The Javits Center was packed with innovators and gadgetry this week as Finovate Fall 2012 came and went. Across the country in San Francisco, the iPhone 5 was released in all its glory — just without NFC capabilities. At the same time, the Federal Reserve introduced a new round of quantitative easing, and announced it expected rates to stay low well into 2015. Which one matters more to Americans? Hard to say, really: cellphone, monetary policy? Who knows how the scale tips anymore. Most of our week was dominated by gadgetry, anyway. Here’s your weekly wrap-up.
Early this week, it came out that Google Wallet would be changing the nature of its product somewhat. No surprise, Google is a notorious tinkerer, whose products all exist in a sort of permanent beta. This is a bit unnerving when it comes to money, of course. In addition to merging the Wallet with Google Checkout, it will also do away with its virtual Google prepaid card, which used to come with a Wallet account. Then, the iPhone 5 came out with no NFC, and then Isis delayed the release of its mobile wallet. Things are starting to get funny in mobile-wallet land.
You wouldn’t know that if you were at Finovate, though. Mobile wallets, PFMs and security technology ruled the stage. Just a few we thought were noteworthy: PreCash announced the release of FlipMoney, a mobile wallet for the underbanked. It looks pretty neat, actually, and seems to serve an actual market need: the unbanked might not have plastic, after all. mShift, too, released its mobile wallet offering, which they claim will bring interchange rates down by half.
Here’s a list of other innovations we saw: PayTap, which allows for shared bill payments; Tuition.io, a Mint for student loans (and a sad, sad pun); Locaid, a program that verifies cardholder location using their mobile phone; ImpulseSave, an app to help you fight impulse purchases and save money; Dynamics, a card that can be used three different ways: swipe, EMV chip or NFC — plus it’s waterproof; Dashlane, a service that makes e-commerce checkout a breeze; MoneyDesktop, a snazzy PFM that even has an enhanced reality ATM locator; C.K. Mack, which is like P2P investing in rental real estate; SwitchAgent, which helps consumers switch banks in a painless fashion; And lastly, Ideon Choice, which allows customers to create customized savings products.
It was a lot to take in, and while it was fascinating ,it was also eye opening. Who does this all exist to serve, after all? Is it us, the consumer? Or banks?
There was plenty of non-Finovate news, too. MasterCard, it came out, bought TruAxis and its personalized rewards offers program. MasterCard also partnered with Linkable Networks to offer card-linked deals. Discover, too, got in on the deals action, and announced a new partnership with FreeMonee, a gift incentive network. Also, LearnVest became a real SEC-certified financial planner, and upgraded its website. Don’t depend on the Internet for everything, though, GoDaddy’s outage affected some bank customers.
What effect will it have on consumers? Who knows? The Federal Reserve’s low rates certainly won’t help.