Nine Tech Incubators Backed by Banks
Level39, located in London's Canary Wharf office complex, aims to nurture the brightest in fintech. The landlord established the space for entrepreneurs in 2013 and hosts numerous events throughout the year meant to help ideas thrive. Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, and Royal Bank of Scotland are among the members of Innovate Finance, an affiliated initiative promoting fintech in the U.K.
First National Bank of Omaha held its second hackathon earlier this year in a bid to brainstorm new ideas and potentially recruit talent. This year's challenge, held in September, had coders create personal financial management tools.
Citigroup will make available a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) to individuals around the world selected to participate in its U.S.-focused challenge to create apps for mobile devices, the Internet of things and wearable devices. Winners will receive mentorship from the bank, among other benefits. Citi held a similar mobile banking contest in Latin America with demonstration days (pictured) this summer.
In addition to its own work with fintech startups (which it doesn't consider an incubator), Bank of America is the top sponsor of a new financial-services technology incubator at Packard Place in Charlotte, N.C. The bank sponsors similar efforts in New York and London.
Bank Leumi in Israel is soliciting developers to participate in its Oct. 22 hackathon in Tel Aviv. As of mid-September, it already had secured 450 registered participants to pitch apps geared toward revolutionizing banking. The bank is working on the challenge with the Open Bank Project, which provides an open-source API and app store.
Wells Fargo, the country's fourth-largest bank, launched an accelerator program for young companies in 2014. Participants receive capital and mentorship in their quests to commercialize their products. Wells Fargo says the accelerator helps it carve out a space to support innovation, find companies it might not have found otherwise and potentially react more quickly to emerging technologies.
Eastern Bank, an $8.8 billion-asset community lender in Boston, created a lab run by former fintech entrepreneurs. The lab's website welcomes pitches by entrepreneurs so the bank can help turn their ideas into reality.
American Express has buddied up with Ideas42, an organization that studies behavioral economics, to recruit academics and practitioners from nonprofit organizations to propose personal finance software feature ideas. Amex technologists will test the ideas with opted-in customers of Serve, its prepaid account software platform.
Westpac in New Zealand has run several crowdsourcing contests designed to uncover its next great digital idea -- including one related to augmented reality. That winning concept, pitched by a rocket scientist, will let customers hover their smartphones over a credit card to see 3-D visualizations of their financial data.
Seeking to innovate — or, at least, appear innovative — banks across the country and around the globe are sponsoring incubators, accelerators and hackathons that nurture young tech companies and gifted programmers.