By Rebecca Brace
A number of new technology solutions building a presence, thanks to SWIFT’s annual start-up challenge, hold the promise of making life easier in corporate treasury and financial management.
There are plenty of competitions designed to support start-ups, but few of these are intended specifically for the financial services industry. And fewer still have the potential to alter the future of corporate financial management. Innotribe—the annual start-up challenge run by SWIFT and held during the bank-sponsored messaging infrastructure outfit’s yearly technology conference, Sibos—is one such competition.
Launched in 2011 at the Toronto Sibos, Innotribe encourages start-ups focusing on financial services. Kosta Peric, director, communications and Innotribe, at SWIFT, notes: “Many institutions don’t realize that it is important to keep in touch with new technology and new trends. As an experiment, we launched the competition in Sibos in 2011, and it was a resounding success.” After a positive reception in Toronto, the competition was launched on a wider scale last year, with regional challenges in London, Singapore and New York, followed by the grand finale at Sibos in Osaka. The regional rounds for this year’s competition in Dubai are already under way.
The competition has brought much needed exposure to a number of start-ups worldwide, and not all of them focus on banks. Other solutions are designed to enhance corporate financial and risk management. One 2012 finalist, The Currency Cloud, acts as an intermediary for corporates of all sizes to make inexpensive cross-border payments.
Another of last year’s finalists is Digital Shadows, a cybermonitoring firm that analyzes companies’ digital footprints. “By that we mean all of the information that companies expose online—particularly through social media, Cloud services and the increasing use of mobile devices,” explains Alastair Paterson, the company’s CEO.
Paterson, Digital Shadows: The wealth of information online can undermine a company's security or reputation
“All of these great transformational forces mean that there is an ever-increasing amount of information on the Internet. While this can help companies improve their engagement with customers and their competitiveness, it can also, unfortunately, undermine a company’s security or its reputation.” Digital Shadows provides ongoing monitoring to identify and manage reputational risk exposures, such as those presented by confidential documents that could be online, as well as technical risks—for example the risk inherent in managing user names and passwords.
With the 2013 competition under way, another company that could be transformational for corporates is Paymandate, which has been selected at the European challenge to compete in this year’s final run-off in Dubai. “This company focuses on preparing for migrating direct debit mandates and contracts to SEPA [Single Euro Payments Area],” says Peric. “This is a big problem that many corporates face, especially those with a large number of customers.” Given the still-low migration rate of companies to SEPA and its fast-approaching deadline, the solution could be a godsend to companies with complex direct-debit schemes.
For start-ups, there are plenty of reasons to enter the competition aside from the $50,000 prize. Paterson observes that the process of entering the competition offers many benefits: “The material we had to produce for Innotribe and the coaching we had was really spot-on,” he says. “It was material that we needed to produce anyway as a business, and it really helped us to sharpen up our messaging.”
For those start-ups that have been successful in the Innotribe competition to date, what are the secret ingredients? Peric says: “I call it the three Ps of innovation: patience, perseverance and passion.”