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4 Keys to Choosing the Right Fintech Partnerships

FinTechs have irrevocably changed the financial services landscape. In some respects, they have functioned as industry disruptors and formidable competitors. In others, they have served as valuable partners, allowing community banks to offer key financial services without shouldering the staff and infrastructure costs of offering them in-house. With so many options, choosing the right fintech partnerships can be a make-or-break decision for many institutions. In this article, we delve into the essential factors that community banks should keep in mind when selecting fintech partners.

Align with Your Strategic Goals

It can be hard to know where to start when searching for FinTech partners—that is, if you don’t have a clear goal in mind. Before engaging with any fintech firm, it is important to take a close look at your strategic objectives. A successful partnership should align with the bank’s long-term goals, whether they involve expanding the customer base, enhancing digital capabilities, improving customer experiences, or increasing operational efficiency. It’s not enough for a fintech solution to be innovative—it must also directly contribute to the bank’s overarching mission and vision.

For example, if a community bank aims to better serve its tech-savvy customer base, partnering with a fintech firm that specializes in developing user-friendly mobile banking apps could be the ideal move. On the other hand, if the bank is focused on streamlining back-end processes and reducing operational costs, collaborating with a fintech that offers automation and artificial intelligence solutions might be the way to go. A well-aligned partnership ensures that the fintech’s capabilities seamlessly integrate with the bank’s core operations, driving growth while staying true to the bank’s strategic trajectory.

Align With Your People

Community bankers are people-people, and a community bank’s success relies heavily on its workforce.  When considering a fintech partnership, it’s crucial to ensure that the partnership aligns with the bank’s employees and culture. Fintech solutions should enhance, rather than disrupt, the bank’s existing workforce dynamics.

Engage your employees—the end-users– in the decision-making process. Solicit their input and gather insights on pain points and areas that could benefit from technological interventions. By involving employees in the selection process, the bank not only taps into their expertise but also fosters a sense of ownership and buy-in for the new partnership.

For instance, if the bank’s employees are enthusiastic about a particular fintech solution that simplifies loan origination processes, this could lead to smoother implementation and quicker adoption. Conversely, if a fintech solution clashes with the bank’s established workflow, it could lead to resistance and operational challenges. A successful fintech partnership not only aligns with strategic goals but also harmonizes with the people who drive the bank’s success.

Focus on Adding Value

It can be tempting to get excited about latest, greatest fintech innovations and jump to adopt it. However, we must remember that fintech partnerships are not just about incorporating the latest tech trends. Instead, the focus should always be on adding tangible value to both the bank and its customers. Fintech solutions should solve real problems, improve customer experiences, and enhance the bank’s competitive edge. A technology that merely dazzles but fails to translate into practical advantages may not be the best fit for your bank.

Consider the unique pain points of your customer base and identify where a fintech solution can address those pain points effectively. Whether it’s personalized financial planning, faster loan approvals, or secure online transactions, the selected fintech partner should demonstrate a clear understanding of these needs and provide solutions that align with them.

Rethink Vendor Management

In the rapidly evolving fintech landscape, traditional vendor management practices may fall short of addressing the complexities of fintech partnerships. Many banks’ vendor management practices require references and financial data going back years—credentials newer fintechs can’t yet provide. As Bill LaVigne, Chief Operating Officer at The Bank of Elk River in Minnesota told BankBeat:

“The mindset that we had to overcome was in management and leadership that may have been uncomfortable with the fact that we were proposing to take someone new to the party, who didn’t have the credentials. Frankly, we were just very transparent from the beginning. I went to the board, talked at our executive meetings about the fact that this is a new company, and we recommend that we take the risk to do it because they are going to solve our problems, and we need to get over the fact that they don’t have the credentials and the reputation yet, but this is the world we are in. Let’s be bold and let’s jump in.”

Community banks need to adopt a more flexible and dynamic approach to managing these relationships. A successful partnership is a continuous collaboration that requires open communication, ongoing assessment, and a willingness to adapt.

Regularly evaluate the performance of the fintech partner against agreed-upon metrics and KPIs. Is the solution delivering the expected results? Are there any emerging issues that need immediate attention? By maintaining open lines of communication, the bank can address challenges promptly and ensure that the partnership remains on track.


Choosing the right fintech partnerships is a strategic decision that community banks cannot afford to take lightly. By aligning with strategic goals, engaging the bank’s people, focusing on value addition, and rethinking vendor management practices, community banks can unlock the potential of fintech collaborations. As technology continues to reshape the banking industry, a well-chosen fintech partner can become a catalyst for growth, innovation, and long-term success, ensuring that community banks remain at the forefront of financial services for years to come.

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