It's no coincidence that three of this year's Innovators awards are tied to core processing systems, with Citibank, Carter Bank & Trust, and a new core play for credit unions, Corelation, all making the list. In other words, core replacement's time has finally come.

Citi-which, by the way, still isn't commenting on plans to standardize its core technology globally on FIS-gets a gutsiness award for taking the leap before any of its domestic rivals mustered the gumption. Given that these projects take years in planning and execution, by the time Citi clears the taint of the crisis, it'll be ready to repair its reputation in a way that customers appreciate most-offering competitive products and services in a de-siloed fashion.

BTN also recognizes John Landis, founder of Corelation, for his leap of faith. He has a long history in the financial services IT industry with Symitar and Jack Henry & Associates, but struck off on his own again with the creation of Corelation, another Internet-based core processing system.

Another serial entrepreneur on this year's Innovators list is Debbie Peace, co-founder of ACH Alert, which brings customers a modicum of control over outgoing debits. It also relieves banks of some of the implied liability for fraudulent transactions.

Moving to the risk management market, Primatics handles stress testing at high speeds in the cloud, and First American CoreLogic digs deep with pattern recognition that makes fraud detection extremely efficient.

You'll also see a number of social media plays named as Innovators, not surprising giving that just about every business is trying to figure out social media. Sweden-based SEB bank has done it with its online professional community, The Benche, which has thousands of members discussing trade finance. SAS approaches social media from the other side, automating the ability to monitor what's being said about your brand on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Finally, there's a nexus of recognition for next-generation online tools, like E*Trade and JP Morgan Chase's iPad applications, as well as CashEdge's new dominance of the P2P transfer space. Also getting into the global P2P market is Wincor Nixdorf, which allows customers to transfer funds overseas for pickup at participating ATMs without a card.

What do many of these innovations have in common? They involve all varieties of partnerships between banks and technology players to bring the next generation of financial services to customers and the next level of safety and soundness to society. Many will lament this as further evidence that banks have handed the mantle of innovation over to their partners. That is increasingly true. But these profiles demonstrate it's a complex but achievable imperative to pursue the march of innovation with a partner while maintaining control of the business.

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