Unexpected Benefits of ICBA’s ThinkTECH Accelerator

By Kevin Tweddle 

Kevin TweedleWhen I ask a banker to attend ICBA’s ThinkTECH Accelerator as a mentor, I typically note obvious benefits—namely, access to innovation experts and a first look at emerging technologies. And of course, there’s the added incentive for bankers of finding a technology solution to address a particular need at their bank. All of these are reasons to join the team in Little Rock, but I’ve come to understand that the benefits don’t end there.  

I recently chatted with past Accelerator mentors John Buhrmaster, president and CEO of $508 million-asset First National Bank of Scotia, N.Y., and Scott McComb, chairman and CEO of Heartland Bank, a $1 billion-asset bank in Whitehall, Ohio. What they shared unveiled another level of Accelerator benefits — from shaking up perceptions to really changing marketplace dynamics. The following recaps our conversation and explores how the Accelerator benefitted them in unforeseen ways.  

Attending the ThinkTECH Accelerator changes your pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a fintech. Over the past decade, there has been a boom in accelerators. In fact, according to a report from the Brookings Institution, accelerators in the U.S. increased an average of 50 percent each year between 2008 and 2014. With growth in these programs comes a corresponding explosion in fintech companies—and a wide range of bank perceptions of them.  

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” McComb said. “I had preconceived ideas about fintechs, and I was pleasantly surprised. I really wish I would have spent more time.” 

It also means you have a tangible impact on community banking. The model we employ at the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator ensures community bankers shape fintech offerings to address community bank pain points with new solutions, so banker input is invaluable.  

McComb said he helped Teslar, a provider of automated workflow and portfolio management tools, refine its marketing message.  

“Most loan officers say they can’t keep up with their portfolio at $40 or $50 million,” McComb told Teslar. “If you can take each one of those loan officers and make them do another $25 or $30 million, that’s how you sell the system. You’ve just created more runway for a loan officer to where you don’t have to add another person. I think they use that in their marketing now.”  

And, you enhance your own vendor evaluation skills. When you come to the Accelerator, you’re generally thinking about how you can help the companies who attend. But in the process, you may just sharpen your own product assessment skills.  

“Going to the Accelerator keeps me on my toes and keeps me alert to what is trending,” Buhrmaster pointed out. “You do not have to have a technology background to benefit from this. It is an excellent way for you to get a quick primer and really toss yourself into it. You learn the questions they ask, and it makes you a better shopper as well.”  

Clearly, the unexpected benefits of attending the Accelerator may be just as important as planned takeaways. It was Oscar Wilde who said, “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” Well, if modern intellect and the unexpected meet anywhere, I’d say it’s at ICBA’s ThinkTECH Accelerator. 

With that in mind, I hope you’ll join us at this year’s program or visit the new cohort of companies at the Accelerator showcase slated for ICBA LIVE® in Orlando. I can assure you that you’ll walk away with more than you anticipated.   

Kevin Tweddle is chief operating officer for the ICBA Services Network.