By Kevin Tweddle
The Finovate Conference showcases some of the most innovative, emerging products in financial services, so I was pleased to see that not one, but two, of our ThinkTECH Accelerator cohort were on the docket to demo at the spring event: Agora and Invest Sou Sou. The cherry on top, of course, was when Invest Sou Sou received the prestigious Best of Show honors from a field of 60 plus fintechs presenters.
This recognition speaks volumes about fintech products like Invest Sou Sou, which targets the nation’s savings gap by offering banks an innovative social banking account that helps people save, build stronger credit, and invest with people they trust. Certainly, it addresses a market need, but I also think it emphasizes the prominent role that community banks serve in next-generation services.
“Community banks are the backbone of the U.S. economy,” said Fonta Gilliam, CEO and founder at Invest Sou Sou. “As an African American growing up in a family-owned business, I saw first-hand the power of my father getting access to capital through our local community bank to fund his pest control company.”
It’s this human connection that drives our banking environment. While Invest Sou Sou’s product centers on a technological solution, it’s really about leveraging relationships to address a market need. The more I look at today’s successful fintech offerings, the more I believe the critical component lies in the ability to strengthen the connection between technology and personal experience.
Case in point, Accelerator cohort Teslar, which brings banking systems together to interoperate from a single platform and helps to empower bankers to better serve their customers. Teslar’s solution was awarded the Banker’s Choice award at an earlier showcase during the ICBA LIVE national convention in March. Then there’s MK Decision, whose online loan origination system provides a path for community banks to offer a more seamless user experience. The company recently inked a deal with ICBA’s payments services subsidiary, ICBA Bancard, to offer its solution to client banks. These are just a few examples of the growing marriage between community bank customer connections and technology solutions.
“The human touch is what makes community banking so special,” remarked Arcady Lapiro, CEO and co-founder at Agora. “We fine-tuned functionalities to be more human-oriented with certain products. We want to work hand-in-hand with community banks and to be a success story.”
Kevin Tweddle is Chief Operating Officer for ICBA Services Network.
ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator COHORT
ICBA’s inaugural ThinkTECH Accelerator program featured eight innovative companies, which were selected for their relevancy to the community bank marketplace. They include:
Adlumin, Alexandria, Va.
Botdoc, Monument, Colo.
Agora, New York, N.Y.
To learn more visit www.icba.org/fintech.