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When writing about his theory of evolution from natural selection, Charles Darwin, the great English naturalist, is reputed to have said, “it is the one that is most adaptable to change” that survives. Introducing the Julius Baer Intermediaries fintech event on 25 August 2021, Nic Dreckmann, COO & Head Intermediaries, cited Darwin as he described the challenges at a time of accelerated change. To evolve, he said, it was vital to adapt and be agile.

Julius Baer is turning to innovation to adapt, partly through technology, and is collaborating with fintechs from F10, the incubator and accelerator launched in Zurich in 2015. Doing so helps the bank to monitor new technologies, challenges it to keep pace and feeds it with new ideas that it is using selectively during the bank’s own agile transformation. The purpose of the event was for intermediaries to discover if they, too, could improve their adaptability through partnering with fintechs.

“The collaboration brings valuable new ideas into the organisation, whether it’s small or large,” explained Dreckmann. “It keeps us on our toes. We look at it and think about it. We have been taking some great benefit in terms of solutions, the speed of developing new solutions and coming up with crazy ideas from time to time.”

100 innovations with corporate partners

During the six years of its existence, F10 has built an ecosystem that brings together startups, corporate partners, experts and investors. It has incubated more than 120 successful startups, with more than 100 innovations developed jointly with corporates. More than USD100 million in total seed investment has been raised, and over 2,000 jobs created. F10 itself has expanded from its Swiss base to Spain and Singapore.

James Sanders, F10’s Programme Manager and a former winner of the Swiss baseball championship, described how the organisation identifies future fintech trends for its programs. It then invites startups to apply to join the program – to date there have been 3,000 applications.

A successful startup from the F10 stable is Neuroprofiler, which employs behavioural finance to help financial firms understand their clients’ risk tolerance. With financial regulation focusing on client suitability, there’s an immediate use case – especially with the European Securities and Markets Authority specifically referring to behavioural finance. Tiphaine Saltini, Neuroprofiler’s CEO and Co-Founder, described how private banks, family offices and intermediaries are using the investment profiling tool to assess client suitability, as well as for financial education and marketing purposes.

Four diverse startups

Giving a sense of the diversity of F10’s universe, four entrepreneurs presented their startups. F10 describes its young businesses as not just FinTech, but also RegTech, InsurTech and DeepTech. During the speed pitch sessions, guest speakers described their businesses in different areas at different stages of their lifecycles. Some had established products and paying clients. Others were just starting out, looking to co-develop solutions with financial firms, including intermediaries.

  1. First up was Ralf Huber, Co-Founder of Apiax, a RegTech startup founded in 2017, who showcased his firm’s regulatory technology solutions. He described how Apiax records new regulations digitally in areas as diverse as data protection, tax, cross-border rules and marketing restrictions, so that financial firms can simply and quickly refer to its software rather than monitoring complex changes in-house. As a fairly mature startup, Apiax counts several private banks and asset managers among its clients.
  2. Presenting atfinity, which digitises paper processes, CEO Alexander Balzer highlighted the inefficiencies faced by financial firms with paper-based processes, more of which had failed as Covid-19 had forced people from the office. By contrast, he explained, atfinity could quickly digitise paperwork, making standard processes digitised in just a few days, and complex processes within weeks.
  3. The next startup, Stableton Financial, was completely different. Carmine Meoli, Co-Founder, explained that in 2018 Stableton had set up an alternative investments platform, to make this opaque investment universe more accessible. By alternatives, he was referring to hedge funds, private equity, pre-IPO investments, private debt and real estate that are in demand in today’s low-interest rate environment. “We made it investable, bankable and provide after-sales services such as performance reporting and news about your investments,” noted Meoli.
  4. The final speaker was Daniel Rudis, Co-Founder and CEO of digipal, which harnesses AI and natural language processing for creating investment content. Doing so can increase scalability while decreasing cost, explained Rudis.

Finalising the event, Senad Celebic, Innovation Specialist, COO & Intermediaries, Julius Baer, emphasised that there is no standard approach for collaborating with fintechs. Sometimes the products are already established, on other occasions the solution must be co-created, he added. What’s more, working with fintechs can be experimental, with the end benefits not always clear.

After five years of working with F10, Celebic emphasised that there was no standard process, it was a collaboration and required the investment of time.

“We have shown you five different solutions (including Neuroprofiler) but there are plenty of others in the F10 network. If you have any interest let us know,” he concluded.

Key takeaways

  • Innovation, including technology, can help firms to adapt at a time of rapid change.
  • The F10 fintech incubator offers intermediaries the chance to work with startups to fast-track innovation.
  • Collaborating with fintechs may be unstructured but it is invaluable.

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