New Banking Innovation Hub Opens In Atlanta

ICBA opening in Atlanta

Up on the eighth floor of Midtown’s 999 Peachtree Building, overlooking the iconic Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, you’ll find what Charles Potts refers to as “the front door to community banks.”

That ‘front door’ opens up to the new Center for Innovation for ICBA (the Independent Community Bankers of America). The Center, which officially opened last month, will host ICBA’s ThinkTECH Accelerator program and its innovation team.

ICBA plans to run two accelerator cohorts each year. Each is 10 weeks long and helps founders understand the intricacies of working with community banks. From risk and compliance realities and working with vendors to finding community bank customers.

The accelerator is a continuation of ICBA’s program previously run in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In between running each accelerator program, ICBA’s Innovation Center will host Solutions Forum, one day Shark Tank-style events to dive deep on specific pain points bankers are experiencing right now.

Unlike traditional tech accelerators, ThinkTECH is designed to build “high tech, high touch relationships” between fintech and banking entrepreneurs and their ultimate buyers: community bankers across the United States.

“Community bankers are invested from beginning to end,” Potts told Hypepotamus. “Banks are telling us what the problems are.”


What Bankers Are Talking About

Charles Potts, EVP and Chief Innovation Officer at ICBA, is a well-known figure in the Atlanta fintech scene. After serving as an executive at many well established financial institutions, he served as ATDC’s Fintech Catalyst. Now with ICBA, Potts sees an opportunity to bring the community banking community together.

Charles Potts - Headshot from LinkedInPotts gave Hypepotamus a tour of ICBA’s Center for Innovation last week. During the tour, he said that now in its fifth year, the accelerator program is now seeing more mature and growth-stage companies applying.

That highlights how ThinkTECH helps bankers and entrepreneurs build better relationships and products. It also highlights that the community banking industry is dealing with more complex issues.

“There’s always anxiety around cybersecurity, risk management, and compliance,” Potts added. But macroeconomic pressures and the collapse of SVB last year meant that community banks started turning their attention to deposits. Now in 2024, Potts said that deposit numbers are still top of mind. But so too is SMB (small and medium-sized business) lending, the FedNow roll out, data analytics to better understand customers, and an increased interest in loan origination services.

Have A Banking Startup?

Atlanta is known as a center for fintech innovation. So if you have a banking-related startup and are looking to connect with community banks, ICBA’s ThinkTECH accelerator might be a great fit.

The accelerator is currently accepting applications for its seventh cohort. Applications are open until March 8th. Good luck to all those applying!