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Finance

Meniga CEO plans a banking "advertising" ecosystem to rival Google

There is already some debate about the role of banks in the future. Consumers hate them and blame them for anything wrong with society, fintech companies are aggressively circling, while huge tech behemoths, like Apple and Google, are gradually sidling into the space. 

All banks are “worried that what happened to the music industry” might happen to them, says Georg Ludviksson, CEO of Meniga, over the phone from Reykjavik, Iceland. We have “positioned ourselves as working with the banks,” he adds. “We are helping them navigate the future.”

Meniga is a seven year old company, which launched in Iceland at the same time as the banking system crumbled. Now headquartered in London – with a solid presence in Iceland - it provides software to around 30 banks in 17 countries. Over the last few years it has also been investing heavily in a data platform to provide a more sophisticated long-term solutions for banks.

These advances centre on personalisation and mean banks can provided more tailored messages to consumers, like a recommending cheaper mortgage options if their rent is very high, and they are solvent enough to switch to home ownership. The company’s aim at present – aside with concerted growth and a strategic push into new European markets – is to “transition our business model from software sales to a revenue share model,” explains Ludviksson.

The big idea here – and it seems like a sound one that many of the savviest companies are working towards one way or another – is to create a complete ecosystem from which banks can better position themselves as trusted “virtual personal financial advisors”.  This would be “an advertising ecosystem to rival Google,” explains Ludviksson “although advertising is a misleading word,” he adds. Basically banks would share more “deals to optimise your spending”.

In practice this ecosystem would require increased partnerships with third parties which, with a careful opt-in, would offer competitive services based around your individual spending patterns. It reminds me very strongly of what MyWave is providing with its intelligent assistant Frank only it would be backed up with concrete data based on your actual spending. This means the system might flag that you’re paying rather a lot for your gas bill, and if you were happy and had provided your permission, a whole load of rival gas companies might then pitch you with better offers.  

This a very compelling idea in some ways, but it does rather depend on two things. Firstly, the integration of the ecosystem – which is a stumbling block for many companies with grand ambitions. And secondly – and perhaps more fundamentally – the role of banks in future.

Interestingly, for a recent article on the future of money, I spoke to 28 different industry insiders to gauge their view on finance in 2026. Opinion was divided. And while this partly depended on how their company was positioned, it also highlighted the cross-roads we’re currently at.

“By 2026, we expect far more people to use specialist providers in place of their banks,” suggested Neville Lacey, head of international currency transfer service at UKForex.

While Max Speur, Chief Operating Officer of SunTec said: “Going forward, we are likely to see a continued roll out of financial transactions to providers outside the traditional banking players, as tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter will be equipped to provide financial services.”

Yet Dharmesh Mistry, UXP and Digital Product Director at Temenos  – another provider of banking software systems – told us: “Banks are the ones in the position of strength, and the savviest should emerge as even stronger brands from the payments shake-up.”

For those individuals that took this view, there was consensus that banks must adapt and utilise data more effectively in order to survive. Ludviksson thinks banks still have time to achieve this and the most innovative ones are constantly looking at new ways to develop. “Banks have scale” – they’re used by almost everyone, he adds.

Yet evolution is partly dependent on a change in attitude. Meniga predominantly relies on data from the banks themselves to offer personalised recommendations to consumers, but it can also pull in data from external sources.

“Many banks have chosen not to integrate with other banks,” says Ludviksson. Yet imminent changes to PSD2 in Europe has “seen banks become more aggressive” in their approach. This is because new legislation forces banks to be more open about the data stored in their accounts.

Banks are starting to go into competition against themselves, Ludviksson tells us. This could be by creating a separate startup within the bank, or working with, partnering with or buying up existing startups, to help stay ahead. They’re having “hard time innovating fast enough,” he explains.

“To be relevant the banks must take control of the data,” says Ludviksson. They need to be “aggressive with the data” and to make experiences personalised.

Ultimately banks “need to know everything and treat it respectfully not on a creepy way”. They need to become a “custodian of your data” and “a trusted financial advisor” and they need to make sure it takes place on a user friendly interface like Uber or Facebook.

In future, Ludviksson believes banks could incorporate all kinds of new technology like Virtual Reality. “We’re not investing [in VR] yet,” he clarifies. However, in a few years he thinks this could become just one other way data savvy, personalised banks interact with customer to provide financial advice.  

 

Further reading:

Start-ups vs. big banks: What is the future of money 2026?

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