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ThinkTECH Accelerator: Through the Lens of a Mentor

Sep 26, 2019

By Tina Giorgio

Tina Giorgio-0131r

As we near the close of the application period for our second ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator program (make sure to refer a fintech or get your application in by Sept. 30!), I can’t help but look forward to being onsite in Little Rock again. There’s something so unique about the environment where all participants are learning, growing and evolving in pursuit of high-tech, high-touch customer experiences. 

As the head of ICBA’s payments subsidiary ICBA Bancard, it’s important that I keep my finger on the pulse of payments innovation. And working with our partner, The Venture Center, to participate as a mentor and coach allows me to peek behind the velvet curtain before these products are fully formed to ensure they’re optimized for the community bank marketplace.

Collaboration in Action

If I had to describe a typical day in the life as a mentor and coach during the 12-week bootcamp, I would say it’s a strategic whirlwind. From the moment I step foot into The Venture Center offices to the moment I depart for the airport, it’s collaboration central. Participating bankers, service providers and industry partners start off the day with an overview from The Venture Center team before participating fintechs delve into their elevator pitches. This provides a perfect segue into the one-on-one briefings that last the remainder of the day as we dive deeper into the individual fintech offerings and discuss the pain points they were designed to address.

It’s these pain points that often become the crux of our conversation and the entryway to real-time product modifications to better suit the needs of their target audience: community bankers.  Some of the questions that often arise include:

  • What need does the product fulfill?
  • How does it address compliance concerns?
  • Where does it fit into a bank’s existing infrastructure?
  • What’s the pathway to reaching community banks with the offering?

Real-World Perspectives

During my conversations with our ThinkTECH alumni, I often heard that the “real-world” perspectives from participating community bankers were invaluable in offering a unique vantage point from which to approach their product solutions.

They need a dose of reality to ensure their products can withstand the business, compliance and risk criteria essential for a community bank to consider greenlighting their offering. And mentors like myself benefit as well using the lens of these promising upstarts to view the needs of our customers.  

“We’re able to dive deeper with concerns and questions, and we get real-time feedback from the company,” said Chris Johnson, Little Rock market president for $1.1 billion-asset First Financial Bank in El Dorado, Ark. “In turn, the fintechs get to spend quality time with real, potential customers. For us, and for the companies, it’s very beneficial.”

Where else do you get the opportunity to individually spec out product needs as you explore new solutions to meet evolving customer requirements? 

But don’t take my word for it. Join us in Little Rock for the next bootcamp, taking place January – March 2020, to see for yourself.

To nominate a fintech or apply to participate in this year’s Accelerator program visit https://www.icba.org/thinktech. For community banks interested in visiting The Venture Center and providing feedback for our cohorts, email info@icba.org.

Tina Giorgio is President and CEO of ICBA Bancard, the payments services subsidiary of ICBA.