Experts Look Beyond the Incumbents: Why Smaller Players are Winning

In the world of fintech, you would be forgiven for thinking that all the major developments and collaborations are happening within the four walls of the largest incumbent banks and their startup partners. But, there is a whole world of exciting opportunity and expansion happening within smaller community and challenger banks, as the recent FinovateSpring showed. With an entire stream dedicated to community banking and many more sessions and speakers looking at the potential of SMEs, it was hard to miss the importance of this sector. Here, we catch up with some of the leaders in the space to hear what is exciting them and what they think the future has in store.


Rick Winslow, Chief Experience Officer at Kabbage talks about responsible borrowing behaviors and the importance of being able to provide much smaller lines of credit to small businesses.

Almost half of Americans own or work for a small business, yet they often are not given the priority. We spoke to Karen Mills, Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School and former cabinet member under President Barack Obama as Head of small Business Administration, about how important small business lending is to the health and well-being of businesses and ultimately the economy, and how technology may transform this process.


Jill Castilla, President and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond sits down with Steven Ramirez of Beyond the Arc to talk innovation in community banking, pushing the norms with legacy technology companies, and being organically invested to seek out new opportunities.


Tyler McIntyre, Founder and CTO of Bank Novo and Steven Ramirez, CEO at Beyond the Arc, talk challenger banks and why they’re needed in the current financial services and banking ecosystem.

Digital Banking Platform Alkami Lands New $55 Million Investment

In a Series E round led by MissionOG and General Atlantic, cloud-based digital banking platform provider Alkami Technology has raised $55 million in new funding. The investment takes the company’s total capital to more than $225 million, and will be used to help expand operations and fuel innovation at the Plano, Texas-based fintech.

Also participating in the round were existing investors including S3 Ventures and Argonaut Private Equity.

Company CEO Mike Hansen put the funding in the context of Alkami’s tenth anniversary, which the company will celebrate later this year. “We are very honored and excited about the support our existing investors evidenced again by this round,” Hansen said. “Their long-term commitment and support has allowed us to continue to boldly invest in innovation, people, and best-in-class service.” Hansen referred to the firm’s investors as “one of Alkami’s most potent sources of strength and results.”

Alkami Technology demonstrated its money management and financial awareness technology at FinovateSpring 2009 as iThryv – making the company one of Finovate’s oldest alums. Since then, the company has grown into a digital banking platform provider with more than 130 financial institution clients and more than six million registered users in the U.S.

General Atlantic Vice President Raph Osnoss credited Alkami’s “user experience, product features, platform architecture, and data security” for the company’s growth in the digital banking space. Alkami was featured in the 2018 Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies roster, as well as in Deloitte’s 2018 Technology Fast 500 in North America. Recent partnerships for the company include a platform deployment with Alliance Catholic CU of Michigan ($40 million in assets), and a deal with Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Nicolat National Bank ($3 billion in assets).

Named one of the Best FinTechs to Work For by SourceMedia (publishers of American Banker), Alkami also has made two C-suite moves in recent months. The company appointed former Authentix CMO Holly Tsourides as Chief Marketing Officer in February and named former RealPage executive Bryan Hill as Chief Financial Officer in April.

Five Degrees Teams Up with Bankingblocks

Digital core banking technology company Five Degrees has partnered with Bankingblocks to help challenger banks and payment companies offer new banking solutions to their customers. The firm announced this week that it will leverage Five Degrees’ Matrix solution as its digital core banking platform in order to launch a wide variety of banking services to clients and partners around the world.

“We are looking forward to integrating additional services together into the Five Degrees platform over the coming 12 months to add even more value to our fintech customers,” said Bankingblocks CEO Daria Rippindale. “Five Degrees are the perfect core-banking platform for us, as their flexibility and modularity allow us to expand our banking and payment blocks easily and with speed.”

Bankingblocks provides a modular banking service to the fintech industry. The company combines a traditional European payment institution, agency banking, and acquiring licenses to provide a wide range of products and services including acquiring, alternative payments and banking services (IBANs), foreign exchange, clearing, and card issuing. Customers of Bankingblocks can also access solutions like integrated core banking platforms, front-end banking, and acquiring gateway services. The company’s modular approach enables customers to choose the specific configuration of financial services solutions they need, saving time and money and reducing the complexity of adding new digital offerings.

“It’s great to see how Bankingblocks is leveraging our digital core banking technology to provide ready to go modular banking services to existing and new fintechs,” Five Degrees CEO and co-founder Martijn Hohmann said. “Bankingblocks have built a great proposition by providing modular banking services and we are proud that we are supporting this with our digital core banking platform in the cloud.”

Five Degrees demonstrated its ability to build and configure a complete, end-to-end retail bank in the cloud at FinovateEurope 2019. The company’s “next-next-finish” process and UI enables professionals without IT experience to choose the type of app, the necessary modules, components, and activities, and have a bank-as-a-service ready to go in 45 minutes.

