How Collaboration and Partnership Power Fintech Innovation: Our Interview with FISPAN’s Andrea Zand

How Collaboration and Partnership Power Fintech Innovation: Our Interview with FISPAN’s Andrea Zand

How are banks and fintechs leveraging the lessons learned during the global health crisis to provide consumers and businesses with financial products that do an even better job than before of addressing their needs? And when it comes to innovation in technology and financial services, is disruption or collaboration dictating the pace of change?

To talk about these and other issues, we caught up with Andrea Zand, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of FISPAN. Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, FISPAN made its Finovate debut in 2017, demonstrating its cloud-based platform that leverages APIs to enable banks to deliver new business banking solutions to their corporate customers.

How are the banks you work with doing now – a little over one year after the onset of the pandemic?

Andrea Zand: Open-banking infrastructure and data sharing are helping banks and governments around the world better respond to the recovery post-pandemic. We are starting to see evidence that governments are beginning to use open banking data to help inform their pandemic responses and help small businesses. The banks we work with are feeling positive about the recovery going into 2021.

In what ways should banks expect customer behavior to change and how should they respond?

Zand: We’ve already seen that the pandemic has sped up innovation in financial services. Customers are getting more and more comfortable doing their personal banking online, and business banking customers are also turning to digital banking platforms as an alternative to in-person branch visits. Banks are struggling to keep up with this rapid shift in the types of online service offerings their clients are demanding. 

Because of this, banks are looking to deploy innovations that will have an immediate impact on the client experience. This is where we see a huge opportunity with embedded banking. By embedding the banking experience inside the platforms that business customers use to run their businesses (such as ERPs or accounting software), banks are able to easily provide their business clients with a more automated and streamlined treasury management process. The banks that are ahead of the curve and partnering with fintechs like us are beginning to better understand how their customers use their products in context, allowing them to innovate smarter and faster.

Technology has moved too fast for the banks to build those capabilities themselves. The best way for B2B banks to manage the impact of rapidly evolving customer expectations is to partner with agile, innovative fintech services.

Connecting with their clients as much as possible and understanding their needs will be essential in driving the agenda for the new capabilities the banks should be focusing on. Leveraging tech and automation will manage and rise to customer expectations while still allowing for more face time during this transition period to explore and understand customers’ needs and wants.

What are some of the other challenges that banks will encounter as the recovery picks up steam – and how will FISPAN help them?

Zand: Banks will continue to be challenged by continually changing customer expectations. They will also be challenged by the need to adapt to an open exchange of data that will happen as a result of the many new fintech upstarts that are creating new business models and finding ways to better meet these changing client demands.

FISPAN helps by collaborating with FIs to understand what will make their customers happier by joining forces across all levels of the product discovery and implementation phases. Getting in front of the customers and understanding their day-to-day ERP and accounting struggles is a large part of how we meet and overcome the challenges that have risen due to the digital shift during our global pandemic. More specifically, we enable banks to extend their service offering to their business clients by embedding commercial banking applications within the organization’s ERP or accounting software.

For those institutions that engaged in digital transformations, how do they make sure those efforts truly pay off?

Zand: Continue to be open to new ways of thinking and working with new partners. In partnering, serving, or investing in innovation by way of technology upstarts, financial institutions are able to position themselves for future growth and adaptation through real-time, easy access to products, services, data, and channels. Delivering a product or service that truly resonates with their customers and meets them where they are with the current challenges they face in a rapidly growing digital market.

What does collaboration between banks and fintechs look like in a post-COVID world?

Zand: Collaboration between banks, fintech, and other providers is becoming more important as the payments landscape is becoming more complex. Banks that are open to partnering have a competitive advantage because they can provide better services at scale. Not to mention that some banks are at risk of getting disintermediated by nonbank providers for some of these types of solutions. The time that bank partners spend helping integrate their banking services into different platforms is markedly less than the time it would take for the bank to develop it themselves. That same time investment from the bank also leads to countless saved hours for their business clients, increasing their value as a business bank.

What has been your biggest professional takeaway from 2020?

Zand: If 2020 taught me anything, it was to always remain flexible and open-minded. One of the big plans we had was to go to some in-person events and start to talk face to face with end-users and really understand what kinds of pain points they were experiencing with their treasury management process. All of our events were either canceled or transferred to digital. We were still able to get the information we needed from customer interviews and case studies, but it just goes to show that sometimes your best-laid plans aren’t going to be in the cards and you need to pivot quickly.

