Women in FinTech: “The Ability to Serve Customers in the Best Manner Possible is Where I Draw Energy.”

As part of our #WomeninFinTech series, we sat down with Kristin Marcuccilli, executive vice president and chief operating officer at STAR Financial Bank.

We talked about her transition from the world of college football to the world of banking and finance, what technology she thinks will lead the way, and why it is important to work with like-minded individuals to drive a business forward.

Finovate: How did you start your career?

Kristin Marcuccilli: STAR Financial Bank is a privately-owned family bank that’s been around for more than 75 years; in fact, my grandfather’s name is the “T” (Thomas) in STAR. Despite this family history, I didn’t always aspire to become a banker. I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and pre-medicine from the University of Notre Dame, and my student work in football operations and player development ultimately led me to my first job in the Notre Dame Football office for three years.  It wasn’t until later that I decided to pursue a master’s degree in business administration and management from Indiana University.

While working toward my master’s degree, I asked my dad about potential opportunities with the bank – though I still was unsure if this was the right path, I became more curious as I progressed in my studies and job experiences. When an opportunity to join the bank arose, I had to follow the same process as anyone else. Our bank has strict rules about family employees: we must work somewhere else for five years first; new positions won’t be created just for family members; and we must pursue an MBA or banking certification to even be considered for a senior management role.

In 2008, I joined the bank as a project manager, and haven’t looked back since. Over the past 11 years, I have worked my way up to chief operating officer, and I now help oversee our technology partnerships, project management efforts, bank operations and strategic direction. During my time at the bank, I’ve helped establish a strategic vision, oversaw a website redesign, helped implement 55 Interactive Teller Machines and have enhanced our digital banking strategy.

Finovate: What sparked your interest in fintech?

Marcuccilli:My interest in fintech stems from the reason I choose to work in community banking – it’s a relationship business, and our team’s involvement in creative thinking that will ultimately help change and influence the way people and businesses interact with their bank is an ever-present and ever-evolving challenge. A passion for fintech calls for an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to embrace failure and change nearly every day. For me, that’s an exciting challenge.

Finovate: What technologies have you seen lately that have excited you?

Marcuccilli: New technology seems to appear overnight. Years from now, we expect that real-time payments will be the norm – no more waiting for money to move overnight or over the course of several days via check. The application of biometrics and advanced analytics for enhanced security will continue to expand and evolve, and artificial intelligence will support personalized customer experience through digital channels. Electronic delivery of documents, signatures and account opening will also likely be dominating a once paper-intensive banking environment. Self-service kiosks will also have advanced to replace much of the standard transaction activity both as in-branch and as standalone options. All of this excites me, as the ability to serve our customers in the best manner possible is where I draw energy.

Finovate: Why is it important for banks to embrace new tech? How is Star Financial Bank doing this?

Marcuccilli: In our rapidly changing industry, banks that are slow to adapt risk falling behind and losing critical business. Bankers have a significant advantage when it comes to building valuable relationships and supporting their local communities, but they must also add modern technology to remain nimble and relevant.

At STAR, we place a strong emphasis on maintaining our community focus while optimizing delivery channels and meeting customers where they are on their financial journey. We take a collaborative approach when evaluating and implementing new technology, starting at the top with our CEO who encourages the team to embrace change.

I am proud to be part of a powerhouse team, working alongside innovators and leaders who dedicate significant time and effort toward studying technology and client behavior to best meet our community’s needs. We have a group of smart, data-driven individuals who ensure our technology and services align with our business and customer demands.

Finovate: Where do you think the future of fintech is heading?

Marcuccilli: Delivery channel optimization (to ensure convenient and engaging customer experience), security threats and payments are all rapidly evolving and will continue to be a major focus in the fintech space. To effectively address these trends, there will be a growing demand and emphasis on the selection of third-party partnerships.  Finding the right technology partner – both a technical and cultural fit – will be important in facilitating the best experience for customers.

Finovate: Why is the #WomeininTech movement important?

Marcuccilli: There is a general lack of female representation in financial services, especially when it comes to the technology side of the house.  As industry professionals, we can help influence this by supporting and encouraging women to join and contribute to the field. Series like these are a powerful way to highlight how women are innovating and making a difference in their local communities through financial services and technology.

Finovate: What piece of advice would you give women starting out their career in finance/ fintech?

Marcuccilli: My advice is to be open to different possibilities within the financial services and fintech space as there are no shortage of opportunities. It’s important to surround yourself with strategic and smart individuals who help build up the team, supporting professional goals and development. I’d also encourage women to become involved in their local communities. Learning and growing from individuals outside of your organization can also be key to professional success. When we commit to staying attuned to business and industry trends and recent developments, we’re able to better support an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and growth in our local communities.

