Meet Kelsey Weaver, expert connector and co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer of cloud-based banking platform, Neocova. Kelsey co-founded Neocova in April 2019, and just a few months later the company is already in conversation with dozens of banks and is poised to disrupt traditional core providers.
Prior to Neocova, Kelsey was founder of Empact Innovation, a company offering strategic business development for innovators. She is also an advisor to the financial wellness firm Marstone Inc., helping the company develop relationships with community financial institutions. Kelsey’s passion and work with community institutions continues today. Neocova itself is backed by two such banks, State Bank Group in Wonder Lake, Ill., and Provident Bank in Amesbury, Mass.
Neocova’s success is proof that setbacks haven’t dampened banks’ enthusiasm for the cloud, and Kelsey’s experience with community banks has helped Neocova build up a robust pipeline of clients. I sat down with Kelsey at Neocova’s NY office to discuss further.
Tell us more about what you do and how you moved into your space
A bit by accident. Right after college, I worked for a serial entrepreneur on various products—first developing an iPhone app—and then agreeing to work one year with Bank Director, a financial publishing company catering to senior executives and directors at U.S. banks. As a finance grad right before the crash in 2008, I didn’t initially see banking as an attractive industry. But the more I learned and the more people I was able to meet—including some of the best and brightest in the industry—the more I realized that there were still a lot of “good ones” out there. Most importantly, I gained an entirely new respect for the role community banks play, as well as an understanding of the unique challenges they face.
One challenge that was readily apparent was the need for more collaboration in the space between small and upcoming technology companies and traditional community banks. Based on this, I guided the creation of FinXTech—a resource to more thoughtfully connect the different players in the financial technology ecosystem. My passion has always been a bit in matchmaking and solving problems, so helping making these connections was a natural fit.
After leaving FinXTech and spending some time consulting and waiting for the “right” next opportunity, I found my way back to fintech with the goal of helping solve one of the most consistent challenges voiced by community banks—legacy core technology.
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
Most people would describe me as a networker or connector — which I sometimes cringe at, as it seems based in self-interest; however, I genuinely enjoy introducing people to each other, and to help them solve problems.
At the end of the day, people are what make companies succeed or fail, and business is all about relationships. No one succeeds on their own. By making connections, I hope to be playing a role in making positive change and increasing collaboration which is much needed in banking.
One way to help build these industry relationships is to remove unnecessary barriers to collaborating with new partners, which is the foundation of much of what we do at Neocova.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
It is hard to answer how technology has impacted the banking industry without directly commenting on core legacy systems. To date, much of the banking market has been controlled by less than a handful of technology vendors, and as such, technology has had more of a restrictive than empowering impact on many community banks.
At the same time, existing financial institutions have faced increased competition from new players entering the space who are not operating with the same structural or cost burdens; and in general, banks have struggled to keep up with consumer demands and the rate of innovation taking place outside of the industry.
Luckily, I am optimistic this will all be changing soon as the industry is pushing hard for better technology options. With the right technology, community banks will be more competitive and quicker to adapt, both of which will end up benefiting consumers.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2019?
New cores, obviously. 🙂 I even get excited at our competition, simply because it allows for more options which the industry greatly needs.
In addition to that, the easy answer is the utilization of data and machine learning. Be it for better decision-making, back-end efficiencies, or as a customer myself, improving the experience we all have with financial institutions.
Who is a person that inspires you in the space and why?
Gosh — so many!
Separate from my own colleagues, I’d have to go with Margaret Hartigan, the CEO of Marstone. Margaret built Marstone, a wealth management platform, to demystify and humanize the investment process — and they’ve had great success in the market thus far. At the end of the day though, it’s her authenticity, drive, and caring nature that I admire the most. Anyone who meets her would agree she’s an incredible force to be around.
In addition, and at risk of going long, I’d also mention Jason Henrichs of Fintech Forge, Asya Bradley of Socure, Michelle Tran of Harness Wealth, and Edwina Johnson of Alloy, who are all are great examples of leaders in the industry who make a concerted effort to lift and support others, even/especially when no one is looking.
What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into your space?
Be nice to everyone, not just when you need something, and be yourself! Relationships are very real, and I think all of us in the industry like to help each other out. Be clear about what you’re trying to build and stay humble! Also, the biggest ask of anyone is their time, so I would just say to be mindful and make sure you treat everyone with respect. We are all people at the end of the day, and no success happens overnight.
Anything else we should know?
On a personal note, I’m excited about Neocova because I get to work with an incredible & diverse team — and most specifically, my co-founders, Sultan Meghji & Lindsay Lockhart. It may sound cheesy, but we are truly in sync when it comes to caring about our mission, the industry we serve, our clients, and above all, each other.
As proof of this, they surprised me by having our official charity be SebastianStrong, a cause near to my heart, which funds pediatric cancer research & innovation. I’m looking forward to raising more awareness around this topic in the future, and hopefully hosting a few events in NYC in 2020. We are passionate for changing “the way things are typically done” — especially if we are able to do them better in this day in age. To be able to pay the bills and support this cause at the same time is a dream for me, so I’m grateful everyday for the opportunity to.