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The Little Rock Venture Center on Wednesday welcomed 10 startup companies from around the globe to participate in an accelerator program focused on driving innovations for the nation's 5,000 community banks.

Little Rock-based FI Works is one of the financial technology companies selected to participate in the 12-week ICBA ThinkTech accelerator program, which is sponsored by the Independent Community Bankers of America organization and the state of Arkansas.

"We are grateful to play a meaningful role in helping ICBA accomplish its mission of creating and promoting an environment where community banks flourish," said Wayne Miller, executive director of the Venture Center.

Keith Henkel, founder of FI Works, said the accelerator offers an opportunity to build relationships with Independent Community Bankers of America members. FI Works offers software to enhance sales and marketing efforts for community banks.

"We look forward to learning and growing as a company through the accelerator program and from our cohorts," Henkel said. "We are also proud to represent Arkansas in the effort to transform financial technology in our state and be part of community banking's digital revolution along the way."

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and Arkansas Commerce Secretary Mike Preston joined a group of Central Arkansas community leaders, including bankers, technology executives and economic development officials, in greeting the startups. The Independent Community Bankers of America executive leadership team from Washington, D.C., was also on hand for the announcement.

The program allows Central Arkansas leaders an opportunity to showcase the city to the bankers, regulators and investors who go to the Venture Center to coach and mentor participants.

"Little Rock reaps tremendous benefits from the accelerator because during a 12-week period, over 100 senior executives come from across the country to visit the accelerator and to work with the participating portfolio companies," Miller said. "These visitors stay in our hotels and dine in our restaurants. At the end of the day, it has an economic impact of over $1 million to our city."

The 10 participants have developed digital products and services to help community banks improve marketing, fraud prevention, data analytics and mortgage lending. The accelerator includes financial technology companies from across the U.S. -- from Portland, Maine, to Sacramento, Calif. -- and international startups from India, Israel and Canada.

ICBA ThinkTech 2.0 is designed to build upon the success and momentum of the inaugural program held in 2019 by continuing to foster community bank-fintech collaborations.

During the three-month program, the fintech companies will receive mentorship from a network of industry leaders, including community bank executives, along with an initial investment to help refine their offerings for community banks.

Independent Community Bankers of America contributes $1 million to the accelerator, including providing $75,000 in seed capital to each participant.

"By bringing community bankers and industry stakeholders together with early-stage fintechs that want to be part of our industry, we are accelerating community bank-specific solutions that will benefit community banks and the customers and communities they serve," said Independent Community Bankers of America President and chief executive officer Rebeca Romero Rainey.

The accelerator also receives $250,000 from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

In addition to FI Works, the participants are:

Finscend of Tel Aviv, Israel. The company uses artificial intelligence to process credit- and debit-card disputes.

Fintel Connect of Vancouver, British Columbia. The marketing firm offers a digital product that helps banks acquire new customers.

Finzly of Charlotte, N.C. Finzly provides an app that upgrades digital experiences for bank customers and employees.

Fraud.net of New York. The company offers fraud detection and prevention tools through machine-learning algorithms.

Griffin Technologies of Kansas City, Kan. Griffin provides banks with competitive analytics that support location-based marketing to customers.

Hexanika of New York and India. The company has built a cloud-based platform that allows banks to improve automation and reporting related to regulatory issues.

Lendsmart of Hoboken, N.J. Lendsmart has developed an artificial-intelligence-driven lending product to streamline the mortgage application and approval process.

Pay it Better of Sacramento. The startup offers a consumer wellness service that increases customer engagement and creates a new channel for banks to acquire customers.

Wallit of Portland, Maine. Wallit also is a financial wellness platform that drives customer engagement and acquisition activities.

At the end of the accelerator program, the companies will demonstrate their products before an audience of community bankers at the Independent Community Bankers of America's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., on March 9 and will provide similar demonstrations for community bank leaders, potential investors and entrepreneurs on March 25 at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.

Business on 01/09/2020

Print Headline: Banking program caters to startups

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