Finovate: And what piece of advice do you have for other banks to attract and retain more star female talent?

Marcuccilli: At STAR, we prioritize collaboration and innovation, and that’s been very attractive to top talent. Showing potential employees that the bank cares about exploring new ideas from all levels of the institution, not just from management or the C-suite, can be a powerful differentiator. Institutions that break down silos, encourage cross department collaboration and transparency, and embrace change will find more success in attracting and retaining star female talent.

PayPal Democratizes Access to eCommerce Tools

With the launch of the PayPal eCommerce Platform PayPal announced this week, the alternative finance provider will be helping small businesses gain access to ecommerce tools typically reserved for larger businesses.

In the company’s blog post announcement, COO Bill Ready said, “The PayPal Commerce Platform is designed to meet the specific needs of marketplaces, e-commerce solution providers, crowdfunding platforms and more by bringing together the most comprehensive set of technologies, tools, services, and financing for businesses of all sizes around the globe.”

With the new tool, businesses can access PayPal’s 277+ million active users. They can also operate on a more global scale, leveraging PayPal’s capability to accept more than 100 currencies. Perhaps most notably, however, the PayPal eCommerce Platform takes care of two headaches– compliance and security. Changing regulatory compliance mandates and constantly evolving security standards can make it difficult for businesses to keep up. PayPal’s eCommerce Platform meets demands regulators across 200+ markets and provides AI-powered fraud detection tools.

Previously, these tools were reserved for leading platforms such as BigCommerce, Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, Lightspeed, and Yahoo! Small Business. PayPal eCommerce Platform enables more businesses, and ultimately more people, to participate in the digital economy. “We want to help more businesses get started, grow and thrive in today’s complex digital world. It’s that simple,” said Ready.

This week’s launch may have something to do with the company’s back-to-back acquisitions made last year. Last June PayPal purchased merchant payout platform HyperWallet for $400 million and just weeks later acquired fraud prevention and risk management specialist Simility for $120 million.

PayPal Commerce Platform is available in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The company hopes to expand it to more than 40 markets by the end of this year.

PayPal was founded in 1998 and has a market capitalization of $134.6 billion. The company showcased its Instant Account Creation feature at FinovateFall 2012.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

Around the web

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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.

Lighter Capital Launches New Financing Options

Startup financing company Lighter Capital is broadening its horizons this week. The Seattle-based company announced it is now offering a more diverse set of financing options to fuel entrepreneurs with working capital.

Now, in addition to its flagship, revenue-based financing option that has provided $150 million to over 300 startups in more than 500 rounds of financing, Lighter Capital offers lines of credit and term loans. Similar to the revenue-based financing option, the Lighter Line of Credit and Lighter Term Loan are non-dilutive, meaning startups don’t have to give up equity, or offer board seats.

“Evaluating small startups and providing small loans requires a sophisticated technology platform and data science,” Lighter Capital CEO BJ Lackland told GeekWire. “Our fintech lending platform pulls in 6,500 data points through APIs, creates projections that are 97 percent accurate on average, and automates much of the funding process.”

The new offerings are called the Lighter Line of Credit and the Lighter Term Loan. The Lighter Line of Credit is a revolving working capital line that enables startups to draw and return capital numerous times to even out their cash needs. The Lighter Term Loan provides startups growth capital with predictable payments and offers them the right to get additional capital for a period of time.

The two new credit offerings are meant to complement revenue-based financing. Startups can combine all options for a total of $3 million.

Founded in 2010, Lighter Capital most recently demoed at FinovateFall 2013 where it showcased loan analysis and monitoring tools. Last year, the company launched a new Client Perks Program and increased its funding limit to $3 million.

Credit Agricole Plans $17 Billion Tech Investment in Four Years

Credit Agricole, the French bank for the agricultural sector, has allocated $16.9 billion (€15 billion) for technological transformation for “greater efficiency,” reports Henry Vilar of Fintech Futures, Finovate’s sister publication.

This capital will be invested over the next four years, aiming to achieve a data-centric architecture in 90% of the group by 2022, as well as $338 million (€300 million) “in increased IT efficiency.”

The group aims to have the totality of its IT staff trained in new technologies at the “new IT university.” This is part of the plan to retrain its staff to be able to handle the new technologies that the financial group aims to test and implement throughout its business lines.

A document issued by the bank says that “100% of emerging technologies” will be tested for new services. That’s right, all of them.

