As we near the close of 2020, we’re all crossing our fingers and hoping that 2021 brings a stronger sense of stability and normalcy. No matter how we define it, “normal” will differ dramatically from this point forward.
In particular, the digitization of banking has exploded since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that rate of change will continue to accelerate now that customers have gotten a taste for the simplicity and efficiency of the digital channel. As much as community banks have ramped up their digital offerings, 2021 will bring forth new customer expectations for mobile and electronic solutions.
That realization drove the thinking of the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator 2021 Selection Committee and our innovation partners, The Venture Center. When we began meeting in June, we recognized the next cohort would need to solve for pain points in this digital environment.
While customer-facing solutions remain of paramount importance, equally significant are the systems that support them internally. For example, you can have the best mobile banking experience in the world, but if you don’t have the right mix of fraud protection in place, it can become a liability.
It was with that mindset that our expanded selection committee began reviewing applications. We had significant interest in the program from more than 300 companies, and we were impressed by the quality, diversity, and maturity of our applicants. In fact, as a direct result of the success we’ve had in our last two programs—including awards from Finovate for several cohort participants and The Venture Center itself—the fintech community appears to be recognizing the value and importance of this very unique accelerator program.
Nothing breeds success like success, and this year we’ve enticed more seasoned companies than ever before, including a few applicants with eight-figure venture capital raises. These are relevant solutions that are applicable to the critical needs of community bankers and address hot areas like digital transformation and onboarding, customer self-service, know your customer requirements, BSA/AML services, fraud and risk mitigation, and beyond.
It is my pleasure to invite you to join us for the ThinkTECH Accelerator 2021 for a chance to exchange ideas and collaborate on solutions that will drive our industry forward. Because this year’s program is virtual, it has never been easier to participate. Without the physical constraints of travel and out-of-the-office time, your whole team can now participate. The time commitment is minimal—roughly 30 minutes for each company session.
We’ll work with you to schedule your team visit for this half-day event and will provide a primer on the companies and how the virtual interaction will work in advance of your virtual visit. I can assure you that you and your team will find it time well spent.
Looking back at this transformative year, we’ve realigned our objectives to ensure your bank priorities are represented in this latest cohort offering. And we’re asking you to provide critical feedback so that these solutions are perfectly calibrated and right-sized to create purpose-built solutions to take your bank’s offerings to the next level.
Charles E. Potts is ICBA Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer.