Charles Potts: The power of collaboration


By Charles Potts, ICBA


In the past 12 months, we’ve seen what can be achieved when diverse groups work together toward a common goal: unprecedented innovation. This collaborative process is critically important to what we do at ICBA and has come to fruition in the past year.

In 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan process proved the value of effective collaboration between banks and fintechs. In a short period of time, community banks met the heroic challenge of getting emergency loans into the hands of thousands of small businesses. This was possible because community banks either already had great collaborative relationships with technology providers, or they were able to call upon fintechs that understood how to work with them and address their needs in a crisis.

We are very encouraged to see that regulatory bodies are now moving away from their perceived legacy positions as the department of “no” and have become more the department of “how.”

That was due in large part to the collaboration that ICBA and others have been involved in for the past two years. During that time, 17 companies have graduated out of our ThinkTECH Accelerator, which brings early stage fintechs and community bankers together to create purpose-built and mission-driven solutions to solve the real problems community banks face. Of those companies, 11 had solutions that could address the needs of the bankers during the COVID-19 crisis, most notably with the CARES Act.

Another collaborative high note was our very first ThinkTECH Policy Summit at the end of 2020, in which we brought together industry stakeholders—regulators, bankers and fintechs—to discuss opportunities for more effective collaboration. Over two and a half days, more than 100 attendees shared dialogue and insights about building upon the practices that we at the ICBA are taking on, as well as the sandbox programs, or innovation initiatives, that the regulators themselves are working on.

One example of this is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Trial Disclosure Sandbox program, which is soliciting designs for innovative disclosures. This comes out of the CFPB’s innovation arm and is something that we at the ICBA and our member bankers have been very hands-on with. We are very encouraged to see that regulatory bodies are now moving away from their perceived legacy positions as the department of “no” and have become more the department of “how.” That is a direct result of working collaboratively.

These recent successes are still resonating as we move into 2021. We are currently one month into our third accelerator. This is the cornerstone of what ICBA does to foster collaboration between fintech and bankers. If you’d like to participate in the accelerator, with hands-on involvement that really helps mold, shape and form solutions to the issues that face community bankers, join us. For more details, go to icba.org/thinktech


Charles Potts (charles.potts@icba.org) is ICBA senior vice president and chief innovation officer

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