Financial disruptors continually make headlines for creating new, innovative and sleek UI/UX designs for consumers, each promising to be the next big thing in banking. But one little known fact is that behind all the pretty wrapping, there is usually a FDIC-insured bank behind the scenes helping to provide support and core processing to sustain the infrastructure. Increasingly, disruptors, often 1-2 year-old start-ups, find themselves wanting to associate with a community bank that has been around for 50-100 years. To most, it might seem mystifying as to why these up-and-coming hip start ups would partner with these century-old community banks.
I do want to put my stake in the ground that it is not only a great idea, it’s becoming a necessary choice.
After the financial crisis and with the ever changing climate of the nation championing all things local (microbreweries, farmers markets and small businesses), local banking is becoming a growing trend that disruptors and start ups need to get behind. Banks have been getting a bad rap since the crisis about causing the financial woes that continue to impact the national economy today. But community banks are increasingly showing that they had nothing to do with the crisis and are very much poised to take center stage in the financial services industry. There’s also a notion that community banks are backward thinking and late in coming to the game when it comes to technological advances. But increasingly so, as I’ve looked at countless case studies, and now working with a very forward-thinking bank, I can tell you that community banks are nimble and innovative and can provide the up and coming technologies as well.
As I discover more and more bank disruptors, I find that often times there is a community bank behind the scenes providing that backup role. And some are even proud to say that they have partnered with one. Case in point: Qapital has partnered with Lincoln Savings Bank in Iowa. On the FAQs page, Qapital, a new savings app paired with banking features, proudly states that it is partnered with the 113-year-old safe and sound Iowa community bank. Another case in point: BankMobile is the brainchild of Jay Sidhu and the brand is a division of a Pennsylvania community bank, Customers Bank. BankMobile is making strides in providing Gen Y the option of building their own bank. And yet another example: ZenBanx, a digital-only account that allows the user to make domestic and international exchanges in as many as five different currencies, has a strategic partnership with WSFS Bank, a local community bank in Delaware.
All of these case in points prove that indeed disruptors are reviewing different ways to support their systems and increasingly turning to community banks. It’s a conscious conscience decision: local community banks did not cause the financial crisis and have been supporting their local communities for decades. It’s a no-brainer for future financial apps, wearables and devices to take a closer look at what community banks have to bring to the table.
My prediction is that Silicon Valley-type financial start ups will continue to look at local bank partnerships to fully bolster their new applications and services. It seems almost counterintuitive to think that community banks are the right partners for new start ups. But similar to the case studies mentioned above, future start ups will continue to seek out these banks to partner with because that is where the nation is heading in financial services and they may find out that despite their differences, they are not so different in goals after all (providing streamlined and more efficient products to their customers).
Similar to how consumers are now more conscious about where their food is being grown and where their clothing is being made, banking local can be the added feel good benefit that startups may be missing. The tide is changing and banking local is going to have its time in the national spotlight. And as community bankers are becoming more attuned to this, we will hopefully see many more new efficiencies and devices to streamline our financial habits with community banks being a major player in the game.