Kevin Tweddle: 2019 hits and misses

By Kevin Tweddle, ICBA

At the beginning of the year, I made several predictions about the innovation trends 2019 would bring. Some came true, while others fell short.

As the year draws to a close, let’s circle back to those trends and examine how the community bank landscape is evolving as we all plan for the year ahead. Here is a look at my forecasts from the past year.

Prediction: Avoidance is no longer a strategy.
We’ve seen this play out with bankers moving from the sidelines to become more active in identifying specific areas for an enhanced consumer experience. Whether it’s a digital transaction, a new deposit account or another product, a heightened focus for community banks is account onboarding and easing the customer experience. The Apple credit card, which can be opened in mere minutes, is a prime example of table-stakes innovation requiring a community bank response.

Prediction: The golden era of the banking-fintech partnership is just beginning.
Collaboration between community banks and fintechs is exploding, and, with it, an increased focus on facilitating strategic connections between them. We’re seeing a rise in the use of artificial intelligence, producing such tools as chatbots and digital loan solutions that speed up the decisioning process and improve customer interactions.

Prediction: Core processors will pick up the pace on innovation.
Driven by customer demand, cores are starting to embrace open banking and become more receptive to fintech partnerships. This year, we’ve seen increased competition among core processors, with several new international organizations entering the race. The added competition is good for community banks, because it accelerates innovation and improves prices.

Prediction: Fintech accelerator programs will grow exponentially.
The number of fintech accelerators is on the rise, and while it didn’t quite reach the level I anticipated, ICBA’s inaugural ThinkTECH Accelerator performed well. Among the program’s notable alumni are Banker’s Choice Award winner Teslar Software of Springdale, Ark.; San Diego’s MK Decision, a partner of ICBA Bancard; and Washington, D.C.-based Invest Sou Sou, a Best in Show winner at Finovate Spring 2019. ICBA is partnering again with The Venture Center in Little Rock, Ark., to launch ThinkTECH Accelerator 2.0 as we continue to facilitate community bank-fintech partnerships. Read more at

Prediction: High tech, high touch is the future of community banking.
Community bankers are learning to balance the need for personalized service with enhanced efficiency. Both are necessary for future success. They allow bankers to devote less time to cumbersome processes and more time to customer relationships.
After all, relationships are, and always will be, at the core of community banking. By adding technology to the mix, community banks can continue to flourish.

Kevin Tweddle ( is chief operating officer of the ICBA Services Network