What are you looking forward to most in 2021? Where do you see the greatest opportunities?

Zand: Besides being able to see our bank clients and end-users face to face, in 2021 I am looking forward to watching banks, payments providers, and fintech companies launching services and solutions that can help small businesses across the country emerge from 2020. I think the greatest opportunity for economic recovery and success post-pandemic lies in banks being better able to serve their small business clients.


Photo by Nacho Juárez from Pexels

How to Manage and Exceed Evolving Customer Expectations

How to Manage and Exceed Evolving Customer Expectations

Is open banking key to enabling banks and other financial institutions to keep up with ever-evolving customer needs and expectations? With trend drivers as unpredictable as technological innovation on one hand and a once-in-a-generation pandemic on the other, what strategies and tactics can financial institutions embrace in order to best serve their customers now and in the future?

We caught up with Clayton Weir, co-founder of business banking solution provider FI.SPAN, to answer these questions and more. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and founded in 2016, FI.SPAN turns banking services into branded banking experiences that are embedded within the ERP and accounting systems of the bank’s business customers.

A recent report indicated that almost 90% of innovation managers fear that integration challenges themselves are an obstacle to digital transformation. Are they right?

Clayton Weir: Yes, I believe they have a valid argument for considering this an obstacle to digital transformation. Forrester and Avoka published a great study on how many large IT projects at enterprise banking and financial services firms get delayed, overrun, and even more disappointingly fail to deliver all of the business value promised.

When you look at the biggest drivers of a failed software project, a disproportionate amount of blame tends to fall on some failure to properly scope the mission in terms of vision, customer needs, and potential constraints. 

In addition to the inability to properly staff the program with the right skill mix, I believe those risks become heightened in a domain area like embedded/ERP banking. A team has to understand the nuances of client ERP systems, bank legacy systems, treasury banking, accounting workflows, banking workflows and deliver a program that can exist and add value within all of those different constraints. Not only will most banks and contracted build partners be unlikely to have some of those perspectives sitting on the bench, it also will be hard to deploy the right mix of people to the initiative concurrently. 

Technology has moved too far too fast for the banks to build those capabilities themselves. Buying companies that can bring those services to market is not impossible, but well outside the purview of most commercial banks. The best way to go for B2B banks to manage the impact of rapidly evolving customer expectations is to partner with agile, innovative fintech services that not simply meet expectations, but exceed them. 

Why do you believe that open banking is the missing link in helping banks make digital transformations?

Weir: Over the next few years, it’s likely that governments will force financial institutions to become more transparent with their data and share information of the client’s choosing with their peers because of open banking. By having a freer flow of information between these parties, both banks and fintechs could develop new apps and services to better serve the needs of their customers. Open banking will make it easier for customers to access fintech products or even open accounts with other financial institutions, but they’ll transact with others through their main bank’s platforms. Rather than getting frustrated with their bank’s limitations, customers will be grateful for how much easier it is to work with their institution.

What do you see when you look at the prospects for open banking in the U.S.? What will drive it forward?

Weir: Many businesses are feeling neglected by banks, when we look into some of the niches that are cropping up; fintechs can come in and support this happening, starting to find ways to serve small niches across the board.

Open banking is a big part of this conversation, and there is market-based momentum around open banking. Open banking is showing up as a direct response to the market opportunity. Meaning, the demand from consumers to use third party apps is increasing. If your bank doesn’t work with those apps, it’s a massive disadvantage for you. If a customer can’t use a certain app because you don’t offer it, they’re going to find a different bank that can offer them a better experience.

Effectively, there is going to be more and more momentum in the marketplace, so as the European and Australian open banking regimes mature, the scope will go above and and beyond what the U.S. has done. As multinational banks, fintechs and developers start to develop other offerings around open banking infrastructure in those other markets, it’s going to dial up the customer expectations in North America. Even if open banking is slow to adopt in the U.S. and Canada, the best things that come out of open banking will undoubtedly surface North America. Multinational banks are going to bring the best of their open banking infrastructure to their North American banks and use it in competitive and interesting ways.

What is the environment for open banking in Canada – where FI.SPAN is based?

Weir: Canada is lagging somewhat behind some other countries, such as Europe and Australia, where governments have mandated open banking and the sharing of customer information. However, adoption in these locales has been slow, while technical issues have made open banking difficult to implement. At some point, the Canadian government will follow suit and mandate open banking, but the sooner banks come on board – and some may get ahead of legislation and create better user experiences now – the better. Everyone should want to see open banking succeed, as it will make it easier for a bank’s business clients to operate, which then further increases economic innovation and competitiveness.

If Canada’s banks are going to become global financial innovators, they need to be more open-minded when it comes to working with fintechs and embrace key trends which include open banking, authentication and digital identification, payments modernization, and embedding financial services within other applications.

Why does the global health crisis – and its economic fallout – represent a special opportunity to embrace open banking? Has COVID-19 made it harder in some ways to advance open banking?

Weir: Quite the opposite, we see it as having brought about digitization and innovation at a quicker pace than pre-pandemic. I think what has essentially happened was that businesses suddenly needed to eliminate manual and paper-based processes, they looked to their banks for help implementing digital solutions quickly. This has pushed banks to start rethinking their innovation goals, and they’ve started asking what efforts will have an immediate impact on the client experience. The fact that embedded banking has suddenly become ubiquitous means that FI.SPAN is now positioned to bring about a huge shift in how businesses consume banking products.

How does FI.SPAN fit into this effort with regard to open banking? How is your company making a difference?

Weir: We make it easy for banks to extend their service offering to their business clients by embedding commercial banking applications within the organization’s ERP or accounting software. The most innovative banks are partnering with fintechs to deliver better payment services they believe will make their customers happier, their relationships stronger, and drive revenue.  


Photo by Oliver King from Pexels

Finovate Alums Join Mastercard Start Path Accelerator

Finovate Alums Join Mastercard Start Path Accelerator

FISPAN, Lendio, and Subaio are three of the ten fintech startups selected to participate in Mastercard’s upcoming Start Path accelerator program. The six-month accelerator will give startups the opportunity to collaborate with Mastercard on their solutions, as well as connect and network with members of Mastercard global ecosystem of banks, merchants, and technology companies.

“We all thrive when fintechs have access to the technology they need to reach scale and democratize finances,” Mastercard Chief Innovation Officer Ken Moore said. “We are partnering with the newest fintechs joining Start Path to drive inclusion, innovation, and trust with alternative ways to pay and authenticate, powerful solutions for small businesses, new ways to create efficiency for business payments, as well as address the wealth gap.”

Also participating in the program’s upcoming cohort are:

  • Carry1st
  • LISNR
  • Mocafi
  • Mo Technologies
  • Panda Remit
  • Paycode
  • Fanbank/Plink

All three Finovate alums shared the news Monday morning, either via social media or, in the case of Subaio, the company blog. “FISPAN is very proud and excited to work with Mastercard Start Path and start co-innovating,” the company announced on Twitter. “We’re excited to announce that Lendio is joining the Mastercard Start Path global network of fintech innovators!” tweeted Lendio.

FISPAN most recently demonstrated its cloud-based, API services management platform at FinovateFall last year. The Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based company was featured in our look at top Canadian fintechs over the summer. Look out for an upcoming Finovate interview with FISPAN Chief Technology Officer Clayton Weir on the company’s efforts to leverage open banking to help financial services companies better manage the economic fallout from the global health crisis.

A Finovate alum since 2011, Lendio has more than 75 lenders in its network who have facilitated more than 216,000 small business loans valued at more than $10 billion. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah and founded in 2005, Lendio announced last month that it has processed more than $500,000 in microloans to women-owned businesses around the world. The initiative was launched via its Lendio Gives employee-contribution program, in partnership with international non-profit Kiva.

For its part, Denmark-based Subaio’s CEO Thomas Laursen added that joining Start Path would be a “huge opportunity to work together with Mastercard and validate(d) the potential within the subscription management service.” One of Finovate’s newest alums, demoing its technology at FinovateEurope in Berlin in February, Subaio offers a subscription management service that gives bank customers the ability to track and manage subscriptions and recurring payments. The company has eight partners in Europe and has processed more than five billion transactions since inception.

Founded in 2014, the Mastercard Start Path program has worked with more than 250 startups since inception. These companies have raised $2.9 billion in investments after leaving the program.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Blend Integrates with Mortgage Credit Specialist Avantus.

Around the web

  • Recognise Financial Services to deploy nCino’s Bank Operating System.
  • NCR announces plans to acquire Midwest POS Solutions.
  • Courtesy of a new partnership with Personetics, Metro Bank launches its Business Insights solution for business customers.
  • Revolut teams up with Bottomline, enabling real-time payment services to its retail and business customers in the U.K.
  • As part of a new initiative, open banking specialist NDGIT to bring its PSD2 Compliance APIs to Switzerland.
  • 3E Software’s Teslar Software adds Pendleton Community Bank to list of clients.
  • Overbond, FI.SPAN, and Finn.AI among 12 Canadian fintech startups chosen for U.K. trade mission.
  • CardFlight’s SwipeSimple terminal available on PAX A80.

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.

FinovateEurope Sneak Peek: FI.SPAN

FinovateEurope Sneak Peek: FI.SPAN

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateEurope on February 12 through 14, 2019 in London, U.K. Register today and save your spot.

FI.SPAN will show how banks can deliver banking services directly into ERP and accounting services to their commercial clients.

Features

  • Provides auditable, secure, and automated two-way connectivity
  • Eliminates SFTP file exchange
  • Enables you to easily sell more services to your commercial clients

Why it’s great
FI.SPAN is the world’s first platform that enables banks to meet their commercial customers where they live.

Presenters

Clayton Weir, Co-Founder, Head of Strategy and Product
Weir oversees product strategy, partnerships, and marketing, and works closely with FI.SPAN’s product and business development department.
LinkedIn

Valery Novikov, Co-Founder, Chief Technology Officer
Novikov leads the development team. Throughout his career, he faced multiple situations which proved that the ability to deliver fast is a key competitive advantage.
LinkedIn

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Finovate Alums Raise More Than $4 Billion in 2018; $802 Million in Q4.

Around the web

  • Symbiont closes $20 million Series B in round led by Nasdaq Ventures.
  • New partnership helps Moven grow in MENA.
  • UNPay founder Zhang Zhenghua named as 2018 Golden Shell Award’s inaugural “Payment Industry Pioneer.”
  • Envestnet|Yodlee acquires Abe AI to drive Yodlee’s latest conversational AI solution.
  • Experian unveils first affordability check for gaming websites.

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.

FI.SPAN to Partner with JP Morgan Chase

FI.SPAN to Partner with JP Morgan Chase

Just days after announcing a new round of funding, Canadian fintech FI.SPAN is set to team up with up with JP Morgan Chase to help the bank develop pilot programs for the corporate treasurers of Chase’s business banking customers. The reporting, from The Globe and Mail, notes that the partnership with JP Morgan Chase is one of the four partnerships FI.SPAN has secured with a top 20 U.S. commercial bank.

“It’s an opportunity to make fintech a service,” FI.SPAN CEO Lisa Shields explained to The Globe and Mail, “where banks can make use of innovative solutions that fintech’s provide (while still retaining the customer).”

FI.SPAN is a cloud-based bank API services platform that leverages APIs to enable banks to offer a wide variety of new business banking products and services to their business customers. The company offers curated and pre-integrated third party fintech solutions that banks can use independently or integrated with their own technology. At FinovateFall 2018, the company demonstrated its ERP Connectivity Suite which helps facilitate the migration of payment and cash management processes into accounting applications.

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, FI.SPAN has raised a total of $6 million in capital. The company’s investors include BDC Capital Corporation, FINTOP Capital, Panache Ventures, and VFF.

FI.SPAN Raises $4 Million for U.K. and Australia Expansion

FI.SPAN Raises $4 Million for U.K. and Australia Expansion

Financial services management platform FI.SPAN has some extra holiday spending cash, thanks to a new round of funding led by BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Venture Fund. The round also features participation from FinTop Capital, VFF, Panache Ventures and others. The $4 million investment brings FI.SPAN’s total funding to $6 million.

The Canada-based company will use the funds to expand its operations to the U.K. and Australia, as well as grow its Vancouver, B.C.-based team. FI.SPAN currently employs 20 people in its New York and Vancouver offices, and it hopes to double its Vancouver workforce within the next year-and-a-half.

