Exactly five years ago I published my last article on this blog … and without recognizing it at the time began what would be the greatest adventure of my career. From where I sit today, it is humorous to me that my last article talked about the amount of work a team could complete in a short period of time with focused dedication and conviction. It is as if the article itself foreshadowed the journey ahead.
Prior to the publishing of that last article, I had been working with a team of talented individuals in my company on a new idea. An idea so revolutionary, that it could change consumer banking as we know it. An idea that would reset the balance between credit unions and community based financial institutions and their larger, profit driven, national cousins.
You see we developed a new way of delivering Online and Mobile Banking so that instead of being dependent on any one vendor, the institution could determine what services the solution delivered. A radical concept that would replace the legacy provider’s endless roadmap with a unique digital strategy for the institution itself. And five years ago, we made the decision to bring it to market.
With the support of that team, we started a new company, Constellation Digital Partners. I stepped out and did something I had never done before and that was raise start-up capital. We had an idea, we had a business model, but we needed money to make it a reality. We ended up raising more capital than had ever been raised in credit unions before and it was because the idea we had resonated with everyone, but I believe it was also heavily influenced by our approach …
We really did, and still do, feel like we are fighting for the future of community based banking.
What followed as was a whirlwind of travel, presentations, pitches, victories, defeats, and work. So much work. First we had to build a team that could deliver on our vision, which is an Open Development platform that replaces online and mobile banking as we know it.
What makes our service different from any other online or mobile banking service isn’t just the technology, it’s the business model. That’s what makes us truly a platform company. We don’t resist integration or put roadblocks between a credit unions and their goals, we built a system AND a business model that allows them to use as much or as little of our services as their strategy calls for, while still providing them with the most complete Fintech integration marketplace in the business.
We even went to the legacy providers in our business to encourage them to adopt our new model and create content that could be shared across our platform and you know what they said to us ….
“You expect us to walk away from $400M a year in professional services fees we collect to do the integration, you are going to give away?”
“Your business model is too much of a threat to our business!”
“How much business should I tell Wall Street you are going to take away from us.”
They just didn’t get it. And most of them still don’t. But do you know who did understand it? The Fintech community did. It turns out we were specifically addressing the issues that had prevented them from being able to access and sell their services to community institutions for the last decade. Today, more than 140 financial technology companies are actively working in our multi-million dollar development portal creating innovative new services for our clients. In fact, we even have a conference each year to celebrate and encourage their use of the expanding platform.
Our first customers will go live to 400,000 users in the next four months. Additional institutions will follow shortly thereafter. The journey has been amazing, in fact it’s been an MBA, the hard way. Certainly not everything has gone perfectly, there have been plenty of lessons we’ve learned along the way. Some that I promise to share in future posts here.
I would be a horrible CEO if I didn’t close with recognizing the incredible work of our team at Constellation. We have built an incredibly inspiring team. A team that can solve any challenge you place before them including navigating the awful difficulties of living and working through the COVID pandemic. Here is what I like to call the “family portrait” from Dec 2019.
I am humbled that I get to work for these folks every day and watch them realize our vision to change banking. We will take a new “family portrait” once we can all get back together again, which can’t come fast enough.
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