Steve Jobs famously said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” That statement speaks to the fact that as a leader, you look at the world not as it is, but as it could be. It means you do not rest on your laurels but look to evolve, to challenge the status quo, to do things better, faster, smarter, and more efficiently.
It’s almost as if Steve Jobs was part of the community banking industry.
We’ve talked about the innovation that’s occurred on the fly over the past few months in response to COVID-19, but community bankers have long been charting an innovation course. With your nimbleness and ability to adapt, you run with new solutions to better serve your customers as their needs arise. That attitude speaks volumes about the community bank innovation culture.
But as the market becomes laden with new products and services, it can be daunting to choose those best suited to your unique business goals. Community banks are not one-size-fits-all. They have different business models, different customer bases, and different communities to serve—and the service providers who understand that make the best partners.
That’s why ICBA launched its ThinkTECH initiatives in 2018. Both ramped up at the end of the year, and the first iteration of the ThinkTECH Accelerator and the ThinkTECH Network officially kicked off in January 2019, putting focused attention around ICBA’s longstanding innovation goals. The ThinkTECH programs have grown exponentially since then, with the addition of a second Accelerator, Paycheck Protection Program product showcases, an expanding network, and more. And the momentum continues to climb.
Investing in Future Innovation
In fact, ICBA just pledged a three-year investment commitment to the ThinkTECH innovation program through 2024. Focused on the solutions that address true community bank problems, the ThinkTECH Accelerator and Network will continue to offer up potential partners that understand community banks, their customers, and their unique needs. They also both provide opportunities for community banks to give direct feedback on these solutions, helping to influence how they serve the sector.
The program’s influence also continues to grow and build upon the strong showing of its alumni cohort and the atmosphere of collaboration evidenced by the involvement of key influencers—including regulators, industry experts and community bank leaders—all of whom are helping ICBA facilitate and support robust innovation initiatives. We see opportunities to further engage this audience in dialogue and decisioning. From policy forums to programmatic expansion, having regulators, legislators, and new and established fintechs working together to support community bankers is the manifestation of our mission-driven innovation.
By growing these programs, we will help ensure that innovation remains an obtainable, strategic priority, providing direct access to the latest developments year-round to help you meet your business objectives and address evolving customer needs.
Our goal is to create a repeatable, action-based program that fosters innovation and draws out the best partners for each of you. Because our role as your industry association is to ensure you have what you need to lead us well into the future.
Charles Potts is ICBA Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer.