How Community Bankers Association of Illinois Partnered with ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator to Further Community Bank Innovation

By Charles E. Potts

May 18, 2022

Community Bankers Association of Illinois (CBAI) is no stranger to fintech collaborations, but the idea of helping shape fintech offerings tailored to community banks was too intriguing an idea to pass up, said Mike Kelley, president of Community BancService Corp., Inc., the services arm of CBAI.

While this year’s Accelerator program is in the rearview mirror, ICBA’s innovation journey continues. I’ll be taking our innovation show on the road, attending state conventions and industry conferences to showcase our cohort alumni’s reimagined community-bank centric solutions.

For more information on the ThinkTECH Accelerator visit icba.org/thinktech/accelerator or to watch product demos from the 2022 Accelerator cohort check out this playlist.

So, when ICBA extended an invitation to CBAI to participate as a mentor during the 2022 ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator program Kelley was eager to get started. “When we dove a little deeper into the Accelerator, we realized the opportunity to identify promising fintech companies and work with them to offer community bank-specific feedback to refine their solutions.”

The state association recently established its own innovation committee, and its participating bankers made plans to attend the Accelerator as a group. In mid-March, 11 Illinois-based bank CEOs made the trip to visit the Accelerator at The Venture Center in Little Rock, Ark.

Onsite Accelerator Experience

The diverse group—with bank assets from $100 million to $1.5 billion and market segments just as varied—from rural agricultural areas to metropolitan cities and their suburbs—came ready with their list of questions. In addition, different core providers were accounted for in the mix, so beyond varied customer bases, attending bankers also covered the gamut of operational considerations.

“It was a huge benefit to be in a group as we could bounce ideas off of our fellow bankers,” said attendee Andrew Black, president and CEO of $115 million-asset Princeville State Bank in Princeville, Ill. “Our innovation committee learned so much from the two days we had there, and it further energized us for future discussions.”

Andrew Tinberg, senior executive vice president and chief banking officer at $1.6 billion-asset CNB Bank & Trust, in Carlinville, Ill., also attended and said the enthusiasm onsite was contagious. “I experienced a sense of excitement about the future of community banking that I haven’t felt in quite a while. To see 11 companies dedicated to providing unique solutions specifically to community banks was just awe-inspiring.”

In addition to meeting with the cohort as a group, each bank was also afforded one-on-one time with cohort participants to address their specific questions and further explore opportunities and challenges within their market.

“That was truly where the [rubber] met the road as we were able to challenge individual cohort participants to ascertain the appropriateness of their innovation to our individual and unique applications,” Tinberg explained.

Visit ROI

Conversations were fruitful, as bankers pointed to immediate action steps coming out of their visit.

“We have already contracted with one of the cohort participants and are in early-stage implementation with them, and we just had a kick-off call with a second,” said Tinberg. “My team is [also] looking at solutions offered by two others in the cohort to address specific challenges within our organization. And we are committed to watching two more as they grow and develop their offerings to determine if they may be vendors we want to partner with in the future.”

“I’m also happy to report that we have signed with one company from the cohort for a late Q2 launch,” said Black. CBAI also extended invitations to the cohort and past participants, to sign up for membership so they could get in front of other like-minded community bank institutions, Black noted.

From any measure, the Accelerator visit proved to be time well spent for banks looking to expand their innovation outlook, said participants.

“The entire experience of visiting the Accelerator was so rewarding it is permanently on my agenda going forward,” Tinberg said. “The camaraderie experienced when visiting with other bankers, to hear their challenges and some of the solutions that have worked for them, was in and of itself worthy of the visit.”