A personal account of Dorsum’s road to victory at the most prestigious fintech conference in Europe.
It’s hard to believe we’re here in London, on our way to the Tobacco Docks, where the biggest Fintech conference of the region, Finovate Europe 2019 is being held. It’s only been a couple of months since we decided to present the newly developed Easy Invest feature of our My Wealth (Wealth Portal) wealth management app at the event, which combines AI and human advisory functionality in a hybrid solution. In the time since, our analysts have put together the business side of the feature, our UX designers have created an appealing and attractive user interface, and our developers worked night and day to code everything in time for the big debut. Getting a Best of Show award for our efforts would be a nice bonus, if the presentation goes well and the product is well received.
To have every element ready is crucial, because Finovate distinguishes itself from other fintech conferences by requiring every presenter to show off actual software, running real-time, on actual hardware. No presentation slides, videos or prototypes are allowed here. They have also implemented a strict 7-minute time limit for the presentations. If someone goes overtime, a loud gong will signal the end, and the presenter’s mic will be cut. It’s evident that the organizers of Finovate know that actions speak louder than words. They want the products to speak for themselves, minimizing the ever-present threat of empty promises from charismatic sales representatives, which is unfortunately still frequent in the industry.
While this approach might seem a bit too rigid at first, it shows that the event’s organizers know what the industry needs: solutions that work and can be implemented right away. Presentations at the event are not about far-off goals and impossible to attain dreams, but tangible solutions and ready-to-deploy innovations. Banking representatives for example can get a real-life feel for what is on offer from the presenting companies and can sign an order contract right away. Networking is further emphasized by giving attendees access to a specific app, where everyone can search for meeting opportunities based on industry, company, interests and more. A meeting place is also provided for these quick sessions, removing all the hassle that usually comes from organizing business meetings at conferences. For those in doubt, Finovate really knows what it’s doing: the event is now more than 10 years old, and is held at 6 times per year, all around the world.
As we approach Tobacco Docks, I remember the past 5 weeks of intense preparations… While the app must be interesting, good-looking and fully functional, the presentation must also be memorable, as the audience voting on the Best of Show winners will listen to 63 other, similar presentations. To stand out, we decided to have ABBA’s Money Money Money play a bit on stage, as well as have a cheeky gag or two, such as lovingly multiplying bunnies representing compound interest as a light-hearted educational element. Cramming all that into 7 minutes (in a way that really comes across and sticks in people’s mind) is not an easy task, so one hour was dedicated to rehearsal each morning for the past month. After the third week, a colleague asked us, if it was necessary to practice every single day. The answer? The script is being changed every day, and we feel like it keeps getting better and better, so… yes. It really is necessary. Not only that, but we decided to bring in someone new each day as an audience member, to get an outsider’s perspective on how the demo comes across.
So, here we are, ready as we’ll ever be. Tobacco Docks. Two life-size replicas of late 18th century pirate ships, the Three Sisters and the Sea Lark tower above us, right at the entrance of the venue. These are remains from a previous incarnation of the Docks, when they were used as a shopping centre in the 1990s. The Docks these days are home to grand-scale events, offices and corporate parties. And today, the sign on the entrance reads “Finovate Europe 2019”.
Our demo is slated around 9:45. Before that, we set up our booth, put out our marketing material (including 2×2 Rubic’s Cubes for the My Wealth (Wealth Portal) app), to get everything ready for those interested in the company. The presenters are taken to the green room at 9:00, where the professional American team of Finovate puts on their mics, adjusts their wardrobe and prepares them for what to expect. The demo presentations are now underway, one after the other. Each company has something interesting, something valuable, something worthwhile to show. While every presenter is a professional of the industry, the 7-minute gong does ring out sometimes, confirming that the hours spent rehearsing to perfect our timing were well spent.
At 9:30, tensions are high. Our marketing specialist prepares to live-stream the event on Facebook, and before we know it, it’s underway: “Hello London! Hello Finovate!” says the main presenter. During the demonstration, a new type of investor goes through the Easy Invest functionality of the My Wealth (Wealth Portal) app. This “new type” investor has money but doesn’t want to invest for a variety of reasons, such as no experience, no time or no understanding. The app addresses each of these problems, by taking just 6 simple steps to complete, by having an AI-assistant guide the user along the way, and by having plenty of educational content for investors of any skill level. The most important feature is the ability to connect to a real advisor if reassurance is needed before an investment. To demonstrate this, the presentation includes a short overview of Dorsum’s Wealth Platform as well, which gives Banks a 360-degree overview of clients’ portfolios, allowing them to manage their investment strategies, overview their history, check on model portfolios and upsell further products.
It’s strange to see the weeks and weeks of intense work and labour culminating in a short couple of minutes. Before we realize that it’s started, it’s already over: “…and so, a new investor is born, who didn’t even know what investing really means, a mere 5 minutes ago. A win for the Client, and a big win for the Bank as well.” The audience seemed engaged, they reacted well, they even laughed at our cheeky humour, and are now clapping hard. It’s over, but we haven’t won yet.
To win a Best of Show award, you must truly win over the audience, as each audience member gets to vote for just 3 companies on the day of the presentation. On this day, there are 32 companies presenting, so the competition is fierce. We feel that our demo stood out from the others, but you never know… everyone puts on their very best for those 7 minutes. And so, we spend the rest of the day networking, giving interviews, talking to everyone who visits the booth, and hoping that it will be enough to convince them of our professionalism and expertise, and earn their vote as well.
The hours fly by fast, and before we know it, the last presentation is done, and the votes are counted. At 17:45 Greg Palmer, the vice president of Finovate, and the host of the event goes up on stage, to announce the Best of Show winners. Everyone is anxious to know the results, so people gather round in front of the stage. Greg announces the winners in alphabetical order, so thankfully, we don’t have to wait long: after Crealogix, the next company to be named the winner …is Dorsum.
A wild, loud and happy roar of joy erupts from our colleagues, who are literally jumping from joy, and can’t even believe that we really did it. As we rush up on stage to take a photo with Greg and the beautiful Best of Show trophy, we think of how much effort we put in, and how it has now been rewarded.
While there are no guarantees at Finovate, since this is an award that’s not presented automatically to sponsors, and can’t be bought by the highest bidder, the winning formula is clear: come up with a great idea, make it look good, implement it well, explain it clearly in 7 minutes, and throw in a memorable show element, or two. And there you go: a recipe for success.
Easy right? As easy as investing! 😉
Goodbye, London! See you in 2020!