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Bankers, tech entrepreneurs head to Little Rock summit

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Leaders in the financial technology, or fintech, industry are meeting in central Arkansas this week. The Little Rock-based Venture Center is holding the first annual Fintech Summit lasting Monday through Wednesday.

Venture Center Executive Director Wayne Miller says the goal is to bring banks and startups together to accelerate new product development.

“It really is about the friends, the relationships that we have built over the last seven years both from a fintech perspective but also from a banking perspective, along with a lot of subject matter experts really coming together for the first time,” Miller said.

He says over 90% of startups that have gone through the Venture Center’s program have ultimately gone on to success in bringing a product to market. He says fintech is used for a wide variety of applications from healthcare to aerospace and even agriculture.

“When we look at how farmers deal with the commodity, the markets, how they keep track of inventory, how they buy, purchase, typically farmers will lend or borrow for inputs, which is for their seed and for cattle head, that sort of thing,” Miller said. “Banks play a very important role. In fact, when you look at community banking, about 80% of small business loans are done by community banks and about 50% of agricultural loans.”

Little Rock has long been home to a burgeoning fintech industry, Miller says, since the founding of the first fintech company Systematics in 1968. The company, now known as FIS, continues to maintain a presence in the city with about 1,400 employees.

Miller says about 400 representatives from banks and startups are expected to attend this week’s summit. He says startups will meet individually with banks in 30-minute sessions.

“Fintechs will have an opportunity to present their problem, how they’re providing a solution, have the ability to demonstrate that product, and then you get about 20 minutes of feedback,” Miller said. “So what we’ve been able to do is to create an environment that’s highly collaborative so the banks and the fintechs can really work together… so that the banks can give them direction and the fintechs can ask the right questions.”

Miller says fintech entrepreneurs will hopefully benefit from learning more about market demand, while banks can learn about the latest innovations in the field.

The Venture Center’s inaugural Fintech Summit runs until Wednesday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and Republican Congressman French Hill are all expected to speak at the event.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.