Why We’ve Launched a Fintech Accelerator

  • JJ Hornblass
  • January 20, 2016
  • 3

canstockphoto6140069In 2009, as the financial services sector boiled, Bank Innovation was launched for one simple reason: it was (or would be at the time) an imperative that banking institutions innovate.

Today, that imperative is as sure as rain. Digital banking is no longer a backwater at banks. “Chief Innovation Officer” is no longer a banking oxymoron — it has become a critical position at many banks. Just the notion of “banking” and “innovation” no longer engenders smirks, if not outright cackles.

Banking innovation is here to stay. In fact, as committed students of, as well as unabashed enthusiasts for, banking innovation, it is plain to see that a new chapter in the revolution that is digital banking is upon us. A majority of banks are up to speed on digital banking today: they have innovation teams, innovative products, embrace (or at least try to embrace) an innovation culture. They get it. They are ready to not just forge ahead with innovation, but to profit from it. There is no substitute for a banking charter and a customer base. Period. That realization has banks understanding that the unicorn engine that is fintech is available to them. They can take advantage of it, whether through equity acquisition or product incorporation. The question is how? How can a financial institution that thinks “trust” and “credit quality” bridge the gap to high creativity of fintech startups that eschew ROI, not to mention ROA?

The answer is equally the next chapter of Bank Innovation, and it is called Bank Innovation INV. INV is our new global fintech accelerator. It is the only accelerator of its kind and it uniquely is charged with pushing banking to the next frontier: to foment full integration between fintech startups and traditional financial institutions.

INV is a partnership between Bank Innovation and Fiserv, a $20.5 billion banking information technology company. We have specifically partnered with Fiserv because it gives INV entry into its more than 13,000 client-financial institutions around the world. We have also partnered with two unique financial institutions — US Bank and Cross River Bank — as well as with a slew of providers of exceptional fintech APIs. US Bank is arguably the single most forward-thinking major financial institution in the United States today under the innovation leadership of Dominic Venturo. Cross River, meanwhile, is arguably the most entrepreneurial bank in the United States today under the leadership of Gilles Gade. These two financial institutions will provide a level of mentorship to the INV startups that is simply unparalleled.

INV is not just a global accelerator, but also a “non-geographically specific” one.  What that means is that INV will accept startups from anywhere in the world. Startups admitted to the six-month program will not be required to relocate in order to receive the accelerator’s benefits. Rather, all mentorship and strategy development will be digital. This will allow INV to admit the very best fintech startups, no matter where they are, although we will focus on today’s global fintech hotspots of Israel, Silicon Valley, New York and London.

Despite what some might expect, our aim is not to build fintech unicorns, per se. Rather, it is to facilitate better financial services. We invite likeminded startups to apply for admission. Find us on AngelList here.

Applications for the first class are being accepted now. We expect to introduce the startups admitted to the program toward the end of the first quarter after a thorough review of applications by the INV team and its partners. And then it’s off to a brighter future for banking. Chapter 2 starts now.

Read the press release announcing the launch of Bank Innovation INV.

Join us in Seattle for Bank Innovation Seattle 2016 to discuss fintech startups and much more. Click here.

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at hornblass@gmail.com or 212-564-8972.

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