We reveal what we have found most useful, ingenious or just good fun over the past year.
A few of our favourite digital things, from last year.
David Stevenson, Executive Director: Curve
My highlight for 2019 has been the success of Curve. I've long felt its proposition is unique. In effect, it is an aggregator of existing credit and debit cards.
Rather peculiarly Curve seemed to be marketing itself initially at the millennial demographic, who by and large don't have enough money to have lots of different cards (debts, certainly). In my humble opinion, the key target for this product has always been older customers (like me), many of them in business or who travel extensively with work.
The features built into Curve allow us to choose the card we want to pay with and then even roll back a transaction to another card. Add in the low Fx charges and the cashback features(which though useful seem a tad complicated), and you have the killer card for the yuppy or older business person.
The mistargeting of customer segments always worried me and I had my doubts about the viability of the (excellent) product set especially when Amex decided to cut all links to Curve. But a successful crowd fundraise this year along with new VC investment has allayed these fears and I can see Curve going on to greater things.
In fact, I liked the proposition so much I even invested a slug of money in the Crowdcube round earlier this year - something of a first for me as I'm a relatively cautious type when it comes to early-stage investing.
If Curve can simplify the message, make the product offer even more attractive and scale properly at the international level, I think it has the ability to be a real breakthrough global product especially in the USA where tens of millions of customers have a multiplicity of cards. One to really watch for the next decade.
Daniel Lanyon, Managing Editor: MoneyBox
I am a bit of an investment nerd and, whilst I am also a regular user of Freetrade and Hargreaves Lansdown where I have ISAs and a SIPP, I have become very fond of MoneyBox for the simple reason that its psychological nudges and basic investment dashboard keeping me away from trying to be the next star stock picker and help me gradually build up my pennies via its round ups. It works well, is not perfect, but is keenly fit for the purpose of putting money aside and keeping you away from it.
For the uninitiated, MoneyBox links with your bank account(s) and rounds purchases up to the nearest round number. If I buy something for 99p, £1 is debited and a 1p is squirrelled away for investment into equities and property focused ETFs.
Portfolios are risk-targeted and can be largely cash, if that's your bag. Whilst the portfolio monitoring is basic to say the least, it is good enough and somehow MoneyBox gives you the right balance of information to let you know what you're invested in but makes you soon forget about your portfolio and let the market do the rest. Fees are a bit high unless you have £1-2k in your account as they include a fixed £1 per month as well as percentage charge on assets but as long as you are not just leaving £100 there for a few years and actually regularly paying in via rounds up and a regular direct debit, it is a reasonable(ish) price to pay to get over the hardest barrier to investing: getting started.
Oliver Smith, Editor: PensionBee
Choosing your favourite fintech app of the year is an unfair competition. Mainly as it has more to do with your own financial life—whether you’re a Freetrade’ing investor or a ‘Monzonaut’—than the actual quality of the app.
But, with that disclaimer aside, my favourite fintech app of 2019 was PensionBee.
It’s fair to say that PensionBee’s app started life at the beginning of the year in a woeful state. Barebones would be an understatement.
However, gradual improvements and refinements, with the addition of clever features like a smart retirement planner, performance charts, and the ability to switch plans directly from the app have all been welcome improvements.
PensionBee might never be as flashy or feature-full as a Starling or an N26, but this year it earned its place on my home screen by helping me stay on top of my savings for retirement—an achievement in itself.