Core Providers Weigh in on Community Bank Innovation ​

By Kevin Tweddle 

Kevin Tweddle“Because we’ve always done it that way” are perhaps the seven most painful words in the English language when it comes to innovation.

It’s the death of new ideas that challenge conventional ways of thinking and the antithesis of the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator program, which fosters creative problem solving to look beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s possibilities. 

I recently sat down with Shane Ferrell, vice president, digital strategy for CSI; Kris Carrera, senior vice president, financial services products at FIS; and Stacey Zengel, president, Jack Henry Banking, Jack Henry & Associates, to discuss innovation and community banking.

As providers of essential community banking services, I wanted their perspective on how their organizations—the original fintechs—can help identify and facilitate innovation for community bank customers. 

What follows are excerpts from those conversations based on their participation in the inaugural ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator program. 

Why did you participate in the ICBA 
ThinkTECH Accelerator program? 

ZengelWe thought it was a good opportunity to see what the new ideas are and stay plugged into what’s happening in the market. 

Carrera: FIS, too, has an accelerator. And because ICBA is such a great partner, we invite them to participate, and vice versa. Anything that we can do to generate new product ideas to deliver to community banks, the better. I think we get a bigger bang for the buck with an accelerator in the community bank space. It really allows us to take technology and innovation to the next level.  

Ferrell: CSI delivers solutions that help banks remain competitive, compliant and profitable. And part of that is seeking out new and innovative technologies to bring back to the community bank market. We have a strong culture of supporting products that our banks want to use and bringing new innovations into the fold as a way for us to improve the health of the whole ecosystem.  

What sets the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator apart from other accelerator-type programs? 

Zengel: It was intimate and allowed for a lot of face time with the fintechs.  

Ferrell: It just really immerses fintechs in understanding the environment they are trying to do business in. By bringing together people from core companies, providers, and banks, it immediately gives fintechs context, real-world experience and conversations from that perspective.    

Carrera: We’ve pivoted from other more narrowly focused ways of obtaining new products and services information to accelerator-type programs. We think it is just a better way of getting the information quicker in order to partner and build and to deliver products and services back to community banks.  

Why is innovation critical to the community banking sector? 

Ferrell: There are services that community banks provide that large banks don’t, and others can’t, so making sure there is innovation happening in that space is very important. Without innovation, we can’t continue to compete and grow business. 

Zengel: Innovation is critical, but change can be hard. We continue to adapt as a society, and banking is part of that ecosystem. Banks have to embrace change and find ways to reach customers in shifting markets. It’s critical for them to continue to evolve to meet modern customer needs.  

Carrera: We do see the more progressive community banks, those that have truly invested in the digital way of doing business, growing at a faster rate. So, there is a direct correlation. Innovation is key …. to ensuring community banks continue to flourish.  

As we gear up for the launch of our ThinkTECH Accelerator 2.0, we invite you to join us onsite at the Venture Center in Little Rock, Ark., as a mentor. 

Your insight and feedback will help shape future innovation for our sector, while exploring new technologies with the potential to reimagine high-tech, high-touch customer interactions that align with your bank’s strategic initiatives. 

Kevin Tweddle is chief operating officer for ICBA Services Network.