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Fidelity National Information Services Inc., also known as FIS, is a global leader in financial services technology. Its revenue totaled $8.4 billion in 2018, but the chief executive officer of the Jacksonville, Fla., company remains worried.

That’s why Gary Norcross returned to the city where the company was founded — Little Rock — to praise the work of 10 little-known startup companies, which he said are creating solutions to real-world challenges in the industry.

The leaders of those 10 companies completed a 12-week financial technology accelerator program last week. It was the fourth year for the FIS FinTech Accelerator, a joint effort by FIS, the state and The Venture Center, which is based at the Little Rock Technology Park. It won’t be the last, said Nor-cross, who announced that the accelerator would return for a fifth year. Neither FIS nor its clients — banks and other financial services companies — can afford to lose it, he said.

Those 10 startups and the other startups that have participated in the accelerator — 40 in all — might turn out to be the future of banking, which is more likely to be on a smartphone than at a bank branch.

“We all know what’s going on in the industry,” Nor-cross told more than 300 banking executives, investors and other business leaders at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre on Wednesday evening. “Frankly, we’re dealing with, we’re right in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, where everything is being digitized.

“Artificial intelligence is coming on very fast, machine learning is coming on very fast. And all of us are faced with either being disrupted or disrupting ourselves. Whether it’s our clients or whether it’s FIS, we’re all focused on the same thing: How do we quickly accelerate to the future.”

FIS has grown its own business, has acquired more and invests $1.2 billion annually in research and development. It isn’t enough, Norcross said.

Which is why the accelerator program is so consequential to banking’s future, he said.

“We … know we can’t buy everything, we can’t build everything,” Norcross said. “We’ve got to also look … five to 10 years down the road. This is where this accelerator is so important. That can help us to continue to move the market.”

For the startups, however, the future is now. The 10 companies from eight states and Canada took turns making seven-minute pitches to the banking and investing crowd, giving them demonstrations of why their technology can be integral to banking’s future.

Called cohorts, the companies completing this year’s accelerator program were:

ChangeEd of Chicago, which has developed a student loan debt repayment tool designed to “engage millennial customers on their largest financial burden. It was selected as “Best in Show” by the Demo Day attendees.

Curu of North Carolina, which provides lenders a tool to allow their customers to increase their credit score and access credit.

Digital Onboarding of Boston, which gives lenders a simple solution to their online marketing efforts to grow engagement and profitability.

Genivity of Chicago, which helps lenders engage clients and their heirs by addressing what it calls the most important yet often ignored part of financial planning — health and elder care expenses.

Gremlin Social of St. Louis, which better allows banks, lenders and financial advisers to engage with customers on social media and remain in compliance with federal regulations.

Highside of Bethesda, Md., which takes aim at data breaches by adapting a secure platform already used by U.S. military and intelligence agencies for the banking industry.

Mimble of Portland, Ore., offers financial institutions the ability to allow their customers to pay for and send online gift cards from major brands from their smart-phones, as well as build savings with automatic deposits and cash rewards.

Neener Analytics of Sunnyvale, Calif., allows lenders to forgo paper applications and approve customer loans based on an automated psychologist and one click of the borrower’s social media profile.

Sendmi of Lehi, Utah, which allows foreigners working in the United States to transfer money to their home countries through their smartphones.

Voleo of Vancouver, Canada, which provides financial institutions with the tools to set up online investment clubs for their customers.

The 12-week program through The Venture Center allowed the companies to refine their business plans, collaborate with potential clients and hone their presentations. They were initially selected from a pool of 225 applicants from 35 countries.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who attended Wednesday’s event, said the accelerator program underscores the state’s commitment to fostering high-tech industry in Arkansas. The state contributed $250,000 to the accelerator program and, according to the governor, plans to support it next year, thanks to the FIS, which employs 1,200 people in Arkansas.

“We invest to support one of our homegrown industries that still has great roots here in the state,” Hutchinson said. “But we also invest because we want a return on the investment by building the technology sector here in this state.

“I am delighted that through the last four cohorts we’ve been able to gain a number of technology companies just through this accelerator program that said Arkansas is a great place to do business. We have the financial support here, the technical support. They’re a good partner with us.”

Print Headline: 10 firms finish financial-tech ’19 accelerator

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