Members of the financial community are set to descend on Little Rock Aug. 15-17 for the inaugural VenCent Fintech Summit hosted by the Venture Center of Little Rock.
VenCent is set to be a summit “like no other,” and there are a few things that make that distinction true, explained Wayne Miller, executive director of the Venture Center.
The summit will not only bring financial technology to bankers in an intimate setting, but the goal is also to have bankers communicate among themselves about what fintech their companies are implementing.
“Traversing this digital transformation that’s occurring in banking and finance is a big challenge,” Miller said. “It takes a lot of courage, so that’s also a part of this: getting the folks who have done this and are doing it well to help others understand.”
VenCent is also specialized: The Venture Center handpicked and vetted fintech products to solve the specific problems banks are having. Main focuses include cybersecurity, banking as a service, data analytics and new forms of payment, among others.
The summit will have attendees from all over the world, but will also be an opportunity for Arkansas fintech companies to showcase their work to bankers. Gas Pos and Abaca of North Little Rock, Teslar Software of Springdale and FI Works of Little Rock are just some of the local companies presenting their technology at the event. Mimi San Pedro, chief strategy officer for the Venture Center, expects around 400 attendees, including 150 bankers and 100 fintech founders.
“We’ve created an environment where the bankers can ask the tough questions and the fintech companies can also ask the tough questions to figure out how they work collaboratively to solve problems through these partnerships,” Miller said. “That trust that we’ve been able to gain with the bankers and the fintechs is what gave them the confidence to come and want to support and participate, because they know this is an environment where everyone can win.”
For community banks, the summit will help modernize dated systems that may be incompatible with new technology. In the past, these banks have seen success using fintech to implement electronic banking to save their customers a trip to the bank.
This success is something Larry Wilson, CEO and chairman of the board of First Arkansas Bank & Trust of Jacksonville, has seen firsthand. Implementing fintech such as mobile check deposits helped his customers and lowered bank costs, benefiting everybody, Wilson said.
Miller hopes the summit provides “actionable insight” for banks to be profitable and successful, and San Pedro added that banks need fintech to stay relevant and helpful to customers.
“Our customers are not interested particularly in what we have done for them in the past; they want to know what we can do now and tomorrow,” Wilson said. “For us to continue to attract and retain customers, we need to be a player in the electronic banking arena.”
And staying relevant can be difficult for banks in a “constantly changing” industry with lots of complexity, Miller said. It’s not as simple as plugging in a product code anymore.
“What we do is complicated. We want people to leave with a better vision and understanding of the industry,” Miller said.
“We want to keep banks competitive by forging partnerships that will serve consumers and make people’s lives better. But also to look beyond that into the future, to make sure they have a comprehensive understanding of what’s happening in the industry today. And they’ll perhaps gather some new tools that will help them better serve their customers.”
Wilson said even if banks opt out of a partnership, the summit is still a great resource and learning opportunity for any bank.
“Every time we learn more about the technology involved in the development of the financial world, it’s worthwhile for us even if we don’t strike a deal with somebody to utilize their product.”