Charting the Innovation Path with ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator
By Kevin Tweddle
For community bankers, innovation is no longer a buzzword—it’s a state of mind. The financial services landscape continues to shift and evolve right before our eyes. While community banks relish a nimble, can-do nature, when the path forward looks more like a surrealist painting than a steadfast highway, it can be tough to know which direction to take.
In this innovate-or-be-left-behind environment, ICBA recognized there’s more we can do as an organization to help our community banks chart the course ahead. So, last year, we assembled a cross-functional team and collected feedback from community bankers to assess where there are gaps in the marketplace and how the ICBA team can fill them, providing community banks with more opportunities to flourish.
And that’s how we landed on our partnership with the Venture Center in Little Rock, Ark., to launch the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator. As you may remember, we launched the program on Oct. 31. The program is designed specifically for community banks to directly engage and partner with early-stage fintech companies focusing exclusively on community bank product development. I’m pleased to say that since the launch, we have received upwards of 190 applications from potential fintech providers.
We have also narrowed the field to our final 10 participants, who will be working over the next few months to build out their concepts. We will announce these final 10 participants Jan. 9 at a press conference that will be held at the Venture Center. It will be an exciting kickoff for the bootcamp phase of this incredible project. I’m looking forward to being there, along with ICBA Chairman-Elect Preston Kennedy, Venture Center staff and several Arkansas dignitaries, including the governor of Arkansas. It’s all very exciting.
Over the course of the next 12 weeks, these 10 fintech companies will navigate a full-scale bootcamp. We have designed the bootcamp to maximize input from community banks, and a key component of its activities involves direct mentorship and interaction with community bankers. This feedback will be invaluable to refining and shaping solutions to ensure they truly meet community bank needs.
There are two avenues for community bank engagement in this program: (1) We’ve established a selection committee comprising community bank leaders and ICBA staff; and (2) We’re in the process of coordinating visits for other bankers who can come to the Venture Center, hear more of what the fintechs are developing, and share input. We invite anyone interested in participating to reach out. We’d love to have you join us at the Venture Center as your schedule allows.
In addition, we’ll be profiling each of the finalists over the course of the bootcamp, so community bankers can get a better understanding of the products being developed. This means even if you can’t join us onsite, you’ll have an opportunity to comment, offer input and stay connected to the important work being conducted for the benefit of our industry. ICBA LIVE is also your chance to meet with the 10 fintech companies selected. We’ll have an energizing showcase of their innovative solutions right there in in the Expo Hall. We hope to see you there.
We believe the future of community banking is high-tech and high-touch, which is why ICBA strives to identify opportunities to combine the deep relationships community banks create with their customers with the technology that allows them to expand those interactions. With the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator, we’re looking for solutions that enable that unique dynamic to thrive.
We hope you will join us on this journey.
Kevin Tweddle is chief operating officer for the ICBA Services Network.