Earlier this year, we highlighted Five Degrees in our Earth Day feature on ways fintechs are helping businesses and consumers develop environmentally-friendly habits. Founded in 2010, the Netherlands-based company has raised $11.3 million (€10 million) in funding from investors including Karmijn Kapitaal and Velocity Capital Private Equity.

nCino to Power Digital Banking for South State Bank

Cloud banking provider nCino announced today it will power a digital banking experience for South State Bank’s commercial banking customers.

The South Carolina-based bank will leverage the nCino Bank Operating System to improve its operations and provide a digital, omni-channel solution for its 700,000 customers across the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia. Specifically, South State hopes to improve its CRM technology, customer onboarding, account opening, workflow, credit analysis, enterprise content management, and instant reporting capabilities.

“It’s important to us to offer the right combination of high-touch personalized banking expertise and high-tech capabilities,” said President of South State Bank Greg Lapointe. “We’re committed to delivering exceptional service and believe nCino’s market-leading platform will provide our staff with the right tools and digital infrastructure to quickly and efficiently serve customers’ evolving needs.”

nCino demonstrated its Bank Operating System at FinovateEurope 2017. The North Carolina-based company offers a holistic platform that integrates the bank’s core system, as well as third party applications, while replacing dated solutions and manual processes.

The company has more than 200 clients from credit unions to banks with more than $10 billion in assets under management. Some of the company’s customers include Navy Federal Credit Union, SunTrust, Santander, and Regions.

So far in 2019, nCino has sparked a partnership with Accenture and landed clients from across the globe, including Sydney-based Thinktank, Stockholm-based DBT Företagslån, U.K.-based Project BankNorth, and Belgium-based Centrale Kredietverlening bank.

Since it was founded in 2012, nCino has raised $133 million in funding from the likes of Salesforce Ventures and Insight Venture Partners. Pierre Naudé is CEO.

OurCrowd’s New Partnership Promotes Startup Investment in Europe

Equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd formed a partnership this week with NOAH Advisors to boost investment for European startups.

NOAH Advisors, a European corporate finance boutique, will work alongside the Israel-based company as it expands its portfolio into European startups. The two will focus on Germany, Switzerland, and the U.K.

“Europe is practically next door, with many Israeli startups choosing to focus on this market,” said OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved. “There are amazing innovations being developed in Europe now, and now is the time to bring Israel and Europe closer, collaborating on new ideas and innovation finance.”

As a part of the agreement, NOAH Advisors’ clients, executives, and investors will gain access to OurCrowd’s investment opportunities.

Founded in 2013, OurCrowd’s crowdfunding platform allows its network of 33,000 individual investors to participate in startup investment opportunities alongside VCs and institutional co-investors at the same terms. The company prides itself on its curated deal selection process that requires a team of investment professionals to review thousands of companies, meet with selected management teams, and select opportunities to open to investors. Since opening its doors, the company has vetted over 10,000 companies.

At FinovateSpring 2016, the company debuted the OurCrowd mobile app. Since then, the company marked $1 billion in assets under management; a milestone OurCrowd reached last year. The company was recently featured in Forbes and was ranked by Pitchbook as the most active Israeli VC firm.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • OurCrowd’s New Partnership Promotes Startup Investment in Europe.
  • Five Degrees Teams Up with Bankingblocks.
  • nCino to Power Digital Banking for South State Bank.
  • Digital Banking Platform Alkami Lands New $55 Million Investment.

Around the web

  • Voleo to participate in Google’s Digital Strategy program to boost user acquisition on its social trading application.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Paysend Reaches Crowdfunding Goal of $5.3M

London-based fintech Paysend announced late last week that it had reached its fundraising goal of $5.3 million (£4.2 million) after a three-day campaign on Seedrs. The company noted that more than 200 investors have participated in funding round, which was led by VC’s Plug & Play, Digital Space Ventures, and Marcorp Fintech. The funding puts Paysend’s total capital at more than $25 million and gives the company a valuation of more than $158 million (£1.25 million).

“We believe that (transferring money) should be as easy and immediate as sending an email, and finally the digital age is being able to facilitate this,” Paysend CEO Ronald Millar explained. He blamed the banking and payments industry for “conditioning” customers into believing that the difficulty of transferring money justified the complex process that most bank customers endure. “I have always been a firm believer that earning money can be tough but spending shouldn’t be,” Millar said.

The company said the funds will be used to fuel Paysend’s international expansion goals, including new partnerships with FIs. Paysend is currently active in 70 countries around the world, and Millar noted that the company is adding new customers at a pace of 2,000 a day. In fact, Paysend’s funding announcement comes as the company reports adding another six countries to its money transfer network. India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, and Turkey are all slated to be brought onboard this year.

“We are on a major expansion path,” Millar told The Courier UK. “We’ve just launched the global account and we want to continue to grow the business and establish the operational team and launch more marketing.”

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in London, U.K., Paysend demonstrated its Global Account at FinovateSpring 2018. The solution enables users to store both fiat and crypto currencies in their wallet, exchange funds between currencies, send funds to other Global Accounts, and make payments from their account both online and in-person. The account comes with a prepaid card (both physical and virtual) that can be linked to the currencies in the user’s wallet, enabling them to make everyday transactions in the currency of their choice as easily as spending with a debit card. Users can also use their Global Account card to withdraw cash in 125 currencies.

