This week’s tech news, filtered for financial services execs

December 13

Hello and welcome to Insights Distilled, a weekly email briefing that curates tactical technology news for financial services execs. Every Tuesday morning, we send you the top five stories you need to know – and explain why they matter. Our tech news roundup helps you stay on top of the innovations driving business agility in your industry. To get next week’s edition in your inbox, sign up here.


This week’s edition features several stories that highlight how financial services firms are making concrete inroads as they build towards the tech innovations that will shape the future. 

For example, Deutsche Bank is deploying digital avatars that will eventually be used in the metaverse, Mastercard is expanding its partnerships to ultimately improve cross-border money movement, and big banks are beginning to embrace open source software with gusto.  

These features spotlight forward momentum or milestones, even as the full promise of a given technology has not yet been reached. As the executive director of open source group FINOS put it: “We know there is still a lot of work to do to reach full maturity.” But the progress, of course, is important. 

Let’s dive in:

  1. Immersive interactions: Deutsche Bank will use digital avatars to improve its communications
  2. AI-powered portfolios: Why BNY Mellon just poured millions into this startup
  3. Quick and convenient: How ABN Amro is making it easy for business customers to get paid
  4. Software sea change: Financial services firms are leaning into open source
  5. International payments competition: Mastercard rolls out a new partnership

Deutsche Bank is working with Nvidia on digital avatars to create better, more immersive communication with employees, partners, and clients. 

Digital avatars have the potential to make routine interactions more personable and impactful, whether in the metaverse or just as a substitute for big blocks of text.  

Deutsche Bank believes that digital avatars are a “natural evolution of the current self-service user experience” and it’s working with Nvidia to create them as part of a larger partnership to spread artificial intelligence throughout the bank.  

While realistic-looking avatars will eventually appear in the metaverse to make digital interactions feel more human, they’re more immediately useful for efficiency and accessibility purposes, like onboarding new employees without making them slog through pages and pages of text.  

DB will start by using its virtual avatar to respond to HR-related questions and help employees navigate internal systems. In this way, the bank “further improves our ability to respond to requests 24/7, enables our employees to find HR answers quicker, and reduces the number of repetitive tasks,” DB chief innovation officer Gil Perez told Insights Distilled. This allows “employees to focus on more value-added activities with increased work environment satisfaction,” he added.  

Digital avatars are much more “intuitive, warm, and personable than text,” and require less time, effort, and cost than producing traditional videos, according to Natalie Monbiot, head of strategy at AI-powered video firm Hour One, an Insight Partners’ portfolio company. They create “more of a two-way experience that users prefer,” she told Insights Distilled, citing an Hour One pilot for HR interviews. 

In addition to digital avatars, Deutsche Bank will also work with Nvidia on improving its risk management and high-performance computing, among other efforts. 


BNY Mellon led a $14 million funding round in bondIT to help it create better portfolio proposals for its clients, with detailed analytics and reporting.  

Financial advisors are looking for ways to use complex analytics and automation to more efficiently optimize their clients’ portfolios, especially as the economic climate pummels the market. 

BNY Mellon has invested in fixed income platform bondIT to help its financial advisors better manage client portfolios. The startup’s platform automizes portfolio research, construction, and management, using artificial intelligence to flag potential risks or investment opportunities ahead of the wider market.  

The partnership essentially expands BNY Mellon’s “portfolio optimization capabilities,” according to managing director John Goodheart, who is joining bondIT’s board.  

BNY Mellon began its relationship with bondIT in 2021, when the startup joined its accelerator program, highlighting how these hubs can become catalysts for deeper relationships and tailored innovation.  

As the economic outlook remains uncertain into 2023, financial advisors want access to technology that can give them an edge in helping their clients build wealth: JPMorgan made two similar investments earlier this month. 


ABN Amro is bringing the ease of instant peer-to-peer payments to its business customers.  

As consumers flock to services that make instant peer-to-peer payments simple, financial firms can stand out by bringing that same ease and convenience to business customers. 

