In a big week for fintech, three launches were announced in the past few days: SuiteBox, a cloud-based video-conferencing and document sharing service for financial advisors; Australia’s first ‘micro-savings’ smartphone-activated investment vehicle; and, a dedicated online publication focused on fintech hopefuls.
At the same time, concerns about capital raisings for tech start-ups in general and fintech in particular reverberate around the world. Some, such as the New York Times, are calling it ‘Bubble 2.0’.
SuiteBox is a NZ-based business which has come under the wing of Ian Dunbar’s Australian consulting firm, FinDigital., It is a video-conferencing and recording solution with the ability for advisors to share documents on-screen and immediately gain electronic signatures. The business recently received an R&D grant from the NZ Government’s Callaghan Innovation.
The app, which allows an advisory firm to video-enable its business processes, is designed to integrate with CRM and financial planning software such as Salesforce, SugarCRM, Xplan and Coin. It allows advisors and their clients to accelerate the advice process by collectively reviewing, amending and signing off on advice documents; superannuation, investment and insurance applications; and records of advice.
The technology has been piloted by several organisations in New Zealand, including Sotheby’s real estate agency and Auckland University.
Ian Black, SuiteBox commercial director, said the company had identified financial services as a primary focus even though the product could deliver benefits in almost any industry.
Meantime, Sydney-based structured products provider InStreet, run by derivatives expert George Lucas, has branched out into fintech through a deal with US micro-investments start-up Acorns Grow. InStreet has negotiated a j.v. to market the US company’s savings and investment app in Australia.
Acorns is a free app for iPhone and Android smartphones that allows people to round up their daily purchases and automatically “invest the change” into a diversified portfolio of index funds.
The Australian Acorns app will allow people to invest tiny amounts in an investment portfolio. Users link the app on their phone to their bank account and/or credit card, and as they make purchases they invest the virtual spare change by rounding up transactions to the nearest dollar. For example, if you buy a coffee for $3.50, the app pushes 50c into your Acorns account to be invested.
Australia is the first country outside North America to secure a partnership to co-develop and launch a local version of the app. It will go into beta testing in the December quarter of this year and will be available for download in the first quarter of 2016.
And to help us all keep track of the fintech space, specialist publisher Sterling Publishing last week launched FinTech Business, a free news service. Sterling publishes Investor Daily, IFA and Investor Weekly as well as mortgage titles. Investor Daily news editor Tim Stewart is the launch editor of FinTech Business.
But not everyone is so bullish on fintech and other tech start-ups given the current state of valuations for capital raisings. Concerns about Silicon Valley valuations have been aired for more than a year but more recently, similar concerns are being expressed as far afield as China.
The HSBC-supported ‘Week in China’ news magazine this week has a cover story with the heading: ‘Tech stocks go crazy – it’s hard not to fear a bubble is inflating in China’s technology sector’.
Week in China observes that: “If anything, China’s tech bubble has been gaining speed at an even more frenetic and dramatic pace [than the US] and with more of the speculative activity taking place on the nation’s stock exchanges [rather than from private investors].”
More than 50 listed companies identified as internet and technology firms have tripled their market valuations this year. One, an online video provider known as Beijing Baofeng Technology, last week was trading at 720 times last year’s earnings (rmb30 billion on rmb42 million).
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