2016 Innovators to Watch: 31 to 35

31. Melissa Stevens, Chief Digital Officer, Fifth Third Bank

mellisaMelissa Stevens developed the features that led Citi to be the first large bank with an Apple Watch app. This was achieved by building functionality outside the paywall, primarily balance-checking and alerts. For a brief, shining moment, Citi’s watch app made it the coolest bank around. Stevens now moves to Cincinnati-based Fifth Third, a Top 20 bank but not one known for taking the lead on innovation matters. That will change with Stevens leading its digital efforts. Expect Fifth Third to significantly up its mobile game and move aggressively into wearables and the internet of things in the coming year. Stevens has already helped her new employer’s bottom line. Back in May when the news broke, TheStreet drew an explicit connection between Stevens’ hiring and FIfth Third’s stock bump and ratings upgrade.

32. Robb Gaynor, Chief Product Officer, Malauzai

robbWherever you go in mobile banking, you’ll nearly always find that Malauzai has been there first. The Austin, Texas-based company — the name is said to mean “little monkey” in Cantonese — has a host of firsts to its credit, and has helped the community banks and credit unions it supports keep up with the big banks in the fintech arms race. Chief Product Officer Robb Gaynor is a Digital Insight veteran who also headed up channels at Union Bank, and now dreams up mobile features in the heart of Texas. For years Gaynor has led Malauzai where few dare to go — paying bills with pictures, geolocation for offers, and mobile-optimized browser-based banking, now a major trend in an industry growing disenchanted with apps. Gaynor also produces an irregular newsletter called Monkey Insights that highlights things no one else does — the use of “little data,” a rundown of the least-used mobile apps, session lengths, and how much more iOS users transact than Android users. “The functional gaps between mobile and traditional online banking are disappearing,” Gaynor told Bank Innovation in 2015. He’s right — more and more you can hardly tell them apart, and that’s a good thing for consumers and an industry obsessed with maintaining channel parity.

33. Vinny Lingham, CEO, Civic

vinnyVinny Lingham likes big problems. With his previous company, Gyft, he turned the world of gift cards upside-down by leading the way toward virtualizing them, and further shook up the stored-value world by adding bitcoins into the mix. Somewhat accidentally, he made bitcoins easier to spend than ever, and was lionized by the grateful crypto-community. A successful exit (First Data bought Gyft in 2014 for something north of $54 million) led Lingham to his new company, Civic, which aims to stop the insanity with social security numbers, which play a role as de facto national identity numbers they were never intended for. Consequently they are used in situations they shouldn’t be, and are the key piece of information needed to for identity thieves to do their work. Lingham — a South African by birth who doesn’t have a social security number — wants to stick  fork in this SSN sillines. “Civic will let people know when their social security number is being used, and provide a $1 million free policy for identity theft,” Lingham told Bank Innovation. “We want to be the gateway that gets hit first,” he said, and prevent further damage. In other words, Civic will begin the process of giving individuals control of their identities. He has grander plans too, that will be revealed this fall. He raised $2.75 million to start the company back in January. Unused gift cards balances are becoming rarer as they enter the digital world. Thanks, Gyft. Doing the same for promiscuous overuse of social security numbers would be an excellent thing. Lingham is set to launch Civic in July.

34. Rachel Mayer, CEO, Trigger Finance

RachelBeing a trader on Wall Street in 2008, (first at Lehman Brothers, than at Chase) can certainly teach one a lesson or two. So, after observing the financial crisis first-hand, Rachel Mayer decided to launch her own trading tool: Trigger Finance. Trigger is a mobile-first platform that allows users to set conditional alerts on stock movements, earnings reports, corporate events, and even Twitter sentiments. In the latest (soon to come) version of the app, users will be able to trade from within the app, based on the triggers they set.

“Trigger is an ‘If This, Then That’ for finance,” Mayer explained. The app is developed entirely on Python, and has been live for about a week. The startup raised $460,000 in angel round so far, and is looking to incorporate AI and eventually dominate the “trigger” space, Mayer said. The goal is to make hedge-fund level investing accessible to masses. Knowledge is power, and data is now accessible to, well, the rest of us.

35. Patrick Gauthier, VP, Pay with Amazon

patrickAmazon and innovation. Duh, you say. But in today’s war of payment buttons, Amazon is as relevant as ever. CEO Jeff Bezos recently told its payments team to “move faster,” which is exactly what 20-year payments veteran Patrick Gauthier is tasked with doing. Gauthier is the VP of external payments at Amazon, responsible for payment services for third party merchants, including Login and Pay with Amazon. Under his management, the Pay with Amazon button expanded to other retailers. Plus, Alexa began scratching the surface of ecommerce, with the introduction of payments options – you can now order an Uber, a pizza from Domino’s, or ask for your bank account information.

Amazon is known for being notoriously tight-lipped in its payments initiatives, but with Gauthier’s extensive knowledge in the space – most recently at PayPal as general manager of emerging retail services – we’re keeping our eyes out for new developments to come soon.

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