Bridging the Gap Between Banks and Fintechs

Partnerships between banking and fintech combine the advantages of both to best serve business banking clients. Learn how First National Bank of Omaha sees future iterations of what it means to be customer-led, why they chose to work with Centime to do so.

Banks represent a long-standing, fundamental pillar of the small and mid-sized business community. Over many decades, banks have supported those companies and their people — and in the case of FNBO, that commitment dates all the way back to 1857. Despite its long legacy, FNBO is always looking forward. Carrie Zoucha, VP, commercial payments, spoke to Centime about how FNBO is reinterpreting one of the core tenets of its mission — being customer-led — as it partners with fintechs, including Centime, and works to help its clients grow.

“We continually ask ourselves which solutions and what technology we can bring to clients to help them drive their businesses. It starts with listening to our customers, and evolves into providing solutions that meet them wherever their need is at that point in time in their company,” Zoucha said. "Today, many customers experience cutting-edge technology in their day-to-day personal lives, from moving money with the likes of Venmo or Paypal to digital lending to easy checkout with Square. They are looking for parallel solutions for their B2B applications."

Zoucha spoke about FNBO’s persona work – which involves identifying and understanding not just the kinds of companies the bank serves but also the roles of various leaders and decision makers within them. Learning about those individuals’ pain points both operational and strategic helps the bank discern where they can add value and support clients’ growth objectives. “We have found that growing companies need to better understand cash optimization and their cash flow,” Zoucha said — which in part led to FNBO’s partnership with Centime, which can help businesses achieve goals more effectively and in a scalable way.

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Working with a fintech company can create unique opportunities for the bank and its customers, Zoucha noted. At the end of the day, it always comes back to supporting and advancing the goals of FNBO's customers: "That’s just who we are — it’s about being customer-led, being there on each customers’ journey and making sure they know what the solutions are to help them achieve their objectives,” Zoucha said.

As the fintech sector has evolved over the past 10 years, its relationship with banks has grown deeper and more nuanced as each has built upon their strengths, Zoucha said. 

“When fintech really started to take off over a decade ago, banks had a fear of disruption and were trying to figure out how to stop growth in the fintech space. But what most banks have since realized is that our systems are archaic. They’re old, they’re hard to overhaul, they’re hard to stand up — so therefore it’s hard to build new, fast, exciting technology on top of a core banking system. At the same time, fintechs started to realize they were going to have a hard time convincing customers to do business with them without knowing that a bank is involved or a bank stands behind their product.”

“A happy middle has come about. Banks realized that we can leverage fintechs — not to look at them as a threat, but help us disrupt the banking world in a way that provides technology and solutions and delivers quicker to our customers than we can do ourselves. Banks have repositioned their thinking in how they use fintechs and how they think about the delivery to the customers and quit being afraid about them taking over. You’re always going to need a bank, that’s just a reality.” Partnering with a quick-moving fintech has given FNBO the ability to be a part of the product development and feedback process. They aren’t on the sidelines, but rather are helping Centime define and shape a product.

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2022, and how the upcoming full product launch of Centime will impact the bank and its customers, Zoucha went back once more to client service, flexibility and openness to the kind of adaptation that keeps the bank and its customers competitive in a rapidly changing world.

“We’re super-excited for the full launch so we can really start to see how this solution resonates with our customers especially in terms of the money movement and being able to have the full use of the platform. We can’t wait to get feedback and see what customers think. 2022 is still definitely a learn-and-grow year — let’s learn, let’s iterate.” At the same time, the bank can expand its payment and credit reach, reduce disintermediation, grow its share of wallet, and give businesses more strategic technology to manage their working capital.

“Scaling this business is something we’re trying to better understand and get better at as a bank. Sometimes there’s room for improvement on product delivery: We ask ourselves how we get both internal stakeholders and customers up to speed. We want to share that we deliver cool technology solutions that can help their business.”

A solution like Centime frees up clients’ time so they can focus on their core mission and larger goals. Gaining control over cash flow, both by finding efficiencies in the accounts payable and receivable processes and by using reliable payment prediction and cash flow forecasting, plus keeping all aspects of cash flow organized in one place, allows customers to discover their businesses’ true potential. And what’s good for the customer is what’s best for the bank.

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