Community Bankers’ Fintech Program Sees Accelerating Momentum

The Independent Community Bankers of America found so much success with the first round of its Arkansas-based ThinkTECH Accelerator that it’s doing it all over again next year.

You might think a tech-minded approach to innovation has to live on one of the coasts to have an impact, but that’s not always the case.

In fact, one banking association has found the perfect home for the latest iteration of its financial technology accelerator: Arkansas.

The Independent Community Bankers of America revealed recently that it was launching the second round of its ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator in Little Rock to help promote new thinking in the world of community banking. It comes about nine months after launching the first round, also in Arkansas. ICBA has been working closely with both the state of Arkansas and Little Rock-based The Venture Center on the accelerator project, with the goal of finding fintech ideas that could provide a future spark to the community-banking sector.

In a way, the idea of launching a technology accelerator in Arkansas is a natural fit for ICBA, which represents about 5,000 small and midsize banks around the country.

The approach is also proving attractive to startups around the world—the last round drew 190 applicants from 40 countries, with some as close as nearby Fayetteville and some as far away as Australia. Accepted applicants in the first round—eight firms took part in the initial program—received $75,000 in investments, education during a 12-week program in Little Rock, access to more than 40 banks, and the opportunity to conduct a pitch at the association’s annual meeting, ICBA Live. At the end of the event, participating companies took part in a “demo day.”

After finding success with the initial program, the second round will follow a similar model.

“We’ve had tremendous success cultivating community bank-fintech partnerships that marry high-tech, high-touch solutions to eliminate market-entry barriers and address community bank business needs,” Kevin Tweddle, the chief operating officer of ICBA Services Network, said in comments to Talk Business & Politics. “The second ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator marks the next phase in community banking’s innovation journey and positions our industry as leaders in fintech. We are excited to continue breaking through conventional banking limitations.”

In a feature from TechBullion, writer Albert Cooper notes that the approach allows smaller community banks, which are responsible for much of the lending around the country, to have access to the same kind of fintech innovation as larger partners.

“With this ‘bridge,’ community banks can access fintech companies in their early stages, thus avoiding massive costs,” Cooper writes. “Utilizing this partnership, community banks can access various technologies including core processor and credit bureau APIs, AI direct lender origination platforms, fraud prevention systems, paperless processing, etc.”

ICBA will be accepting applications for the program through September 30.

(monsitj/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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