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Fintech Summit Highlights Arkansas' Role as Industry Leader

 February 28, 2022

Financial technology – or fintech – is a cutting-edge field that is changing the way banks and businesses around the world operate, and Arkansas is staking its claim as a leader in the field.

Located in downtown Little Rock, The Venture Center is home to two award-winning fintech accelerators: the FIS Fintech Accelerator and the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator. These programs have garnered wide recognition, winning the top prize in the Best Fintech Accelerator/Incubator category at the second annual Finovate Awards in 2020.

These two accelerators have brought dozens of fintech companies to Little Rock to participate in the multi-week programs that provide them with mentorship from fintech experts and access to banking executives. Many of the Venture Center’s accelerator cohort companies have gone on to significant success, working with banks and financial institutions to implement fintech solutions as a result of their time in the accelerator programs.

Now, The Venture Center is launching a new initiative that will highlight Arkansas’ role as a fintech hub. The Venture Center is holding an inaugural fintech summit that will bring together bank industry leaders, fintech executives, innovators, and influencers in Little Rock.

Across three days in August, the VenCent Fintech Summit will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about the latest innovations in the fintech industry and what the future of banking looks like from leading bank executives from around the globe. The summit will offer live product demonstrations from up to 70 of The Venture Center’s fintech accelerator alumni, provide learning opportunities from subject matter experts, and give participants unparalleled networking opportunities.

Multiple banking executives, business leaders, and government officials will be on hand at the VenCent Fintech Summit to discuss the impact fintech is having on the world and the latest trends in the industry. Keynote speakers include Laura Merling, Chief Transformational Officer and Managing Director of Arvest Bank, and Ron Shevlin, the Chief Research Officer at Cornerstone Advisors. Program speakers include Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston, U.S. Congressman French Hill, and Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jay Chesshir.

For Wayne Miller, executive director of The Venture Center, the VenCent Fintech Summit is a way to build on Arkansas’ fintech legacy and The Venture Center’s ongoing accelerator successes. The roots of the fintech industry can be traced back, Miller said, to the founding of Systematics in Little Rock in 1968 in what is now the Little Rock Tech Park – the same building that houses The Venture Center. Systematics, founded by Walter Smiley, has evolved to become FIS, one of the largest fintech companies in the world.

“We do feel strongly that the roots of financial technology really sprouted from Little Rock, Arkansas,” Miller said. “It’s natural that we wanted something to build on that.”

In the decades since the founding of Systematics, The Venture Center has continued to put Arkansas on the map for fintech. “When we talk about the Venture Center, when we talk about fintech and we talk about financial inclusion, people are thinking about Little Rock as a place that that is happening. People are coming here and investing,” Miller said.

The secret to The Venture Center’s success has been its focus on helping to solve the problems that bankers are facing today. Through the FIS Fintech Accelerator and the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator, The Venture Center works to cultivate companies that can deliver rapid, impactful solutions for banks and their clients. Using this same approach, Miller sees the VenCent Fintech Summit as a way to give banking executives a wide range of potential solutions that have been vetted and are market ready.

“We’ve learned that what our great value to banking is our capacity to source, identify and help de-risk solutions for the financial technology industry and the banking industry that they can put to work tomorrow. When you start to look at those solutions and the speed at which the world moves today, it’s critical to be able to get those solutions into the hands of the bankers rapidly.”

“It’s not just about cool technology – it’s what problems do they need to solve. That’s always been the approach we’ve taken at the Venture Center with our accelerators,” Miller said. “When they’re done spending three days with us at VenCent, we’re going to be providing them with solutions that they can take back to their banks and they can deploy tomorrow.”

VenCent will also feature a Startup Alley, a showcase for earlier stage companies that will offer a glimpse of where the fintech industry is heading in the future.

That fintech future is bright and ever-changing, and the fintech industry will be playing an increasing role in how business is done on a personal, national and global scale. From industry titans like Walmart and J.B. Hunt to small business owners, business leaders use fintech to manage their operations, according to Miller. When transactions are being processed, when data is moving, when records are being managed, or when information needs to be secured, fintech is likely playing a role in getting the job done.

“Fintech affects every industry. There’s not an industry that fintech – financial technology – in some shape or form doesn’t have a dramatic impact,” he said. “At the Venture Center, we don’t think about fintech as a vertically focused effort. We think of it as a horizontally focused effort.”

According to Miller, the VenCent Summit was made possible by the hard work of The Venture Center staff; the support of FIS and ICBA; and a wide range of local partners, including the State of Arkansas. He said the summit will be an opportunity to reward this work by promoting the State of Arkansas as an attractive place to live and do business.

“We could not have done this without the commitment our state and our governor have made to us and continue to make to us,” he said. “This is a chance to show off what we have in Arkansas: the quality of life here, the cost of living, the quality of the people.”

VenCent Fintech Summit will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, August 15-17. To register for the VenCent Fintech Summit, click here.