2016 Innovators to Watch: 26 to 30

26. Jill Castilla, CEO, Citizens Bank of Edmond

jillChances are you’ve seen Jill Castilla on Twitter. (Or YouTube. Or at a banking conference.) CEO of a $250-million community bank in suburban Oklahoma City, Castilla is something of a sensation in the banking community, and with good reason.

Following her bank’s near-death experience in the financial crisis, Castilla and her employees took to social media to change the story, and the bank has succeeded wildly. She inverts the cliche that community bankers are tech-averse and love their branches. In 2013 Castilla closed three of her five branches, without losing a single deposit or employee, and she actively seeks fintech partnerships. There aren’t a lot of bank CEOs on Twitter, and there aren’t a lot of bank CEOs like Jill Castilla anywhere.

27. Jed McCaleb, CTO, Stellar

jedFollowing an extensive lawsuit involving Ripple and its cofounder Jed McCaleb, the latter walked out to establish his own company, Stellar Development Network, which oversees the decentralized Stellar network.  Stellar is dedicated to building financial products for underserved customers across the globe, and the nonprofit will focus its 2016 efforts on Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria.

The Nigeria project is essentially Stellar’s first on-the-ground initiative, and we expect many more to come. McCaleb’s operations caught the attention of the accounting giant Deloitte that tapped five blockchain startups – including Stellar – to spearhead its blockchain initiatives. “A big part of the cross-border stuff is that there is a lot of friction between parties. But there shouldn’t be,” McCaleb told Bank Innovation. “Just like you are able to send an email from a Google domain to a Yahoo domain, we are aiming to do the same with payments.”

28Suresh Ramamurthi, CEO, CBW Bank & Yantra Financial

suresh-ramamurthi-218x300Suresh Ramamurthi got the idea to buy a bank while employed at Google, when he was tasked with improving Google Checkout. He realized even Google couldn’t move money the way a small bank could, and so his plan was hatched. The fruit of Ramamurthi’s hard labor, CBW Bank, is located in the small Kansas town of Weir. But, in some ways, the bank’s sister company, Yantra Financial Technologies, also helmed by Ramamurthi, is becoming even more interesting than CBW from an innovation perspective. Big banks are lining up to get under the innovation hood with Yantra, which just launched Y-Labs Marketplace (http://www.ylabs.io/), a platform for companies to build applications off the CBW API library, the index of which runs more than 18 pages long. All this has sprung something of a conga line of bankers and entrepreneurs to Weir, leading Ramamurthi to start getting discreet about the people and companies with which CBW or Yantra works. No doubt, the eventual partners will be at the very horizon of the fintech future, which Ramamurthi pulling the IT strings.

29. Kanishk Parashar, CEO, Coin
kanishkCoin burst onto the fintech scene like a meteor in 2013, raising huge sums of money for what seemed like, to many, kind of a dumb idea — a card that contained your other cards. The card didn’t look like a credit card, it didn’t carry a network logo, and that was part of the problem. (Waiter to embarrassed guy on date: “What is this?”) So was the production of the card, and the delivery — namely, it was not produced or delivered fast enough, or at all. Still, it continues to inspire imitators, and in building the device, Parashar realized he had something special on his hands — a tiny, portable payments Swiss Army knife. Early this year, in a stroke of genius, Parashar performed what should be known as one of the most legendary pivots in fintech. He took the payment functionality of Coin and moved it over to the internet of things, striking deals with both Visa and MasterCard to power payments items like Samsung’s smart fridge. “Coin’s Payment of Things platform is a turnkey solution to enable payments for the wearable/IoT industry,” Parashar said in January. In May, Coin was bought by wearables giant Fitbit. Few payments companies have endured a roller coaster ride like Coin’s — or enjoyed such a triumphant exit.

30. Emmanuel Marot, CEO, Lending Robot

maROTThere are few more acute observers of the alternative lending than Emmanuel Marot, and few businesses more tech forward then Lending Robot — a robo advisor for investing in marketplace loans. (All it needs is a chatbot and blockchain backend.) Was Marot depressed by the bad news hitting marketplace leaders Lending Club, as well as Prosper and Avant? On the contrary! The space, and in particular his business, looks forward to “insane growth” in 2016, and he has the algorithms to prove it. (He describes himself as being 27% quant on his social media profiles — we suspect it’s closer to 30%.) And the market bears out his optimism, to some extent — marketplace loans still perform quite well, thank you, which means the underwriting is sound, and perhaps it’s not the apocalypse we’ve been looking for? Whatever challenges the industry faces, and they are real, Marot’s business and his customers are not suffering for it. On top of that, he was an early leader in the robo space, and is due more credit in that area than he receives.

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