Continuing the ThinkTECH Accelerator Journey

By Charles Potts

Charles Potts

Author C.S. Lewis once noted, “Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth.” As I apply that to innovation, I recognize its profound truth: new solutions solidify because of the tenacity and stick-to-it mindset of their inventors and the willingness of the market to evolve in response to desired change.

Certainly, the ThinkTECH Accelerator program was founded on that logic. We recently announced the opening of the application period for our third cohort to maintain the program’s momentum and ongoing quest to identify technology solutions that solve for community bank pain points. However, this time around, we have COVID-19 impacts to consider.

Over the past five months, community banks have ramped up digital solutions at a breakneck pace to respond to this new, necessary digital environment. From the electronic loan application process to online account opening and new risk-monitoring solutions, we have witnessed a rapid rise in banking technology.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) alone offers us a concrete example of this concept at work. We’ve shared the all-hands-on-deck approach employed by community banks, working with their fintech partners, to quickly build out digital offerings in support of small-business customers. ICBA even held a PPP Forgiveness Fintech Solutions Sprint to help community banks navigate the uncertainty of forgiveness requirements and facilitate partnerships with previous Accelerator cohort.

Charting an Innovation Path for Success

Such collaborations between ThinkTECH alumni and community bankers speak to the success of the program. In addition, Accelerator alumni continue to be celebrated in industry forums.

Most recently, Finovate recognized both Teslar and Finzly as finalists in its awards program. Teslar was selected as a finalist for Best Fintech Partnership and Finzly received nods in two categories: Best Enterprise Payments Solution and Best Back-Office/Core-Service Provider.

But it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. While one solution may work for one bank, another may be needed for a different institution. In short, multiple offerings make for a stronger market.  

For this reason, ICBA will continue its Accelerator program journey in collaboration with The Venture Center, which also was recognized by Finovate for nurturing quality fintech companies and priming them for success.

Ultimately, our goal with the Accelerator, and with our ThinkTECH initiatives more broadly, is to establish a vehicle for community bank-fintech partnerships that produce measurable results and can be leveraged to address market demands. We see the Accelerator as a way for banks to build connections with emerging solution providers and to help shape the products coming to market.

I encourage all bankers to get involved in the Accelerator program. Feel free to reach out to me to talk more about these opportunities or contact [email protected] to nominate a fintech for consideration.

The Accelerator, by its design, will continue to support community bank innovation. As we grow as a community banking industry, we will retain the best of who we are, complementing our relationship banking model with the technology that responds to emerging customer demands. Our continued work to combine these high-tech and high-touch services will ensure growth that equals success far into the future.

Financial technology companies interested in participating in our upcoming Accelerator are encouraged to submit an application before the Sept. 15 deadline.

Charles Potts is ICBA senior vice president and chief innovation officer.