‘Yelp’ for Bank Technology: Inside a New Database for Vetting Tech Vendors

True Digital
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Shopping for new tech? What if you could put a cross section of banks and credit unions in one tent to talk about their experiences with specific vendors' offerings? That's the ambitious goal of Patrick Sells' virtual tent, True Digital. It’s a peer-exchange network combined with a database for researching vendors and the technology they offer. Here's how one bank hopes to use it along with an overview of our test drive of the service.

Trying to stay on the leading edge of technology today is a challenge for banks and credit unions not because there is a lack of information but because there’s such a deluge of it that sorting out the truth feels impossible.

“I get emails every week from fintech vendors, and I don’t know what’s real and what’s ‘slideware,’ and what will work in some verticals of banking and what doesn’t work in others,” says Carson Lappetito, president of the $2.5 billion-asset Sunwest Bank in Irvine, Calif. (“Slideware” is a term for technology touting benefits that are more wish than reality.)

Beyond that is the challenge of finding technology that helps the bank or credit union advance without outstripping its needs — tech that just does too much.

“I see a lot of technologists who are trying to build amazing Ferraris for the industry,” says Lappetito. This stuff can be fascinating, he adds, “but the reality is the banking industry needs single and double hits from a technology standpoint, things that are not overly complex that will help them execute the blocking and tackling of their business model.”

That’s why Lappetito says he was drawn to a new peer-exchange network, where Sunwest Bank is one of about 250 financial institutions sharing insights on technology vendors with each other.

Finding those technologies that are just right — they’re effective, a good fit, not overly complex — can be a time-consuming process. A big part of that is getting honest views from executives at other banks and credit unions about how well the technology works with various core systems. Conferences can be helpful, but often financial institutions have pressing needs.

Though every vendor is happy to give references to their satisfied customers, Lappetito says that’s not very useful by itself. The better option is to find institutions that had challenges implementing the software and will talk about the process of making it work.

But how do you track down those beyond the 100% happy ones?

Enter True Digital Group.

Database for Researching Fintechs and Other Banking Tech Vendors

Sunwest Bank, which serves markets in Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho and Utah, is among the early adopters of an offering from True Digital. The fledgling company approaches the sharing of information about technology vendors as a membership concept.

The banks and credit unions that sign on as members contribute to a database, inputting what vendors they are working with, what technology products they are using and what their general experience has been. Then they get access to the database, where they can research a variety of things. Maybe they want to vet a new technology they are considering or to find other financial institutions that may have solved a similar challenge they are having with a particular integration.

For institutions $2 billion and above in assets, the annual membership fee is $10,000, half that for smaller banks and credit unions.

Rebooting Tech Vendor Evaluation:

In less commercial times, industry trade organizations often served as clearinghouses of information about vendor options, but the explosion of information, the expanding role of tech in banking, and the widespread practice of association endorsements and vendor sponsorships has muddied that well.

Lappetito estimates that once his bank has fully implemented True Digital’s approach to vendor research it will save at least half a full-time equivalent in salary and time. But that’s only part of the savings.

Lappetito points out that the savings in money, time, lost momentum and angst of not attempting to adopt and implement tech that’s a bad fit is almost incalculable.

In addition, being able to readily discuss potential new tech with present users may hasten going live with a given package. Not every journey has to be a complete voyage of discovery.

Note: This information was originally shared via The Financial Brand.