How My Bank’s Team Delivered and Received Value from the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator Experience

By Robert Fisher

Last year I flew to Little Rock, Ark. to participate in the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator program and found it to be a meaningful and constructive use of my time. But this year’s virtual forum raised the bar to a whole new level and allowed me to bring my entire team into the process — something we were all excited about.

For this round, my bank’s senior leadership, including Susan Allen, vice president, regional manager; George Bowen, chief lending officer; Jennifer Brockner, chief financial officer; Jennifer Moraczewski, senior vice president, deposit operations and technology; Christopher Powers, senior vice president, human resources; and Lisa Welch, chief credit officer, were able to participate, and including the team was one of the best decisions I could have made. Their expertise resulted in richer dialogue, deeper analysis of the solutions, and importantly, enhanced advice for participating fintechs.

As community banker mentors in the program, it’s not just about evaluating the solutions to fit our bank’s needs; it’s about the broader community banking environment and the global pain points we are all working to solve.

Take, for example, our conversation with one of the fintechs who offered a promising product for community banks but was missing a few key considerations. We were able to provide strategic insights on how the founders could further grow community bank interest by:

  1. Ensuring each of the major card networks was represented in the solution. Community banks don’t all use one credit card provider, and having their provider engaged simplifies the road to execution.
  2. Developing a vendor management plan for community banks. Jen, our operations lead, noted how critical vendor management is for us and something all community banks will be considering as they evaluate the solution.
  3. Introducing reporting functionality to track product use. This will make the product more attractive for a variety of needs.

In our discussions, we also met with a fintech that offered a next-generation internal product. Susan, our vice president, regional manager, pointed out that employees want to feel they are part of a solution, so building team excitement about its benefits only strengthens the product’s effectiveness.

During another demo, we noted the level of detail in the fintech’s data analysis and the potential value it offered for our business customers but cautioned it might obscure a clear call to action and overwhelm them. We suggested adding a turnkey option that would allow banks filter the massive amounts of data available to help meet the goal of quick, digestible insights for customers.

Recapping my experience fully would take much longer than the space allotted for just one blog. In fact, the vetting process to assemble nine such companies and walk through their benefits while engaging in meaningful dialogue would take even longer. 

So, I was extremely pleased that by the end of the day, my team and I had identified six or seven companies we could envision working with over the next couple of years. A roughly 65 percent or 75 percent take rate? Who can say that of previous pitches they’ve heard?  

Clearly, we had a productive, action-packed day. But it was particularly successful because we all walked away with additional insights to help us do our jobs better.  

While in-person engagement is hard to fully replicate in a virtual environment, moving forward, I hope we’re able to keep some version of this virtual approach because it afforded a unique opportunity to have my team hear directly from the cohort and share their insights.

We’re winding down this year’s program but want to continue encouraging banker participation, so if you’d like to serve as a mentor for the next ThinkTECH Accelerator program let us know. This is a unique opportunity to help community banks lead and transform the delivery and design of financial services—today, tomorrow, and well into the future.

Bob Fisher is president and CEO of Tioga State Bank and ICBA chairman.