GlobalFintechSeries Interview with Arcady Lapiro, CEO and Co-Founder at Agora Services
CEO and Founder of Agora Services – Arcady Lapiro joins us in the GlobalFinTechSeries interview to discuss his journey as a fintech entrepreneur while also sharing insights into the future of fintech and how this segment is set to shape up.
Read on to grab the excerpts:
Can you tell us a little about yourself Arcady (including your hobbies!) and your professional experience so far?
Sure, I’m a French guy who got lost a decade ago in the Lower East Side and ended up moving for my beloved New Yorker wife who since then gave me my 3 hobbies, my Children!
I was a founding member as well as a member of the Executive Committee for the successful Group ProCapital – Fortuneo France & Belgium (2000-2008) and was co-responsible, among other, for the business development and risk management. From its creation to 2008, Fortuneo-ProCapital grew to more than 600,000 retail European clients, and over 40B$ assets under custody with more than 40 institutional clients as Deutsche Bank Belgium, ING Direct, etc.
I’ve managed the transition of the group after its acquisition by Credit Mutuel Arkea Bank. After that I moved to New York where I serve as a mentor/advisor of several US, Canadian and Israeli fintech companies as well as serve as a Venture Partner of Blakcfin’s Fintech Fund. In 2018 I decided to come back to the entrepreneurial world where I founded Agora in New York.
We’d love to know what some of your top FinTech predictions for 2020 are?
Well, if I had a crystal ball I would probably be on a paradisiac island, retired! But if I had to guess, I would say a few things.
1) I foresee neobank’s making a larger splash in the US.
2) Debit cards becoming a front runner for card distribution in the US.
3) More management tools and automation for the end user
4) Banks tapping into the technology and capabilities of AI and cybersecurity
5) Tier 2 banks, credit unions and community banks moving from providing necessary services and abilities to adding some extra capabilities to improve the user experience
6) Legacy core banking involving themselves in more partnerships as well as looking for more acquisitions
Lastly, 7) More mega deals by payment networks and big banks to create these global deals
Can you talk about some of the most innovative fintech tools for banks in the marketplace and how you see this segment shape up in terms of offerings/features?
As mid-level and community banks as well as credit unions begin expanding their offerings as I mentioned as one of my predictions, the processes of switching cores becomes a larger task to undertake and I managed over 40 core conversion which is a real pain. With this being said, something we will more than likely see as the industry continues to grow, it’s important for FI’s to look into all options before they decide to take on a core conversion which may be an option to reduce its cost and provide more operational efficiency but not to level with new players and big ones and their most advanced technological products and features.
Finding a company that offers “add-on’s” can eliminate the challenge of a core conversion while allowing FI’s to offer additional services that customers and members can really take advantage of and allow FI’s to increase their customer base, deposits and revenues.
How do you see AI impact how Finance Technology Solutions will evolve in the future?
I think that FinTech Solutions will become better, faster and cheaper with the introduction of AI. This technology allows FI’s to have a better segmentation of their clients, refine their offerings and be able to offer tailored products as opposed to broad target groups. This allows for clients to feel unique and like they are cared for and getting personalized experiences. Unlike other places where clients feel as though they are just a number in a large pool of customers.
What are some of the challenges that you see in banks/institutions embracing new fintech?
FI’s below the “mega-bank” level don’t always have the resources to keep up with major trends/technology in fintech. This forces them to be slow to adapt to booming new ideas and functions because they think it may be expensive to implement and many times involve large changes that effect processes and indeed it is most time the case. Because of this, it’s important for these processes and technology adjustments to move through core platforms. Working through a core allows for these smaller Fi’s to have the opportunity to make the adjustments and changes the industry wants with ease, as their implementation has already occurred with their core. Allowing for minimal change, but vast additions.
How according to you should companies embrace fintech to transform their business more significantly?
When it comes to embracing fintech, I think there are two possible approaches. The first is just to elevate the basic service, whether in the form of an app, the website or mobile deposits. The other one is to find Fintech products that brings real value to the bank (in terms of cost reduction or new revenues) to provide upgraded experience to their clients; just OK it’s not ok (like ATT ad). Banks don’t need placebo or a patch, they’re running for the long run.
Could you share some funding tips for fintech startup founders?
It is important for fintech start-ups to remain true to themselves, their brand and the image they have for the company.
Don’t dilute yourself quickly and ensure that you remain in control of your creation. When it comes to funding, try and tap your friends and family for the 1st round. Try to avoid the VC and focus on the business and what you want it to be.
Work to secure a few clients before a larger funding round. A good way to motivation key employees is to offer small levels of stock in the company as opposed to cash bonuses or things along those lines. This allows them to have a hand in the company itself and gives them a reason to believe in the company and work to keep it afloat.
Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the fintech industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!
I would love to hear Simon Paris, CEO of Finastra’s thoughts to questions like these as Finastra is doing a tremendous job on innovation with its marketplace FusionFabric to partner with the best Fintech and to serve their existing Credit Union and Community Banks.
Your favorite FinanceTech quote
If I had to pick a favorite FinTech quote, it would have to be from the founding CEO of the digital banking start-up Revolut, Nikolay Storonsky.
He said, “I’ve never seen a big bank do something cool – If they did, we wouldn’t exist”.
Tell us about some of the top FinTech/Other B2B events that you’ll be participating in (as a speaker or guest!) in 2020!
This year Agora will exhibit at ICBA Live! Agora was one of 10 companies that were chosen to participate in ICBA’s ThinkTECH accelerator program last year. It will be exciting to attend their conference this year after completing the program and showcase the great steps we as a company have made since then. Agora will be present at larger industry events such as Money 20/20, CUNA shows, South FinTech where we were a finalist last year among others.
Agora helps Banks to ramp up their digital experience without replacing their core banking system. Agora provides and co-creates tech tools for Banks so that they can accelerate their digital journey and implement state of the art Fintech products and / or features.
Arcady Lapiro is the CEO and founder of Agora Services. With over 20 years of banking and finance expertise, Lapiro has founded or backed several digital banking fintech companies in both Europe, the US and Israel. He founded Agora Services in 2018 with the goal of helping community and regional banks and credit unions ramp up their digital experiences without replacing their core banking system. Agora leverages its middleware fintech platform with innovative digital banking tools delivered within a cloud-based architecture. Agora co-creates and provides tech tools so banks can implement state-of-the-art fintech products and features while accelerating their digital journey over their core.