ABN Amro just launched a business version of its popular peer-to-peer payments app, Tikkie, which lets companies create and send payments requests to customers through text, WhatsApp, email, or QR code.  

The new payments app is convenient for both businesses and their clients, head of marketing Moreno Kensmill told Insights Distilled: Companies get paid quickly and easily, while customers can stick to an interface they’re familiar with, instead of filling out a traditional invoice.  

The app helps business customers get paid faster, Kensill added, with “a whopping 80%” of requests paid within 24 hours, “mainly due to the convenience factor.”  

The app already has 25,000+ business users and the max ceiling for single business payments is €50,000 (compared to €750 for consumers). That’s a much higher limit than banks in the US offer small businesses through instant payments service Zelle. 


Open source software is gaining steam for financial services firms, according to a new survey: 56% of respondents said they got more value from it this year compared to 2021.  

Open source software is shaping innovation in financial services through its interoperability and increased security – and top firms can reap the benefits if they both adopt and contribute to projects. 

Financial organizations are increasingly adopting and contributing to open source software, according to a new survey from FINOS.  

Open source software can bring a variety of benefits to financial institutions, including increased engineering speed, improved code quality, better application interoperability, and greater safety. “The collaborative, transparent nature [of open source] makes it very innovative,” according to expert Tracy Miranda. For example, earlier this year Citi released an open source project focused on mitigating software supply chain attacks. Being involved in open source can also help FinServs attract top talent, since contributing to projects allows developers to see the industry-wide impact of their work, collaborate across companies, and earn cachet.  

Top firms like Citi, JPMorgan, UBS, RBC, and Capital One are all members of FINOS, and the survey found that 20 financial institutions rolled out Open Source Program Offices this year. 

It also tracked a 25% increase in contributions from financial services firms on GitHub this year, and found that 48% of respondents worked for firms that openly encouraged the use of open source software, up from 27% in 2020. 


As the race to dominate global payouts continues, Mastercard beefs up its capabilities through a new partnership with fintech Paysend. 

Consumers crave cheaper, convenient international money transfer options, but there’s still no clear winner in the market. Card networks can ensure their piece of the pie by building relationships for cross-border payments. 

The problem of transparent, cheap, and fast international payments is being approached from many different angles – including through blockchain-based digital currencies – by fintechs and legacy institutions alike.  

Payment card networks stand to win a significant share of cross-border payment volume if they can establish themselves as a good partner for everyone. To that end, Mastercard and fintech Paysend just announced a partnership to offer money transfers across dozens of countries, as the startup competes with legacy remittance firms like Western Union and MoneyGram.  

For Mastercard, the partnership fits into its plan to widen its network overall: By helping both fintechs and traditional banks slash the cost and time required for international transfers, it continues to be a key payments rail for cross-border transfers.   

Payment card networks like Mastercard and Visa have “been trying to crack this opportunity for years, and while they’ve gained traction, they’re a long way from succeeding,” according to Celent analyst Gareth Lodge, because of all the fragmentation and varied options. Partnerships like this one show how Mastercard is focused on making sure its payment rail remains relevant. 

Quick Bits:

Personnel news: NatWest just hired its first director of innovation and partnerships, David Grunwald, who most recently served as ARIE Capital’s chief strategy officer, and previously worked at Farfetch and Google. It also appointed former PayPal and American Express exec, Mark Brant, as its chief payments officer

Money moves: Greenwood, a digital banking platform for Black and Latinx people, just raised a $45 million round of funding, including from Bank of America, Citi Ventures, PNC, Truist Ventures, and Wells Fargo. Meanwhile, Intuit just bought SeedFi to help Credit Karma customers build credit.

Industry happenings: A former Bank of America tech exec, Sumeet Chabria, shares three mistakes to avoid in approaching digital transformation. Cybersecurity training firm Immersive Labs is hosting a free cyber threat simulation for financial services execs on January 17 – sign up here.


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