Arkansas’ Fintech Triumph: Unveiling Innovation Ecosystems in Congressional Spotlight at The Venture Center

Posted on December 12, 2023
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By: Arthur Ordũna

The Venture Center recently hosted a game-changing event.

On December 8th, the U.S. Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Digital Assets, Financial Technology, and Inclusion convened for a pivotal discussion, centering around “Connecting Communities: Building Innovation Ecosystems Across America.”

Distinguished guests, including Chairman French Hill (R-AR), Congressman Wiley Nickel (D-NC), and Congressman Mike Flood (R-NE), engaged in illuminating conversations spotlighting Arkansas’s role as a torchbearer in national fintech innovation. The testimonies delivered during this event served as powerful amplifiers of the narrative.

Testimony by Commissioner of the Arkansas State Bank Department Susannah Marshall

Commissioner Susannah Marshall of the Arkansas State Bank Department initiated the proceedings, emphasizing our state’s steadfast commitment to fostering financial technology innovation responsibly. Her focus on early conversations and their positive impact resonated deeply.

With pride, Commissioner Marshall declared Arkansas a model for financial services innovation, citing our “rich history in entrepreneurship, favorable business environment, and thriving banking community.”

Testimony by Senior Vice President, Head of Products and Services for Banking Large Financial Institutions for FIS Joel Wheelis

Joel Wheelis, Senior Vice President and Head of Products and Services for Banking Large Financial Institutions at FIS, took the stage, underscoring the transformative power of fintech and Arkansas’s pivotal role in this narrative. Joel highlighted FIS’s dedication to nurturing a vibrant startup ecosystem, citing the success of their Fintech accelerator program.

He shared, “Our community banking clients, in particular, have benefited from the accelerator ever since. Each year, we help select ten innovative technology companies to advise, connect, and showcase their products and services to financial industry leaders, potential investors, and successful engineers, as well as FIS financial institution clients.”

Testimony by Head of Financial Institution Services for Sardine Ravi Loganathan

The closing remarks were delivered by Ravi Loganathan, FIS fintech accelerator alumni and Head of Financial Institution Services for Sardine. Ravi provided insights into the intricate dance between the traditional banking sector and the rapidly evolving FinTech industry. “Our mission is to revolutionize the way financial transactions are secured online, protecting all participants,” he passionately stated.

Ravi further elucidated on Sardine’s suite of solutions, including Sardine X and Sponsor OS, designed to address real-time counterparty risks and regulatory compliance, fostering collaboration between banks and Fintechs.

Testimony by Executive Director of The Venture Center Arthur Orduña

In the midst of my respected colleagues’ remarks, I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts with the committee. I urged members to recognize that innovators and entrepreneurs are not confined to Silicon Valley or major urban hubs. Despite over 75% of venture capital being invested in New York, California and Massachusetts, I emphasized Arkansas and the U.S. Central region’s immense potential. This underscored the crucial need for investment dollars to circulate within our state, supporting local ideas and businesses, and nurturing a self-sustaining ecosystem. To drive this point home, I presented three key recommendations before the committee:

To ESOs Nationwide: Advocate for a portfolio-driven approach, forging partnerships among pre-seed startups, local businesses, and leading corporations. Together, we can address critical business challenges and drive impactful solutions.

To State and Local Governments: Elevate innovation by enhancing community quality of life. Arkansas, with its top rankings in moving destinations, business affordability, and overall living conditions, serves as an inspiring example.

To Federal Legislators and Agencies: Allocate multi-year funding to non-profit ESOs. Let’s collaborate to accelerate innovation in crucial sectors like financial wellness, cybersecurity, and sustainable energy, aligning with regional and state-level initiatives.

Charting Arkansas’s Future

I’m usually not given to hyperbole, but I consider this hearing a game-changing event for Arkansas entrepreneurs and small businesses. The evident commitment of the congressional delegation to follow up, listen, and take action bodes well for sustaining and fostering community-driven innovation. Representative French Hill, with his background in banking, has consistently demonstrated exceptional legislative prowess, turning crucial issues into actionable initiatives. I genuinely believe that Representatives Hill, Flood, and Nickel will respond positively to my request on behalf of all Entrepreneur Support Organizations, initiating a dialogue that has the potential to elevate entrepreneurship in Arkansas and beyond.

As we navigate these exciting times, let’s not forget that our journey is just beginning. The numbers and accolades are not the conclusion but the start of a promising chapter for Arkansas, where innovation, often just a buzzword, is actually a way of life.


For a comprehensive view of the witnesses’ complete remarks or to watch the field hearing titled “Connecting Communities: Building Innovation Ecosystems Across America”’ click here.