FI.SPAN CEO Lisa Shields told BIV.com that she’s not worried about Brexit impacting the company’s U.K. expansion. “Brexit, to be honest, for my particular business doesn’t affect us that much and the market is massive in the U.K.,” Shields said. “Because we sell to banks, we’re less impacted by Brexit.”

Above: Shields and with co-founder Clayton Weir demo at FinovateFall 2018

Shields co-founded FI.SPAN in 2016 and recently demoed the company’s ERP Connectivity Suite at FinovateFall 2018 in New York.  The company’s white-labeled service designs, builds, and maintains live connections to online and cloud-based accounting systems. The company’s API services suite helps banks build out their APIs to offer clients third-party connectivity. Similarly, FI.SPAN’s Fintegration suite helps banks integrate with fintechs and securely manage data exchange between the two parties.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • EVRY Wins $75 Million Contract.
  • Best of Show Winner Voleo to Help Drive Social Trading in Europe.
  • FI.SPAN Raises $4 Million for U.K. and Australia Expansion.

Around the web

  • Sberbank offers clients new strategies for investment life insurance.
  • PaySend launches transfers to bank accounts and Napas cards in Vietnam.
  • Anorak earns a spot in FinSMEs’ Top 10 U.K. Insurtech Startups to Watch in 2019 roster.
  • Intuit relaunches its redesigned ProAdvisor program in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
  • DataSine and FinovateFall Best of Show winner Golden join the Envestnet | Yodlee Incubator’s latest cohort.
  • API platform provider for banking and insurance NDGIT announces strategic partnership with Synpulse.
  • James Finance, Ocrolus, Hydrogen, and iProov shortlisted for India FinTech Awards 2018.
  • PYMNTS highlights WePay Co-founder Rich Aberman in its latest podcast.
  • Jack Henry & Associates introduces a voice-driven consumer billpay solution.

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.

FinovateFall Sneak Peek: FI.SPAN

FinovateFall Sneak Peek: FI.SPAN

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateFall on September 24 through 26, 2018 in New York. Register today and save your spot.

FI.SPAN enables banks to provide bank-branded ERP connectors and adapters to their most valuable commercial clients.

Features

  • Opens up the business banking channel of the future
  • Makes banking transactions automated and auditable
  • Manages permissions explicitly and securely

Why it’s great
APIs mean business.

Presenters

Lisa Shields, CEO and Founder
Shields is the founder and Chief Executive Officer at FI.SPAN, where she leads the company with a dual emphasis on people and product. She is an engineer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart.
LinkedIn

 

Clayton Weir, Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer
Weir is the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at FI.SPAN, leading product strategy, partnerships with ERPs, and marketing.
LinkedIn

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Diebold Nixdorf Receives $650 Million Capital Commitment.
  • Mint Brings User Interface into 2018.
  • A Framework for Your 2019 Fintech Strategy.

Around the web

  • Mitek announces departure of CEO Jim DeBello.
  • The SaaS Report recognizes bpm’online CEO and managing partner, Katherine Kostereva, as one of its Top 50 SaaS CEOs of 2018.
  • ACI Worldwide integrates with tax filing technology firm, SPAN Enterprises.
  • Modo teams up with Etihad Airways to build loyalty solution for airline industry.
  • Vera welcomes Carlos Delatorre as CEO.
  • Temenos launches Temenos Learning Community Engine.

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.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Xero Teams with DBS on Small Business Account Feeds.
  • Zopa Boosts Executive Ranks with Trio of C-Level Hires.
  • SoFi’s Choice: Former Twitter COO Anthony Noto to Take Helm as New CEO.
  • Trulioo Launches KYC Tool to Connect MNOs.
  • Juvo Receives Investment from Samsung to Boost Smartphone Usage Among Underbanked.

Around the web

  • Atomico uses Quid for the 2017 State of European Tech report.
  • Bobsguide interviews Lisa Shields, CEO of FI.SPAN.
  • Thomson Reuters unveils Wizcorp, a digital gateway that will provide customers with data on more than 1.8 million Indian private companies.
  • FICO partners with European regulatory risk analytics consultancy, 4most.
  • Finastra announces new partners to its FusionFabric.cloud open architecture.

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.