t leave it behind or lose it. And perhaps more importantly, Coin is able to detect fraudulent activity the moment it occurs, as opposed to when the stolen information is used, oftentimes weeks or months later.
The company is now focused on manufacturing.
The world’s first fingerprint authenticated payment card was unveiled by MasterCard in October, 2014, following a partnership with Norwegian startup Zwipe.
The Zwipe MasterCard uses a fingerprint sensor on the card in order to authenticate contactless payments and can be integrated seamlessly with existing payment technologies.
iZettle is a mobile payments company based in Stockholm, Sweden and markets a single application and service called iZettle. Jacob de Geer and Magnus Nilsson founded the company in April 2010 and launched its first app and service in 2011.
iZettle was the first company to develop a chip-card reader and app for smartphone-based mobile commerce which meets international security requirements
The company Ripple Labs is the creator and a developer of the Ripple payment protocol and exchange network. Ripple Labs was founded in 2012 and is based in San Francisco, California
Ripple is a payment system, currency exchange and remittance network. It is built upon a distributed, open source internet protocol, consensus ledger and native currency called ripples (XRP).
The Ripple network purports to enable "secure, instant and nearly free global financial transactions of any size with no chargebacks".