Building ICBA’s Innovation Team

Feb 07, 2020

By Kevin Tweddle

As an industry, we’re at a pivotal stage where the pace of change increases daily and digital transformation rocks our reality. But amidst everything, community bankers remain steadfast in putting the customer relationship first. It may be wrapped in digital solutions, but the customer connection drives business.

That relationship-leading mindset folds into every aspect of our organizations, down to how we staff our teams. Because, in business and in life, our people advance our mission, not the other way around. To quote the former COO of General Electric, Lawrence Bossidy, “Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.”[1]

That’s why I was excited to announce Charles Potts as ICBA’s senior vice president and chief innovation officer. Charles has served as president of the Association for Financial Technology, has launched multiple start-ups, and is a former banker, offering a unique combination of capabilities that were custom-made for this position.

Like most business leaders, Charles has had his fair share of successes, typically after encountering the occasional setback. It’s an entrepreneur’s motto: if you aren’t taking enough risks, you’re leaving potential business on the table. Getting to know Charles, I came to understand that a willingness to fall, dust himself off, and get back up again was innate to who he is as a person.

“When you start a company, there’s a lot of stumbling in the woods,” Charles shared. “When you get your product out there, you find you’ve got your go-to-market or pricing strategy wrong or your partnership opportunities are off. You’ve just burned precious capital that didn’t yield the results you needed. Those are the things I learned the hard way, but I still kept going.”

It’s because of this tenacity and his ability to think big picture, making the most of every opportunity while making the necessary course corrections, that affords him the expertise and knowhow to advise ICBA, our community bank members and our partners. For example, he speaks entrepreneur and can mentor the ThinkTECH Accelerator participants in a way that resonates, precisely because he has been where they are and can relate to their journeys.

“In the fintech world today, there are a lot of really smart entrepreneuers building a lot of interesting technology that has limited market applicability,” Charles noted. “With the Accelerator cohort, we’re constantly looking at the demands of the marketplace and translating that into our entrepreneurs’ solutions. We don’t want these companies to just create cool, shiny objects; we want them focused on quality solutions our bankers want us to produce.”

Beyond that, Charles sees his work with community banks today a natural next step and a way to repay the industry for the support he’s received during his journey.

“Had it not been for community bankers, a couple of my early companies would not have been possible. They were willing to give me time and to take a chance on me,” Charles recalled. “Now, I’m in a stage where I’m hoping others can benefit from my lessons learned as we work to build the future of community banking. I’m really excited for the opportunity to give back and enable success.”

That mindset is what set him apart from the more than 180 applicants screened for this position, and why Charles was ultimately selected to continue to cultivate our innovation journey and help guide ICBA to where we need and want to be to best serve our members. He has all the skill sets—fintech, business, banking, and beyond—to take us to that next level. I’m looking forward to seeing the imprint that Charles is going to leave as he takes us and community banking into the next era.

Kevin Tweddle is Senior Executive Vice President of Community Bank Solutions.