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

February 14

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.


It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air.  

Love between banks and startups that needed funding. Love from customers for wealth management tools. Love between financial services firms and the platforms that drive efficiency for them. 

Let’s dive in: 

  1. ESG infrastructure: Several banks are showing their devotion to carbon market success
  2. Super app appreciation: A former NYSE exec builds the bank of the future
  3. AI-powered advice: Why three big FinServs are fawning over Conquest Planning
  4. Data delight: This platform is winning converts by wrangling complex data pipelines
  5. Customer support: How an AI-driven platform saves insurers valuable time

Nine big banks just spun out an independent carbon credit transaction network – the “SWIFT of carbon markets” – that aims to bring transparency, security, and certification to an opaque industry.  

The lack of trust and verification around carbon markets has historically sidelined big banks from allowing their clients (and themselves) to use carbon credits to achieve ambitious ESG goals, so a group of banks is providing $45 million to build better infrastructure. 

Banks need a better carbon credit transaction network, so they’re building it themselves.  

BBVA, BNP Paribas, CIBC, Itaú Unibanco, National Australia Bank, NatWest, Standard Chartered, SMBC, and UBS formed and have now funded Carbonplace in order to make carbon markets more transparent, secure, and accessible.  

The platform, which will launch publicly later this year, will connect buyers, sellers, registries, and exchanges with real-time information sharing, due diligence tools, and simplified reporting. The banks liken it to the ubiquitous bank-to-bank messaging platform SWIFT, and say that it’s already successfully piloted trades. 

Carbonplace represents a major push by a handful of big banks to have a hand in the future of carbon credit trading and, ultimately, corporations’ transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions, as sustainability continues to be a hot topic for regulators and corporate boards alike. Similarly, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs just joined a funding round for environmental markets platform Xpansiv.  


The former CIO of NYSE just launched a financial “super app” called Fierce that combines banking, investing, and education with an APY rate “like no other.”  

As Millennials and GenZ report feeling particularly anxious about their finances, Fierce wants to win over converts by being laser-focused on helping customers build wealth through features like fractional-share investing, securities lending, education, and an APY of up to 4.25% for checking accounts.

Rob Cornish believes he’s built the “feel-good finance app” of the future.  

The former CIO of NYSE and CTO at digital asset exchange Gemini, Cornish just launched Fierce with $10 million in funding to bring together previously disparate services into one platform.  

No other players – whether legacy banks or digital upstarts – combine all these services in a single consumer-friendly app, Cornish says. 

“There was still a gap in the market where people needed a company that could provide the best aspects of traditional and digital finance, where the customer doesn’t have to make compromises on what’s important to them. That’s really where the foundation of Fierce began,” Cornish told Distilled.  

He considers Fierce a “super app” because it brings the best individual products together: “In the last five years, there’s been a wealth of new infrastructure fintech solutions that have come out,” he said. “We look at this as an ideal time to partner with those and bring them together into one solution.”  

Beyond Fierce’s trading products and educational resources, the firm also has 24/7 live customer support.  


Fidelity, BNY Mellon, and Royal Bank of Canada all just poured funding into this tech platform that uses AI to help financial advisors give their clients better advice, faster.  

AI-based tools for financial advisors can automatically integrate their client’s objectives, priorities, and risk tolerances, saving significant time for planners while providing more personalized advice for people, too. 

Fidelity International Strategic Ventures, BNY Mellon, and RBC all contributed to the $24 million CAD funding round of Conquest Planning, a tech platform that aims to modernize financial planning.  

Financial advisors spend an average of 10 hours creating each financial plan, not including the time to deliver it: Conquest aims to reduce that time significantly through AI-powered strategic advice managers that automatically build plans that the advisor can then adapt.  

The platform “points them in the right direction, instantly illustrating the impact of different scenarios on the client’s goals (saving more, retiring later, et cetera),” chief revenue officer Brad Jourdie told Distilled, adding that the company has seen advisors create plans in less than an hour using Conquest. 

BNY Mellon started integrating Conquest’s tools into its Pershing X technology platform late last year to “streamline advisors’ workflows,” says exec Ainslie Simmons, which helps “boost productivity, job satisfaction, and client service.” 

Conquest will soon launch with both Fidelity and RBC to support their advisors, too.  

This funding round is the latest signal in the wider push to integrate AI tools into financial advising as a way to give clients personalized advice, without a high price tag. Using AI to draft plans gives advisors more time to add personal touches, which helps strengthen relationships and build trust.  

Late last year, BNY Mellon also invested in fixed income platform bondIT to help its financial advisors better manage client portfolios, while JPMorgan recently invested in two portfolio construction startups as well. 


This observability startup is raking in investment by simplifying complex data operations and reducing costs while increasing engineering productivity.   

Observability tools help organizations manage their complex data pipelines by using machine learning to flag data-quality issues and aide capacity planning. Ultimately, they help firms get the full business value of their data while keeping costs under control. 

Even the best data strategies will fail to produce results if the actual management of the data lacks visibility and control.  

To that end, enterprise data observability firm Acceldata just announced $50 million in fresh funding from investors, including Insight Partners. The firm counts massive firms like Oracle and Verisk as customers, as well as Walmart-owned fintech PhonePe, which was able to reduce its data warehouse costs by 65% thanks to Acceldata.

Acceldata provides end-to-end visibility into data quality, processing power, and performance across all data sources, while using machine learning to analyze (and predict) issues.  

Ultimately, its platform delivers “highly reliable monitoring and data quality,” according to Insight Partners managing director George Mathew.  

“These pipelines require validating half a trillion data points at scale in a matter of hours, every day,” he told Insights Distilled. “This is where Acceldata comes in, to provide their leading data observability offering.” 


Insurance firms are flocking to this freshly funded platform that can cut customer triage down from five days to five minutes.  

Insurers are often dealing with complicated customer processes (sometimes in the wake of catastrophic events), so adding AI and automation to behind-the-scenes support can save precious time.

Customer experience automation firm Ushur just raised $50 million, including from the Aflac’s venture arm, for its customer experience platform that targets highly regulated industries like insurance and banking.  

Its platform goes beyond robotic process automation (RPA) and other legacy approaches that are too brittle for customer engagement: This kind of tech is “fine for automating rote back-office jobs, but it’s too brittle for more nuanced tasks, especially anything that involves human interaction,” Ushur’s chief marketing officer, Kashif Mahbub, told Insights Distilled.  

Instead, the platform uses conversational AI and document understanding to deliver hyper-personalized customer experiences, it says. 

The firm boasts that it can improve customer engagement rates by as much as 85%, reduce email triage times from five days down to five minutes, and slash issue-resolution times by as much as 90%. It counts Aetna, Aflac, Tower Insurance, Irish Life, United Healthcare, and other Fortune 500 companies among its customers. 

Quick Bits:

Personnel news: Standard Chartered poached Divyesh Vithlani from Accenture to be group chief transformation officer while the head of Goldman Sachs’ consumer business, Peeyush Nahar, is leaving the bank.

Money moves:Citi Ventures co-led a $51 million round of funding in InfluxData, a time series data platform provider, and JPMorgan contributed to a $50 million round for security policy and vulnerability management firm Skybox Security.

Regulatory reactions: Upcoming reforms and regulation in the US will increase the burden on banks to collect, maintain, and analyze vast masses of data this year, American Banker predicts, while the US Treasury has urged financial firms to examine the risks of cloud services.  

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the FTC just released the data that nearly 70,000 people reported “romance scams” last year, with aggregate losses of $1.3 billion.  


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