The Importance of an Innovation Strategy

Posted on October 22, 2019
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By Wayne Miller

Executive Director, The Venture Center

The recruitment period for ICBA ThinkTECH 2.0 has officially ended and the Selection Committee is in the process of evaluating the incredible applicants. We are particularly excited about the opportunities that exist with this Accelerator because in this 2nd year, we are primed to experience a tremendous level of growth. We are in a constant cycle of refinement to perfect our process, and this go-round will be more efficient, more strategic, and more successful for fintech founders and for community bankers who need to stay on the cutting edge of technology to better serve their customers.

The ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator enables our cohort companies and community bankers to exchange ideas, to help shape, mold and sculpt the ideas, and ultimately to validate the solutions on the table. The feedback is immediate, and it is valuable, and that’s largely due to how ICBA’s membership and management engage in the process. We have leadership at every level joining us here, along with 50-100 bankers from all over the country. All of these stakeholders spending one-on-one time with fintechs is the most collaborative approach to innovation around. There is no other place where early-stage fintech companies have an opportunity of this magnitude.

 While the environment and opportunity is incredible for company founders, for ICBA it highlights the importance of having a strong innovation strategy. ICBA represents the nation’s roughly 5,000 community banks that make up 99.5% of the banks in this country. They are main street. Investing in innovation is prohibitive on an individual level, but every day, there are new companies with good solutions out there trying to reach the people they are trying to help. Consider the scenario as a battleship and a kayak out in deep waters. Community banks are the battleship navigating the way, when a kayaker approaches with a potentially impactful solution for the battleship. The kayaker is paddling and out of breath, trying everything to get the battleship’s attention, but to no avail. Through the Accelerator, we are there at the waterline to say, “Hey, we hear you and we understand. We can take you up there.”  

Of the current solutions from our 48 alumni companies, we have seen technologies with a high level of applicability to agriculture and healthcare. Both of these industries are places with an incredibly high numbers of transactions from insurance and billing to cybersecurity. We’re excited that through past five years of working with ICBA and FIS, we’ve learned so much and we’ve seen a wide range of fintech solutions we can bring to other industries.

 As we prepare for ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator 2.0, we’re looking at new problem sets, we’re sourcing new solutions, and we’re getting better at our own process every day. My expectation this time around is that we’ll give ICBA stakeholders what they want, aptly described by ICBA’s Kevin Tweddle as effectively merging high-touch relationships with new high-tech solutions. With a tried and tested innovation strategy in place, we know ThinkTECH 2.0 will be a home run.