How Personal Finance Technology has evolved in Europe in the last six years

Apr 25, 2013
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London - photo courtesy of FoxNews

The following is a guest post from Nick Hungerford, CEO and Co-founder of Nutmeg.com, which offers a fresh, straightforward and transparent way of investing. You can follow Nick on Twitter @NickHungerford,

Although the modern banking system can trace its origins back to the Medicis in Renaissance Italy, there is a strong argument for saying that there has been more innovation in the last six years than in the last six centuries.

In the UK, it has rapidly become the norm to bank online, whether paying a friend back for a holiday, opening a Cash ISA or applying for a credit card. Even the most established high street names have rapidly adapted their services for the digital age. Some 81 per cent of people now use online banking, whereas only 45 per cent of people with a bank account visit their branch once a month or more. A small but growing number – 20 per cent – use mobile banking. Within the space of a few years we’ve phased out cheque books and paper statements and welcomed card readers, 24/7 access and contactless payments.

To these innovations, we can add a burgeoning field of online financial content – with a distinct technological focus. Last year Martin Lewis, the founder and editor of MoneySavingExpert – an online magazine which makes money through paid links – sold his website for £87 million to MoneySupermarket.com, a price comparison site. Well-written journalistic sites such as Savvy Woman, Candid Money, Love Money and the government-sponsored Money Advice Service compete in a similar space, while sites such as Moneyvista and Money Dashboard offer personal finance budgeting tools not dissimilar to Mint.com in the US.

In my opinion, however, the really exciting innovations are currently to be found in the area of personal payments. Earlier this year I went to FinnovateEurope, an annual conference celebrating the best and the brightest in financial technology. Having won “best in show” the previous year, it was a relaxing change to attend as a non-participant and to concentrate on the other firms instead of our own presentation.

I was particularly struck by SumUp, which allows anyone to accept card payments with a smartphone or a tablet (Square is doing something very similar in the States). Other winners included Pockets United, a service which allows groups to split day-to-day costs easily among themselves, and Virtual Piggy, a way for children to save and spend online.

Your phone, it seems, and not your wallet, will be the hub of the future – something even the most far-sighted of Medicis could not have predicted.

Photo courtesy of FoxNews