Paysend has more than 750,000 users of its technology, and facilitates more than two million transactions a month. In May, the company announced the launch of its new payments app, Paysend Link, which enables users to send money to anyone, anywhere using only the recipient’s mobile phone number. Also in May, Paysend reported that its new stablecoin would be available on the Stellar Network this summer.

ACI Invests in Indian Payments; Brazilian Fintech Picks Up $200M from Japan

As Finovate goes increasingly global, so does our coverage of financial technology. Finovate Global: Fintech News from Around the World is our weekly look at fintech innovation in developing economies in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe.

Central and Southern Asia

  • ACI Worldwide invests in Mumbai, India-based payments innovator, Mindgate Solutions.
  • Pakistan’s Bank of Khyber to deploy new core banking system from Temenos.
  • Infosys earns recognition as a ‘leader’ in the IDC MarketSpace: Worldwide IT Service Management (ITSM) Implementation Services 2019 Vendor Assessment.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Brazilian fintech Creditas picks up $200 million investment from Japan’s Softbank, boosting the company’s valuation to $700 million.
  • Crowdfund Insider reveals the 3 Biggest Fintech Trends Shaping Latin America.
  • Amero-Isatek to open its first brick and mortar cryptocurrency exchange in Mexico’s Nuevo Leon, Monterrey.

Asia-Pacific

  • Splitit partners with EFTPay to bring installment payments to merchants in Hong Kong and Macau.
  • Vietnam’s MSB (Maritime Bank) picks SunTec for its customer centricity system.
  • Morocco-based BMCE Bank of Africa to leverage technology from Temenos to drive new corporate banking and trade finance operation in China.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Global Finance investigates the rise of Africa’s entrepreneurial class in the private banking industry.
  • Finextra looks at three reasons why fintech is driving change in Africa.
  • Standard Bank introduces new Mastercard-powered ditital trade solution, SimplyBlu, for SMEs in South Africa.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Wallet, the PFM app from Prague-based fintech BudgetBakers, earns license from Czech National Bank to join the bank’s APIs.
  • New lending platform for “multi-credit” services, Omnicredit, goes live in Romania.
  • Global Finance interviews Alexey Krgulov, Acting Director of Digital Business Platform with Sberbank.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Turkey’s Isbank partners with Russian PSP Yandex.Checkout to support e-commerce between the two companies.
  • Disrupt Africa features MerQ, an Egyptian startup that leverages AI to promote financial literacy.
  • AMEinfo publishes its report on banking and fintech in the Middle East and Africa.

Top image designed by Freepik

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Synapse Receives $33m for Backend Fintech.
  • Paysend Reaches Crowdfunding Goal of $5.3 Million.

Around the web

  • Worldline and Trapeze deliver a hands-free payment solution for public transport.
  • Sberbank to Open First Branch in McDonald’s Restaurant.
  • James Hale appointed Head of Product at alternative investing firm Artivest.
  • Finastra named 2019 Microsoft Alliance Global ISV Partner of the Year.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Synapse Receives $33 Million for Backend Fintech

Synapse, a San Francisco-based fintech startup, has raised $33 million in a series B round led by a16z, with participation from existing investors Trinity and Core and unnamed individual investors, including 9Yards Capital, reports Henry Vilar of Fintech Futures, Finovate’s sister publication.

This brings the start-up’s total raised to $50 million, following a $17 million series A round in September 2018. Synapse says it has over three million clients using its cloud-based tools, with 10,000 new signups and five million API requests every day.

In total, Synapse says it has facilitated more than $10 billion in transactions to date. The company reports facilitating more than $2 billion as automated clearing house (ACH) and $40 million in payment card transactions for over 100 companies so far this year.

Synapse provides payment, deposit, lending, and investment products as APIs to financial technology companies, which in turn launch consumer-facing financial services.

The fintech plans to build direct processor integrations with both Mastercard and Visa, which it expects will speed up API calls around card issuance and open up features like just-in-time funding and dynamic spending controls.

The company also intends to launch a brokerage account product and to enhance its loan origination and servicing API. This will make it easier for developers to apply for a warehouse line of credit and add automated text and phone loan collection support.

Toward the end of this year, the goal is to launch services in Europe and Canada, starting with payments, deposits, and debit card issuance. Lending and investment products will follow.

The firm plans a chatbot platform to answer customer questions, along with self-servicing tools for developers, a seed investing program. Synapse will also improve its security tools, including its ID verification and video authentication stack, add-ons around duplicate profile detection, and fraud and transaction monitoring.

“After 2019, our goal is to add support for two key markets each year, plus one underserved market, where we will build consumer-facing products until developer ecosystems are built,” said cofounder and CEO, Sankaet Pathak.

As a part of the series B, a16z’s Angela Strange and Michael Hoffmeyer, director at the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Memphis, have joined Synapse’s board of directors.

Founded in 2015, Synapse demoed its white label loan issuance at FinovateSpring last year. The tool originates and services unsecured consumer and business loans while providing customizable decisioning, automated compliance, smart notifications, and an origination and servicing UI.