You are the co-founders of Neocova. Can you tell us a little bit more about your respective journeys toward finding each other as co-founders?
Kelsey: Sultan, our third co-founder, really found us both. However, I was on the fence a bit until I met Lindsay on FaceTime! I had been working in banking/fintech consulting out of
NYC and Lindsay was running her digital agency out of St. Louis. We both had been helping Sultan in our respective areas, and it seemed that all three of us together rounded out the ideal skill-set -- I had relationships and community bank experience, Lindsay had branding, marketing, and all things digital; and Sultan was our technology genius! (It didn’t hurt that we all get along, too!)
Lindsay: It’s true. Sultan found us both. I was introduced to Sultan by another client of mine
at my former digital agency. Our projects together started small and grew in size
over time. Once he introduced me to Kelsey, our fates were sealed. Amazingly, he can handle both of us. Kelsey and I aren’t timid women and we collectively challenge ourselves to be better than yesterday. You better believe we request the same of him!
How was the idea behind Neocova born?
Kelsey: Core banking infrastructure has been broken for a long time. I saw this firsthand
during my time at Bank Director, a media company specifically tailored to educating the
C-suite and boards of banks. The technology was bad, the contracts were long, and the
penalties of changing were HIGH. When I first met Sultan, I was building FinXTech, a
media version of a solution to this problem -- helping banks to navigate the fintech
landscape to find potential partners -- and Sultan had big dreams of building the best
solution himself...to replace the core. After years of telling him why it wouldn’t work, he
took all (or most!) of my advice and had built our MVP.
The name itself Neocova stands for neurons and covalence, so in essence - building new
things with existing particles - e.g. building a better future for banks.
Lindsay: Understanding the challenges our community banks face daily, it was
shocking to learn the legacy banking technology players are not part of the solution.
Neocova believes in our community financial institutions and the integral role they play
across America. Community banks are proud lenders to our small businesses. Therefore,
we built a company not only to serve them but to empower them to flourish beyond
their wildest imaginations.
Neocova focuses on local banks and credit unions which face competition from big banks. What are some of the ways in which you help these smaller institutions and why do you think that is important?
Kelsey: We offer them the ability to compete and thrive! More specifically, we help with anything from data analytics to regulatory reporting, and ultimately, we offer a full core replacement that is flexible, secure, and truly “open”. Community banks and credit unions are the backbones of our communities -- we ALL need them to thrive!
Lindsay: Our contribution is straightforward. We provide the best technologies at appropriate prices with a simple contract structure. All of our solutions—from AI-driven regulatory compliance to a full banking core replacement— accomplish the following three things: get tech and the digital experience up to modern levels, present a fairer and more cost-effective business model and shorten the innovation cycle at banks! This enables smaller institutions and their communities to thrive!
What was your biggest challenge you had to overcome together while founding
Kelsey: Founding a company isn’t for the faint of heart! Long hours, long distances, and lots
of travel! As with anything, mindset is going to play a great role, and the problem we
have set out to tackle is no small feat, so we attracted a good bit of nay-sayers
and criticism. I think keeping a positive outlook, not letting cynicism get to us, and
believing in ourselves and each other, was paramount -- It was challenging at
times, as we are human!
Lindsay: This isn’t my first fast-paced, high-pressure work experience so I was prepared for
the emotional highs and lows. The exhaustion and mental load is REAL! But in all seriousness, the biggest challenge is properly navigating the external and internal noise.
Industry veterans are quick to point out why you will fail. Everyone is fast to judge and
call out your inadequacies. Even teammates can be impatient with your choices or lack
thereof. When you are tired or stressed, it’s easy to become negative or cynical.
Therefore, we work together to constantly check each other’s attitude, force self-care
when appropriate and reset the mind for a more positive disposition. We must trust the
process and each other. Sleep helps too;)
What would your advice be to other founders in the FinTech industry on the
unique struggles facing women?
Lindsay: Stay positive and use your voice. It’s okay to not be the same. Don’t allow it to feed
self-doubt or negativity. The more I share, the more commonality I discover with
others. I no longer shy away from sharing what makes me uniquely me. This includes my
gender, Midwest roots, Journalism degree, and single Mom status. You may not know it
but you are someone else’s role model. We grow through struggle and can inspire with
grace and grit.
Kelsey: Agree with LL! Be yourself and BELIEVE in yourself. You are no less qualified than
male counterparts, and sometimes our biggest critics are ourselves. I think it’s ever-important for us to support each other. Together I think we have the opportunity to
change the narrative, and to show that kindness and empathy are great strengths, not
weaknesses, as leaders.
Where do you foresee the shift of community banks and credit unions heading in
the next 12-18 months within the FinTech space and also within the banking space?
Lindsay: I foresee community banks and credit unions embracing their digital
transformation. Each institution is different but their evolution will be impactful. Those
who chose to evolve and meet the customers where they are (currently at home) will
succeed. The global pandemic has challenged even the most robust institutions. Those
who survive will be more inclined to take risks and buck the status quo. Time is fleeting
and there are amazing players in FinTech and banking space out there available to make
you the best bank you can be.
Kelsey: I think the evolution of FinTech ecosystem illustrations tells a lot...The inaugural CB
insights landscape depiction started as fintechs “attacking” a bank’s website, and now the logos are more like the “building blocks”, internally embedded. Financial institutions as a whole seem to be getting more comfortable with the idea of “fintech”, and recent events have caused them to invest more heavily in security, mobile banking,
and remote access (both internally and for their clients!). There is a growing
interest in how data can play a stronger role for the bank, and the term
“digital transformation” isn’t going anywhere, which means banks need to take a hard
look at their entire infrastructure and make changes accordingly.