Scott Mills, president of William Mills Agency, served as the moderator for a dynamic incubator, accelerators and fintech innovation panel discussion at the 2019 AFT Spring Summit in Tucson, Ariz.
The panelists consisted of Russ Bernthal, president of ProfitStars, a division of Jack Henry & Associates; Jeff Gapusan, fintech entrepreneur and leader of fintech acceleration efforts at the Advanced Technology Development Center (the State of Georgia's technology incubator); Brian Ley, president/CEO of Alpharank; Esther Pigg, FIS Senior Vice President of Product Strategy; and Kevin Tweddle, Chief Operating Officer for the ICBA Service Network and chief innovation officer of the ICBA ThinkTech Accelerator.
Bernthal summarized Jack Henry’s innovation strategy, “In our world, we think of innovation in three different ways: Should we built it? Should we partner? Should we buy?”
Pigg recommended innovation requires strategy right at the beginning. “Because frankly, lots of companies come to us, but is this going to enable us to bring the right solutions to our customers faster?
For tech developer Ley, the innovation process was a learning experience. “When we started, we took this raw technology; it really did not make sense, the value proposition was not evident. It was only after speaking with people that we discovered a problem that needed solving and applied our technology to that problem.”
For companies investing in new technology there is also an educational curve. “It's very much a learning experience. And each year we are more closely investing, and or partnering, with more and more of these companies,” Pigg acknowledged.
Tweddle maintained ICBA wants to provide resources to help spur innovation to help community banking. “We think the future of community banks is a collaboration between fintech and banking.”
Mills raised the question if banking organizations should be in the business of fintech investment? Tweddle responded, “It's going to be better for the fintechs cause we're going to teach them better. (Fintechs) are going to be able to serve community banks better. It's going to be better for the banks because these fintechs will be better prepared to serve them and understand their specific needs.”
Gapusan spoke about the partnership of business and education at the ATDC, which has produced about 170 graduates. “The partnership with the private sector really helps to facilitate a lot of demands and needs in terms of innovation.”
The panel touched on a number of other topics related to innovation such as sharing ideas. “I think that there's always an opportunity. The objective is to empower and equip our clients with the most current and relevant or real solution. So, we are very proactive with sharing that information,” Pigg said. Bernthal maintained, “We believe that if we do good for the industry, we're doing good for everybody.”
Gapusan pointed out that when moving into the fintech space one of the most interesting differences he discovered between other industries and financial institutions. “You see a very different ethos around the sharing. In fintech as a whole the feeling is ‘Yes, I'm willing to share some ideas with you because at the end of the day it’s about execution.’”
On lessons learned: “It is not about the horses, it's about the jockeys. It's really finding the right folks and mentoring those leaders,” Tweddle said. “I think it's really important to surround herself with great mentors,” Bernthal suggested. Ley said, “Set up those really efficient systems and focus on that and you'll find the innovations that you're looking for.”