2016 Innovators To Watch: 41 to 44

41. Bennett Bradley, Chief Digital Officer, BB&T

Bennett Bradley 1-16 0001BB&T, a banking innovator?

Yes, BB&T deserves mention with top innovation banks, and largely for one reason: Bennett Bradley. Bradley has been the executive at the bank that has most influence its wholesale bearhug of banking innovation. BB&T is now involved with two fintech accelerators — including Bank Innovation INV — has a dedicated (and engaged) innovation team, and is firmly on the innovation circuit, actively looking to move the innovation dial, and not just for the bank’s immediate benefit.

On a tour of New York’s fintech scene last week, one BB&T exec told me that the bank had so many exciting innovation ventures going on now because of Bradley, the BB&T innovation team could barely contain its enthusiasm.

This is all traces back to Bradley. A grey-haired, convivial banking veteran, Bradley is fully aware of the excitement he has uncorked at the bank. “Too bad I won’t be around to see where all these exciting opportunities will lead,” he half-joked. The thing is, at the pace BB&T is getting its innovation up to speed, he just might. And we’re looking forward to seeing where it all leads, too.

42. Rene Leplanche, Former CEO, Lending Club

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.26.18 AMYes, that Rene Leplanche.

The founder — and ex-CEO — of Lending Club might today be the most notorious fintech entrepreneur in the world today. Naturally, you are wondering, what’s he doing on this list?

Well, there are (at least) two narratives about what happened at Lending Club. One is that a relatively minor risk management infraction in the form of changing a date on a pool of loans being sold to Jefferies & Co. unnecessarily cost Leplanche his job. An overly zealous board was to blame for that.

The other narrative has Leplanche deserving jail for using LC funds for unauthorized investments. And board member John Mack doesn’t come out squeaky clean in this version of the events of last April either.

But let’s focus on the first narrative for a moment. Should Leplanche come out of the tumult of LC with a nick, rather than a deep scar, it is hard to argue that he won’t have a second fintech act. Building LC was nothing short of a remarkable success, regardless of the recent turmoil. Leplanche maintained a vision for LC when marketplace lending was considered a “whatever” niche, and then by understanding that it was the investors that mattered most to marketplace lending, not the borrowers, he was able to blaze a remarkable trail, essentially creating marketplace lending single-handedly. Did he lose his edge? Perhaps. But he just might get that edge back, however long the odds. He’s done it before, after all.

43. Simon Redfern and Ismail Chaib, Open Bank Project 

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.27.26 AMScreen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.27.47 AMThis is the story of two guys in Berlin pounding against the inefficiencies of banking, day after day, month after month, year after year.

And finally making progress.

It can be lonely work trying to change a well-entrenched status quo, and from beyond the fintech hotspots of Silicon Valley, New York, London, Israel and even Amsterdam.

But that’s what Ismail Chaib and Simon Redfern have done as the dynamic duo behind the Open Bank Project, which offers out-of-the-box APIs for financial institutions, and has also been stoking the coals of the fintech startup ecosystem with a far-flung network for hackathons. The hackathons should not be overlooked. OBP, for example, ran its last hackathon with Barclays, which means the startup is creating a bridge between established FIs and the startups pushing for disruptive change.

Chaib and Redfern work in partnership on this, and it offers them a unique window into what is to come in banking. That OBP, as a purveyor of API services, is starting to find greater success simply means Chaib and Redfern are gaining more resources to innovate, and we’re excited to see where it takes them.

44. Joe Guastella, U.S. Managing Director of Financial Services, Deloitte Consulting

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.31.31 AMDeloitte has created some waves this year (in a good way). While many incumbents are still hesitant about practical uses of blockchain – the technology behind bitcoin – this accounting giant has partnered with not one, but five different blockchain startups in one take. And the firm’s managing director of financial services, Joe Guastella, is to be credited (at least partially) for Deloitte’s transformation.

Spending almost three decades at Deloitte, Guastella focuses on managing global projects for the firm’s largest clients. According to his LinkedIn page, Guastella is the one to instill clients with the confidence to transform their business models and embrace the changes created by disruptors (psst, Joe, we may have a few candidates in mind for you).

When announcing the partnerships with the five startups – BlockCypher, Bloq, ConsenSys Enterprise, Loyyal, and Stellar – Guastella said that companies should start making blockchain “real.”  “You see more major financial institutions working with startups than in the past. People are looking at this, asking where will the future be, and how can we make it work for us,” he said. “We should start making it real, as the next step, with up and running applications that actually work.”

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