The bank forecasted a very slow level of profit growth for the next four years, as it faces low interest rates and a potential deterioration in its loan portfolio.

In its previous plan, Credit Agricole had targeted a 10% increase in net profit from 2016 until this year but managed to deliver that a year ahead of schedule. The bank reported a 25% profit increase over the two years to 2018.

The bank expects an annual net profit of roughly over $5.6 billion (€5 billion) in 2022, according to its report.

Founded in 1885, Credit Agricole demoed its in-house app store at FinovateEurope 2013.

BanQu Closes Extension on Series A Round

Blockchain-based identity startup BanQu announced it closed an extension of its Series A round today. The funds come from Anheuser-Busch InBev’s venture arm ZX Ventures. The amount of the funding was undisclosed but adds to the company’s previous funding total of $2.6 million.

“After BanQu’s outstanding pilot performance in our 100+ Accelerator, we are pleased to solidify the partnership with Ashish, Jeff, and the entire team at BanQu through an equity investment,” said Tony Milikin, Chief Sustainability and Procurement Officer at AB InBev. “Together, we are working to improve access to modern banking for thousands of farmers in underserved rural markets, driving inclusive growth and contributing to our own 2025 Sustainability Goal as well as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

Minnesota-based BanQu won Best of Show at FinovateSpring 2016 for its blockchain-as-a-service company that aims to lift people out of extreme poverty by connecting them with global supply chains, brands, organizations, and governments. The company connects the unbanked population to the global economy via a distributed ledger of financial and personal records using blockchain technology. Once users create a transaction history on the BanQu blockchain, they create a trackable personal history that serves as a form of identity, providing a baseline for them to participate in the global economy.

BanQu originally launched its partnership with AB InBev in August of last year after piloting its identity technology with 2,000+ cassava farmers in Zambia. Since then, the company has rolled out programs in Uganda and India, and is planning efforts in Brazil.

“ABInBev has been an incredible partner to BanQu over the past year, and together we have innovated and scaled the BanQu platform across multiple countries and thousands of farmers. Farmers at the world’s “last mile,” traditionally excluded from the global economy and lacking a verifiable economic identity, are now visible, financially empowered, and connected in the global supply chain of AB InBev,” said BanQu Co-Founder and CEO Ashish Gadnis. “The ZX investment takes this partnership to a whole new level of commitment on both sides. It cements our core shared vision of making the world a better place while being good business stewards.”

BanQu currently has operations across 12 countries including Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malawi, Somalia, South Africa, Syria, Uganda, United States, and Zambia. The company has plans for additional rollouts in China and Mexico later this year.

$468 Million Raised by 20 Alums in Q1 of 2019

One of the big questions about first quarter funding for Finovate alums over the past few years asked: which is the truer barometer of the fintech funding environment: the post-election parsimony of Q1 2017 or the billion+ investment rebound of Q1 2018?

We now have our answer: Alums in the first quarter of 2019 racked in more than $468 million in funding. This figure more than doubles the Q1 2017 total, and represents financings from 20 companies that have demoed at our conferences in the past (both Finovate and FinDEVr). Q1 2019 totals are less than that of the previous two first quarters in 2016 and 2015, but on a “per alum funded” basis this year’s first quarter is comparable to all but 2018’s historic start.

Previous Quarterly Comparisons

  • Q1 2018: $1.32 billion raised by 26 alums
  • Q1 2017: $230 million raised by 20 alums
  • Q1 2016: $656 million raised by 32 alums
  • Q1 2015: $680 million raised by 29 alums

Unlike some quarters in which overall totals are boosted by a single outsized investment (Credit Karma’s $500 million fundraising in Q1 of last year comes to mind), the first quarter investments for alums this year were in the moderate range. That said, adding up to $428 million, this quarter’s top 10 equity investments make up a sizable 91.5% of the quarter’s total funding.

Top 10 Equity Investments

  1. Stash: $65 million
  2. Tink: $63 million
  3. Coverhound: $58 million
  4. Nutmeg: $58 million
  5. Personal Capital: $50 million
  6. Mambu: $34 million
  7. Featurespace: $32.2 million
  8. Socure: $30 million
  9. SpyCloud: $21 million
  10. Zafin: $17.2 million

Here is our detailed alum funding report for Q1 2019.

January: More than $111 million raised by five alums

February: More than $276 million raised by nine alums

March: More than $81 million raised by six alums


If you are a Finovate alum that raised money in the first quarter of 2019 and do not see your company listed, please drop us a note at research@finovate.com. We would love to share the good news! Funding received prior to becoming an alum not included.

