FIS to Bring FinTech Accelerator to Little Rock

FIS to Bring FinTech Accelerator to Little Rock
Gary Norcross of FIS addresses the 150th annual meeting of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Norcross announced the launch of the company's FinTech Accelerator program in Little Rock. (Mark Carter)

FIS will sponsor a startup accelerator in Little Rock devoted to financial technology, CEO Gary Norcross announced Thursday.

Norcross, delivering the keynote address to the 150th annual meeting of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, revealed that FIS had been working with the chamber to bring the FinTech Accelerator to the Venture Center in downtown Little Rock. He said it was satisfying to launch the program in the city where the company started.

FIS, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is a global banking technology services provider whose origins trace back to Systematics of Little Rock. It maintains a large campus in west Little Rock that employs roughly 1,300 workers with a focus on product development. Globally, it has more than 55,000 employees. 

The accelerator will set out to identify "global innovators and accelerate the development and growth of early-stage financial technology ventures," according to a news release.

Norcross said the 15-week program will be highly selective and admit up to 10 "fin tech" startups in its first installment, expected to begin in the spring.

Applications will be accepted beginning in January at

The company did not release the amount of its investment or that of any potential seed investment the participating startups might receive. But it said it will start a community investment fund to raise money for the startups.

FIS said it will provide accelerator participants with mentoring and training as well as access to its facilities during the run of the program, but otherwise there will be no interest stakes or obligations between the company and the startups.

"We're excited about it," Norcross said. "There's so much value we can get from this mentorship."

Chris Cline, the FIS senior vice president who leads the Little Rock operation, said the company hopes to continue the FinTech program beyond the first cohort, but "right now, we're going to focus on the first one."

Another accelerator, the HubX-Life Sciences accelerator, was announced in October by the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub and Baptist Health. Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield signed on earlier this week as a sponsor. Its goal is to accelerate the growth of life-sciences startups. HubX will be based at the Innovation Hub in the Argenta district of downtown North Little Rock.

The FinTech Accelerator will live out of the Venture Center, which shares space with the Little Rock Technology Park at 107 East Markham in downtown Little Rock. Launched in 2014, the Venture Center has grown to more than 200 members, 76 active startups and 37 trained mentors who have led more than 340 mentor sessions. The center has produced 44 of its Pre-Accelerator program startups. Six of its member startups have raised more than $2.25 million in venture capital.

Norcross, an Arkansas native who sits on the board of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, said he was pleased to work with the chamber and the Venture Center to further establish Little Rock as a microhub for tech startups.

He stressed the importance of innovation during his keynote speech, and said he believes the accelerator will help uncover it.

"Innovation is so important for a company like ours," Norcross said. "We have to stay ahead of the curve in this industry because it's changing so rapidly."

The industry is as disruptive as he's ever seen it, he noted.

FIS is projected to bring in $9 billion in 2016 revenue, up 12 percent since 2009. Norcross provided other FIS tidbits:

  • FIS has more than 20,000 clients in more than 120 countries;
  • It process more than 27 billion transactions last year;
  • Boasted more than 34 million mobile banking users;
  • Processed more than 848 million bank cards;
  • And touches more than 750 million end consumers with its banking and financial software.

Other highlights from Norcross' address:

  • Mobile delivery is changing everything, he said;
  • Financial institutions used to be able to adopt a wait-and-see approach. No more;
  • While it took ATMs 19 years to be widely used, mobile banking took only four years to become globally accepted;
  • In 2016, FIS will invest $500 million back into research and development (the company operates five global innovation centers: San Francisco, New York, London, Bangkok and Bangalore, India);
  • To young entrepreneurs, he said: "The most successful training we've all ever had has been where the failures have occurred." 

Before Norcross took the stage, chamber members officially voted in new 2016 board members, including 2016 Chair Jeff Hathaway of Coldwell Banker Hathaway Group, who takes over for Van Tilbury of East Harding.