IBTimes was invited along to London's startupbootcamp FinTech programme for a sneak preview of its finalists – the next generation disruptive technologies to be unleashed on the financial world.
Startupbootcamp comprises a whole family of accelerator programs in tech hubs across the globe. Hundreds of hopefuls are narrowed down to a small group of finalists – nine in the case of London fintech - which then follow three months of mentoring, working together and meeting with sponsors and industry. A number of big financials mentor on the programme including Lloyds, Rabobank and MasterCard.
We were lucky enough to chat with Tradle, a company which is looking to simplify and secure know your customer (KYC) requirements using blockchain technology of the type underpinning the Bitcoin network.
The company also proposes a user-friendly smart-phone interface to communicate documentation to banks, rather than the time-consuming, onerous and repetitive (not to say costly) paper-based document exchange protocols most commonly used today.
Tradle is definitely hot: it announced a tie-up with blockchain records management platform Factom back in March of this year.
Gene Vayngrib, founder of Tradle told IBTimes: "Every bank can access this network and eliminate the number of KYC checks that they do today. But even before the network is born, within one bank there is inter-product KYC checks; inter-divisional, inter-location, inter-subsidiary. Those KYC checks are not shared. KYC costs are very high.
Vayngrib said a blockchain system that stored and facilitated KYC data could be extended to include anti-money laundering (AML) rules, which could be applied and executed automatically in the form of a smart contract.
"So instead of sending all the data to the regulators to prove that you have done the AML correctly, the bank can prove to the regulators that they have automatic procedures that do AML, and do things like report suspicious transactions.
"The auditing of the bank by the regulators in such a way preserves privacy as much as possible. The regulator could get information about suspicious transactions without banks sharing a lot of raw, private data with them," said Vayngrib.
At this stage Tradle's focus is KYC of individuals: initially individuals pertaining to retail banks and then individuals that are directors or owners of corporations.
There is also potential on the wealth management side, for instance, with the onboarding of wealthy individuals by banks.
"Today when the individual is opening an account in the bank it may take several weeks. You call the bank, you schedule an appointment, come in two weeks later, you bring some documents.
"So what we offer for the banks is to give users an app, a mobile app, and using this app very much like Snapchat, they talk to the bank, snap pictures of their documents, send them in a chat form to the bank, and the bank's representative verifies those documents and the results are put on the blockchain."
He said users of the app can go to another bank or telco or Airbnb or another participant on the network, and offer them with one tap all the verifications that have already been done.
"You don't have to go through the tedious KYC process again. Individuals get a proof in hand of the fact they they were verified by the bank and what exactly was verified by the bank."
Vayngrib, a Russian programmer who came to New York in 1991, said the bootcamp experience has been amazing so far, and that he is in daily discussion with mentors from Rabobank, for instance.
He said: "The amount of interactions and the feedback that we are getting, the advice that we are getting on improving our messaging and finding the best positioning and finding the best way to apply it to the bank - it's great.
IBTimes also spoke briefly with Walnut Algorithms, a hotly-tipped start-up employing artificial intelligence to hedge fund trading.
Walnut Algorithms chief financial officer, Guillaume Vidal told IBTimes: "We are into applying the latest advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, to financial trading. In a sense we are trying to mimic what an intra-day proprietary trader does and we are replicating that using algorithms."
"They call it AI but it's really machine learning, teaching a machine to understand patterns, to understand data," he said.
In the last few years there have been big steps forward in deep learning. The British AI company DeepMind Technologies, founded in 2010, was acquired by Google in 2014. And now financials like Bridgewater Associates and Highbridge Capital, which is owned by JP Morgan, are catching on, tapping innovations in big data using techniques previously confined to universities.
Kevin Lourd, Walnut Algorithms, chief executive officer, added: "In the last few year new techniques within machine learning have started to work very well. Researchers in deep learning have managed to beat past performances in a lot of fields."
Lourd said there is a scarcity of people who are well versed in deep learning and most of those outside academia work for companies like Google and Facebook and not so much in the financial space.
The nine start-up bootcamp finalists are: BondIT, Cybertonica, Delio, MoneyFellows, Obsidian Solutions, StockViews, Tradle, Walnut Algorithms, WoraPay.
The startupbootcamp FinTech big demo day is November 12.