Q&A with Bankifi Co-Founder and CEO Mark Hartley FIS Fintech Accelerator Founder Feature

Posted on June 23, 2021
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The 2021 FIS Fintech Accelerator follows five highly successful programs produced by FIS and The Venture Center. This year’s Accelerator will be conducted entirely virtually. In our FIS Fintech Accelerator Founder Feature series, we’re peeling back some layers and getting to know the 2021 cohort founders. We hope you enjoy hearing from the cohort companies – be sure and save the date for Demo Day on August 26!

For our next Founder Feature, please meet Mark Hartley, Co-Founder and CEO of Bankifi. Bankifi enables banks to bundle their selection of white label microservices into a suite of open banking and accounting services from which their business customers can curate their own customer experience. Learn more at bankifi.com.

The Venture Center: Where did the idea for BankiFi originate?

Mark Hartley: The idea actually originates as far back as the mid 90’s. I could never understand why there was one system for doing your banking and another system to do your accounting.   

Fast forward to 2016, when we started really thinking about launching BankiFi. Mobile and internet banking were mainstream, regulations had removed barriers to entry, APIs had made data sharing much easier, and electronic payments had really catalyzed the demise of cash and checks as methods of payments.  

The likes of Quickbooks and Xero and what they have been doing have also seen Banks realize that their own channels are coming under serious threat, and therefore so are their customer relationships and revenue streams. It is a much easier pitch now to talk about “embedding banking” into everyday SMB (small and midsize business) processes like order to cash and procure to pay than it was 20 years ago, as banks’ competitors already offer such a holistic process. Banks realize that they need to transform their channels from being purely transactional into the place SMBs run their business.

TVC: What problem is Bankifi solving?

We solve problems for both the SMB and the Bank.  SMBs spend up 75% of their time on non-core activities, according to McKinsey’s. Non-core means anything not related to sales and product/service provision, and so that includes admin and chasing up customers to pay. That’s where we come in. We help banks help their customers reduce time spent on admin and help them get paid on time, and in doing so optimize working capital. For the bank, that means providing value-added services for which SMB customers will pay, and proactively identifying lending opportunities should those customers have working capital challenges. For the bank that hopefully means happy customers as well as increasing their revenue and lending book! 

TVC: Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up? If so, how did you overcome that feeling?

Many, many times! But I am a great believer that we are solving problems for businesses and people like us. The passion we have for SMBs and their importance to any economy – they are the backbone – has made every bad day easy to overcome. Good things happen to people who work hard, especially when you know your technology is solving real-world problems and is not a solution looking for a problem. 

TVC: Tell us about a time you failed (at anything!) and how you used that failure to learn?

I failed to make it onto the college football (soccer) team the first time around. I learnt that training hard, perseverance, and a team ethic make a real difference, as does taking your opportunity when it comes along. I ended up representing the college “A” team for 2 years. Having the right attitude and working hard was the main reason. 

TVC: Is there anything else you would like to share about your solution, your journey as an entrepreneur, or as an expert in your field?

I suppose one thing springs to mind. I was originally a biochemist researching Alzheimer’s disease.  I decided to go back to college and study computer science and then by chance entered the world of Financial Technology as it was known then – 30 years ago! I was given a chance after retraining, and so we at BankiFi make that part of our mission. We want to give people a chance, and so we have a policy where we actively seek out people who have started their careers in one field and then retrained in software. So far around 30% of our product team fall into that category. We have given them their first job after retraining.  To give people the same opportunity that I had feels like the right thing to do.

Thanks to Bankifi for contributing to the FIS Fintech Accelerator’s Founder Feature series! To visit the 2021 FIS Fintech Accelerator, click here. For questions, please email founders@venturecenter.co.