Financial Innovation in Focus: Benedetta Arese Lucini, Co-Founder, Oval Money

Benedetta Arese Lucini is one of Italy’s and Europe’s leading tech entrepreneurs. She is the co-founder and CEO of Oval Money, a personal finance management app that harnesses the power of collective intelligence to help users track and save their money. Prior to founding Oval, Benedetta was CEO of Uber Italy, where she oversaw a complex market rollout across Italy’s major metropolitan areas.

Benedetta’s international experience also includes time in South East Asia as the Head of Operations at Zalora, leading the regional launch of the Rocket Internet Group e-commerce company. Benedetta believes that fintech innovation must help improve underlying financial literacy in order to truly empower the consumer.

What is your perspective on the shifting landscape of banking and financial services? Where do you see the greatest opportunity?

With the advent of Open Banking, the average person has never been more empowered to make wiser choices about their own money. The change in how people can access their banking information and where they chose to access it from will empower many services to step in and provide a better experience.

For example, at Oval Money, we develop machine learning algorithms on top of users expense data that guide people to better spending. Oval Money learns from your spending habits and makes informed suggestions on how to improve on your ability to save and then invest, empowering the individual to shape the path to financial healthiness.

What do you feel is the greatest innovation of 2018?

2018 is the year of diversity. We have a long way to go but the #Metoo movement started in the US but that has spread across the world has highlighted the importance of getting more woman at the table. The numbers are still depressingly low; From 2009-2014, for example, the proportion of women founders of US tech startups grew modestly from 10% to 18%, according to a report by CrunchBase.

A subsequent report by the firm in the first quarter of this year put the figure at 17%, and showed zero growth over the previous four years. Looking at the female employment quota, only 35% of the average workforce in the top tech public companies are women – this number decreases to under 20% if you focus on tech roles. But hopefully the #metoo woman helps more men be accountable for women in tech.

Where do you see the future of financial services?

Financial services companies’ competitive advantage lies in their infrastructure for payment transactions, and multiple compliance and risk operations that are often impossible to replicate for the newest startups, given required capital and intense regulatory scrutiny.

This is why there is an ever-growing trend of banking as a service (BAAS) technology operators that allow young FinTech startups to utilise the existing infrastructure of bank accounts and payment circuits whilst building great customer-focused experiences on top. This would provide a competitive advantage for the traditional industry that will be retaining leadership in access to network and infrastructure; with an eye to consolidating with certain technology apps and services that succeed in innovating the last mole for finance.

How do you envisage the future of AI and its applications?  

Today, data has become currency and the new technology advances have meant that more and more decisions will be taken by machines, not humans. The future of AI will needs a strong ethical uplift. Even though AI advances will bring huge efficiencies and will allow people to focus on the creative part of their roles, a human centric approach to AI is necessary to bridge the gap between efficient execution and a fair outcome.

If you were to offer three key takeaways for fintechs investing their time and resource in technological innovation, what would they be?

  • Create a product-centric organization, but make sure you have tested the product market fit.
  • Technological innovation is not the goal, it is the means to getting a new solution to an underserved consumer base faster or better.
  • Innovating in a highly regulated industry means you need to think of the framework in which you bring change, as well as what is the problem you are trying to solve

Join Benedetta as she participates on our panel, ‘Harnessing the Practical Applications of AI in the Finance Industry’ at the Accelerating Digital Transformation Conference on December 5th. Sign up for Fintech Connect conference tickets here  Use the code FT15 to get 15% off tickets. 


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