The third and final day of the Little Rock Venture Center’s inaugural VenCent Fintech Summit included a brief presentation by one of the state’s fastest-growing banks: Encore Bank of Little Rock.
And DocFox of Miami, a provider of automated business account opening software, was awarded the first-ever Finny Award on Wednesday evening. The award recognizes financial technology companies that are “sustainable, investible and proven while helping banks transform their processes and delivery,” Venture Center Executive Director Wayne Miller said in a news release Thursday.
On Wednesday afternoon, Encore Bank of Little Rock was represented by speakers Allan Rayson, executive vice president, chief technology officer and chief innovation officer; and Erin Simpson, executive vice president and COO. Rayson was named 2022 Digital Banker of the Year by American Banker magazine.
Founded in 1997 as Capital Bank, it had $159 million in assets and seven employees in March 2019. But its vision was to go digital. In May 2019, the bank was rebranded as Encore Bank. It raised $57 million, adding 400-plus shareholders in November of that year. Today, it has approximately 1,900 shareholders.
Since that first capital raise, the bank has raised another $130 million and is raising $150 million now. It has reached nearly $3 billion in assets as well.
In addition, Encore has expanded to 21 markets in nine states and employs 300 people.
“We’ve had tremendous growth for years,” Simpson said. “So I think that’s why we got invited to speak to you today, just to tell you how we did this … For us, marketing is about defining first and foremost who we are and who we’re not. When we all came together that was, I would say, one of the first struggles that we had in determining which fintech partners to take on.”
Encore Bank decided to focus on commercial rather than retail clientele, Simpson explained, and determined that it is a “concierge-style boutique bank that offers white glove service to our customers. We want them to have that hand-to-hand touch. We want you to know who your banker is.”
The bank also decided to focus on using technology to eliminate manual processes not only for its staff, but for its clients.
Simpson also said acquiring the right talent has been critical to the Encore’s success. She said the bank hires professionals who have been in a market for a long time and can lead Encore’s entry into that market while being engaged in the technology the bank has deployed.
The bank’s acquisition of talent has come under fire though. In November, Encore Bank agreed to pay $3.6 million to Simmons Bank to settle a lawsuit over allegations that Simmons’ former employees took customer and proprietary bank information when they left to work for Encore.
In addition to acquiring the right talent, Rayson said Encore Bank owes its success to knowing a lot about its clients and shareholders. “We know a lot about their journey, both personally and professionally. And it informs a lot of what we do from a marketing perspective. I think understanding their journey is just really, really important,” he said.
One example is that the bank knows many of its investors are owners of a small or medium-sized business and it has employed people who understand that life, Rayson said.
His advice for summit attendees was to communicate constantly with their clients and to take on the right partners. “We wear these admittedly hokey wristbands on our wrists that say ‘We win together.’ … We win together not only as associates, but we win together with our partners,” Rayson said.
He stressed the importance of such collaboration, and Simpson encouraged those in the audience to participate in an accelerator program if given the opportunity, because that is how Encore has met some of its partners.