2017 Innovators to Watch: 39 to 44 | Bank Innovation | Bank Innovation

2017 Innovators to Watch: 39 to 44

39. Adam Coates, Director, Baidu Silicon Valley AI Lab

Robos are taking over, no doubt, and all thanks to people like Adam Coates, director at Baidu Silicon Valley AI Lab.

Coates and his team spend their days training networks with billions of connections for state-of-the-art speech systems. According to Bloomberg, of the more than $2.9 billion Baidu has spent on research and development over the past two and a half years, most has been on AI. “Our first big investment is Deep Speech: an end-to-end deep learning system for speech recognition that, with large datasets and giant neural networks, can learn to transcribe speech as well as a committee of native Mandarin speakers,” according to Coates’s LinkedIn page. “We believe there’s more to do to achieve super-human performance for application of speech users care about, but it’s our goal to do just that.” 

40. Daniel Peled, CEO, co-founder, PayKey

Person to person payments are a social norm today, but enabling a clear, frictionless P2P payment service is still an area where banks (and consumers) are clamoring for innovation.

In comes PayKey.

The startup’s CEO Daniel Peled cracked the Venmo code of the P2P world, adding that key “social” aspect to payments. PayKey — which took the top spot at Bank Innovation’s DEMOvation challenge this year — aims to leverage the existing banking networks, just in a slightly different place than the norm: social media. The company provides payment solutions no matter the medium; whether users wish to send money through Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Twitter. 

41. Mike Panzarella, Head of Product, Green Dot 

Green Dot has had its rough patches (MoneyPak, and the attempted ouster of CEO Steve Streit) but overall the prepaid market leader has done well, fending off competition from well-heeled competitors (Bluebird doesn’t get much press these days) and reaching detente with Walmart, and most impressively, launching a flurry of innovative products in partnership with the hottest names in tech. Head of Product Mike Panzarella joined the company from Perficient in 2014 and has helped Green Dot ink deals with Uber and Apple, all built on the company’s GoBank platform, which is able to deliver money to accounts in real time. Green Dot is hot again, and is rolling out products at a pace that would dizzy a traditional bank — good thing it isn’t one.

42. Abe McCallum, Vice President, Product & Design, Zelle/Early Warning

What’s the key to a successful app? Sleek functionality and user-friendly design; and that’s exactly what Abe McCallum is tasked to do with the industry’s (arguably) most anticipated P2P service.

Since the launch, Zelle announced partnerships with more than 20 financial institutions,  three of which (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and U.S. Bank) have already embedded Zelle’s services into their own mobile apps.

Zelle’s standalone app (already dubbed the “Venmo killer”) will be hitting the fintech stands later this year, aiming to tap into the consumers, who are not banking with any of the Zelle partners.

43. Ken Kruszka, CEO, SnapCheck

Conventional wisdom holds that millennials have never even seen a check, much less written one — checks are for old people.

But the truth, as SnapCheck founder and CEO Ken Kruszka knows, is far more complicated. More millennials use checks for peer-to-peer payments than Venmo, Kruszka wrote recently. And the killer use case may be in businesses, which rely on check for the bulk of B2B payments, and why not? Infrastructure has been built to accommodate checks, and nothing better has come along, especially from the bookkeepers’ point of view. But Kruszka, who has been in the digital payments for almost as long as they’ve been around, has a better idea. SnapCheck — a member of INV Fintech, this site’s sister accelerator —  digitizes checking and arrives via email. Checks can be deposited digitally, or printed and deposited, and payments ride the same rails and bookkeepers treat the e-checks as checks. Digital checks may not be earthshaking, but SnapCheck’s smooth experience and seamless fit for paper check users is.

44. Brian Ley, CEO, Alpharank 

Will Facebook get into banking? Probably not. The social network can’t even seem to make money from its payments business. But the concept is intriguing, because data is the new money. Brian Ley thinks so too, but unlike you, he’s built a business around it. “Facebook’s data is too messy, all over the place,” he told Bank Innovation recently. But bank transactional data? Cha-ching! Ley’s startup Alpharank (here’s the company’s Finovate demo) recreates the social graph Facebook withdrew from the world back in 2013, but it’s better, because instead of showing who liked what cat picture, it shows, via bank transactional data, who bought what where, and crucially, when. These details can help banks identify influencers and focus their efforts on acquiring and retaining them as customers.

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