Top image designed by Freepik

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • $468 Million Raised by 20 Alums in Q1 of 2019
  • BanQu Closes Extension on Series A Round
  • Credit Agricole Plans $17 Billion Tech Investment in Four Years
  • Lighter Capital Launches New Financing Options

Around the web

  • Growjo names Coinbase, Plaid, and BlueVine fastest growing startups in California.
  • Ping Identity launches capabilities framework to help clients adopt a Zero Trust security strategy.
  • Sifted looks at Credit Karma’s entry into Europe.

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.

OneSpan Unveils its Secure Agreement Automation Solution

The new Secure Agreement Automation cloud solution from OneSpan offers fully-digital account opening while fighting application fraud. Launched this week, the technology leverages open APIs to deliver identity verification, eSignature, workflow, and an end-to-end audit trail in a single account opening solution.

“The battle for banking consumers is being waged based on the quality of the digital experience, which demands both ease of use to reduce abandonment rates and strong security to lessen account fraud,” OneSpan CEO Scott Clements explained. “Secure Agreement Automation represents the fulfillment of OneSpan’s promise to help financial institutions reduce costs and increase growth by establishing trusted identities, devices, and transactions throughout the customer journey.”

The cloud-based solution automates new customer acquisition, identifying qualified customers by running applications through its identity verification hub. This hub relies on credit checks, multifactor authentication, and biometric tools like facial recognition to limit false positives and customer abandonment. The connection to OneSpan’s Trusted Identity (TID) platform means FIs can add capabilities like risk analytics and intelligent adaptive authentication.

Aite Group Fraud and AML practice Research Director Julie Conroy called OneSpan’s Secure Agreement Automation offering part of a “win-win” set of solutions that companies are providing to banks to make customer onboarding faster and more secure. “Even as application fraud attacks continue to escalate, research shows that improving the customer experience continues to be the number one drive of business cases as financial institutions invest in new account onboarding solutions,” Conroy said.

With 10,000+ customers, including more than half of the top 100 global banks, OneSpan rebranded from VASCO back in May of last year. As VASCO, the company participated in FinovateFall 2017, demoing digital lending and document management technology from its recent acquisition eSignLive.

Last month, OneSpan picked up the 2019 Global Customer Value Leadership Award from Frost & Sullivan for its Intelligent Adaptive Authentication solution. Also in May, the company announced that the largest community bank in the Washington, D.C. metro area, EagleBank, had deployed OneSpan’s mobile authentication technology. Other 2019 partnerships for the company include collaborations with United Bulgarian Bank and cloud portal ezidox.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, OneSpan is a publicly-traded company on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker OSPN. The company has a market capitalization of $557 million.

Workfusion Brings Robotic Process Automation Global with New Partnership

Robotic process automation (RPA) specialist WorkFusion partnered with NEC Corporation this week to bring AI-fueled RPA to global markets.

Through the partnership, NEC will become a reseller of WorkFusion solutions around the world, starting with its home territory of Japan. The timing for the launch of WorkFusion’s RPA tools in Japan aligns with the country’s recent work reform legislation. In April, Japan implemented a reform designed to help improve employee well-being and productivity. Because of this, many firms are turning to automation and AI to minimize the amount of time workers spend doing repetitive work.

“We designed our platform with intelligence and analytics at the core, which allows businesses to overcome the challenges faced not only with manual repetitive work but with legacy RPA technologies, and deliver true business value,” said WorkFusion CEO Alex Lyashok. “We’re thrilled to work hand in hand with NEC to help businesses in Japan and throughout the world experience the transformative power of AI-driven RPA as they work to adapt to a changing workforce.”

As a part of the deal, WorkFusion worked with NEC to create cognitive bots that facilitate specific finance and accounting processes unique to Japan. The two taught WorkFusion’s Intelligent Automation Cloud software a wide range of business tasks. The software leveraged machine learning to become familiar with a wide range of tasks, and eventually began to independently carry out more tasks on its own.

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in New York, WorkFusion has a mission to help firms deal with the rapid rise of AI by reducing the complexity of the technology. The company helps customers exploit the AI opportunity by leveraging products that pair people with the power of robotic software. Specifically, use cases for WorkFusion’s AI-powered RPA include creating a more efficient account opening process, increasing loan booking accuracy, and automating rule-based processes in trade finance.

At FinovateFall 2014 WorkFusion demoed Active Learning Automation in New York. In April of this year the company unveiled its new AI-powered Intelligent Automation Cloud, along with a go-live program, to help companies automate operations beyond RPA or other existing technologies.