canstockphoto15017988The technology matters. The ideas matter. The business models matter. The use cases matter. The customer experience matters.

The people of innovation matter most.

Nothing gets done or innovated in banking without entrepreneurs, bankers, VCs, service providers who have the vision to see what cannot be seen today, to discern a future that is different — and, hopefully, better. These are the innovators to watch. These are the makers of tomorrow.

We at Bank Innovation are pleased to once again present our annual list of 44 Innovators to Watch. Within this list you will find a wide array of industry executives, with some surprises sprinkled in.

You will also find evidence of our views on how banking will further evolve into a social media-centric, digital-centric, fragmented, “only the best survive” world where the classic bank balance sheet is not necessarily controlled by single enterprises, but where some ventures — not necessarily banks or even “banks” — control the asset side and some control the liabilities. Oh, and we see the “Pay” ecosystem eventually blowing up the existing payments hierarchy. The Innovators to Watch on our list get that. They also get a lot that we might not yet know or understand — which is exactly why they are on the list.

And now, here are the 44…



1. Jennifer Bailey, Vice President, Internet Services-Apple Pay, Apple, Inc. 

jennifer_bailey2When the first major updates to Apple Pay were announced at Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference earlier this month, the announcement was made not by Tim Cook, but by Jennifer Bailey, the effective head of Apple Pay. In order to succeed, Bailey will need to navigate the rough waters of renegotiating bank contracts, and word from the negotiations surrounding Android Pay is that the 15-basis-point discount Apple earned will not be on the table this time around. What will Apple’s position be as mobile payments evolve? Bailey isn’t telling, but it’s her ship to steer.

2. Ajay Banga, CEO, MasterCard

ajay_banga2To call MasterCard a behemoth company is to call Babe Ruth a hitter. MC, with its $109 billion market capitalization, is massive on a global scale, and looking to become even more massive. Ajay Banga, as CEO, is charged with making MasterCard yet more massive. Banga, who became CEO in 2010, sits on this list because he uniquely sees fintech disruption as his means for growing MasterCard, and is vocal in his support for the disruption movement. Listen to an earnings call with Banga and you will hear an executive with true vision, a true understanding of his far-flung organizations, and a wildly contagious enthusiasm for digitization and the role MasterCard can play in this new, “tokenized” payments world. Contagious, indeed.

3. US Bank digital team

us_bank2Can an entire team be an “innovator to watch”? It can if that team is the US Bank innovation group. Headed by Dominic Venturo, the bank’s chief innovation officer, U.S. Bank has arguably built the industry’s deepest innovation department. To put it in perspective, Niti Badarinath, the bank’s SVP of mobile, could easily be a CIO or CTO at any first-tier bank. Crucially, the bank has a cohesive strategy to go along with this crackerjack team. “We are trying to disrupt ourselves before we get disrupted” Badarinath said recently. These are not just words. We’ve met a host of the innovation team members — most recently, they were out in force at the Digital Banking Summit in Austin, Texas. Their mandate is nothing less than comprehensive internal disruption, and they’re the team to do it.

4. David Marcus, VP messaging products, Facebook

david_marcus2Just look at the headlines when David Marcus (@davidmarcus) joined Facebook last year to run its Messenger unit. It was like the Second Coming had come to Facebook. That alone is invigorating, and is a tribute to Marcus, who is among the few “rockstar” fintech executives in the industry. Whether he did or did not do well at PayPal, which he helmed for two years before leaving for Facebook, is somewhat irrelevant. Marcus’s position at Facebook puts him in a  crucial position for determining what financial services will look like in the future. Facebook now counts 1.44 billion monthly active users. Those users need to pay for stuff. Oh, what a new headline Marcus can write.

5. Vanessa Colella, managing director, head of global venturing, Citigroup

vanessa_colella2Citibank doesn’t always get credit for its innovation efforts, but that’s not Vanessa Colella’s fault. She’s now Citi’s head of global venturing, serving under Deborah Hopkins, Citi’s chief innovation officer and CEO of Citi Ventures. In her previous incarnation as a marketer, Colella developed a Facebook campaign for Citi cardholders to pool loyalty points with friends and family. She also worked on the Citibike program and Connect, a group for professional women on LinkedIn. At Citi Ventures, she told the Wall Street Journal in January, “we don’t look for exclusivity agreements with our portfolio companies and we don’t have any acquisition goals – our priority is to help companies and great ideas scale and grow.” Incidentally, Colella is a former high school teacher, the perfect experience, perhaps, for scaling and growing startups.

Innovators 6 to 10

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