ThinkTECH Accelerator Showcase: Taking Innovation to the Profitable Next Level

By Charles E. Potts

March 04, 2022

“There is only one threat, and it’s inaction,” said The Venture Center’s Wayne Miller in his opening remarks at the ThinkTECH Accelerator Showcase at ICBA LIVE. That set the tone for the session, where each fintech in the cohort presented not only their solutions but emphasized the results behind them—and the ROI they offer community banks.

For example, Quilo, this year’s Bankers’ Choice Award recipient, empowers community banks to fully launch core-independent digital lending products in less than six weeks and touts a high-yield return on assets.

“You can’t come with preconceived ideas of what fintech is,” said Steve Heine, president and CEO of $375 million-asset Woodsboro Bank in Woodsboro, Md., who virtually attended the Accelerator in mid-February. “The Accelerator challenges how you think about fintech in your bank.”

"Fintech is the future of banking ... so it was good to hear and see some of the new ideas and how they are [being] integrated," said ThinkTECH Showcase attendee Chris Moya, president and CEO of the Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico.

But what about the Accelerator sets the bar so high? First-time attendees from this year’s program sum it up in three key findings:

  1. The companies in the cohort understand community banks. Because these fintechs are vetted by an ICBA Selection Committee of community bankers, their solutions address collective pain points in an accessible way.

    In fact, Blake Heid, president and CEO of First Option Bank, a $600 million-asset bank in Kansas City, was so taken with this year’s cohort that he has expanded his research to include program alumni. “I actually am pouring back through the previous years’ participants to see what I missed and what could help us solve some of our needs or provide additional services to our clients.”

  2. Solutions address a wide range of community bank needs. The cohort brings with it a diverse mix of solutions, and with virtual visits, community bankers can invite team members responsible for various business lines to provide relevant feedback.

    For example, Thomas Ramsay, executive vice president and chief retail officer at Woodsboro Bank, researched each cohort member prior to his visit to better determine which staff to tap for various presentations.

    “I wanted to get the stakeholders who are truly involved in it, so we’re hearing from the team with everyday knowledge of what’s happening in our bank,” said Ramsay. “It was nice to have those individuals present and helped us to be thoughtful in the way we approached discussions.”

    Heine concurred, “I can tell you if ICBA does as good a job next year as this year, there are other people in our bank who will want to see every one of the cohort presentations.”

  3. The offerings are affordable for community banks of all sizes.

    Across the board, Accelerator attendees commented on the wide applicability of cohort solutions.

    “What surprised me was how easy they are to work with, and how affordable for what you want,” said Heid. “Every bank is different, but from what we saw, the solutions could work for lots of different sizes of community banks.”

    Heine of Woodsboro Bank made a similar observation, noting that the current landscape has opened up new technology options. “Historically, new solutions would mean you had to think about applications, long implementation schedules, and high price tags, but in today’s open architecture environment, when you talk to fintechs, it’s a reasonable investment. They are helping community banks level the playing field.”

With their first-time experiences behind them, Ramsay, Heid and Heine all say they’re planning to participate again next year, noting the value of interacting directly with the fintech founders and asking specific questions germane to their bank.

“What you hear in that pitch and what you see when you actually sit down with them at the Accelerator, it’s different,” says Heid. “It was definitely worth the day to really get a better feel for what these companies can do,” said Heid who also attended the ThinkTECH Showcase and said it reinforced his views on the program’s value.

It’s not too late to schedule an Accelerator visit to explore how this cohort addresses your specific business needs. Take it from your colleagues; it will be time well spent.