The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) announced Wednesday (Oct. 31) that it is partnering with The Venture Center in Little Rock to launch the ICBA ThinkTech Accelerator.
The new cohort will be a first-of-its-kind community bank-focused fintech accelerator program with an aim of helping community banks directly engage and partner with early-stage fintech companies focusing exclusively on product development.
The Venture Center has been home to a very successful, worldwide fintech program that has been underwritten by FIS Global.
“Our mission is to create and promote an environment where community banks flourish,” said Rebecca Romero-Rainey, CEO of the ICBA. “If you see a local small business on the street, chances are it was funded by a community bank. Community banks make more than half of all small business loans in this country and more than 80% of all agriculture loans. And we are doing this during a time of great change.”
“ICBA has promoted community bank and fintech partnerships for quite some time, but our desire and commitment to create a more community bank-focused fintech solution is what ultimately yielded our partnership with The Venture Center and our new ICBA ThinkTech Accelerator,” said ICBA Group Executive Vice President of Innovation and Technology Kevin Tweddle. “This is the next step in our industry’s innovation journey, and by combining community banking and fintech, we’ll be cultivating a high-tech meets high touch banking experience for consumers. And this, ultimately, will be the community banking difference in the years to come.”
Organizers said that the new ThinkTech Accelerator will pursue companies exploring next-generation lending, artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain, payments, advanced analytics and big data, regulatory compliance tools, cybersecurity, authentication, and streamlining customer experience, among others.
A selection committee made up of ICBA staff and member bank executives will actively participate in the program, serving as mentors to early-stage companies vying for top spots in the selection process.
The first step is a “proof of concept” phase, in which ICBA and community bankers provide feedback as part of the mentoring process for companies looking to partner with community banks. ICBA selection committee members will also serve a key role in selecting up to 10 candidates for the ICBA ThinkTech Accelerator program, the group said.
ICBA will invest in each accelerator participant. Finalists will present their solutions to community banks at the ThinkTech showcase at ICBA LIVE 2019 convention, scheduled for March 18-22, 2019 in Nashville.
“We are proud to partner with ICBA and the nation’s community banks to bring the best possible solutions to market for their customers,” said Venture Center Managing Director Wayne Miller. “Community banks make an extraordinary contribution to our nation’s communities, and we are pleased to serve a role in their important mission by helping them interact with early-stage companies that are interested in working in the community bank space.”
U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, Mayor Mark Stodola, and Arkansas Economic Development Commission executive director Mike Preston also spoke at the event.
For more information about the ICBA ThinkTech Accelerator, visit here.