By: Elaine Day
November 9, 2023

The medium conference room on the second floor of First Carolina Bank’s Raleigh office is a perfectly-sized spot for when a few employees need a little extra space to spread out and collaborate, and for Ingrid Nelson and Kelli Pridgen, the room quickly became a home for their ever-growing array of laptops, tablets, notes, snacks, and policy documents that make up a nearly three-inch stack of pages when fully printed.

Nelson, BSA Manager – FinTech AML & Fraud Investigations, and Pridgen, Manager – FinTech Compliance Oversight, were two of Pat Pritchard’s first hires when First Carolina CEO Ron Day brought him on board to develop the team and infrastructure to support the Bank’s new FinTech partnerships. In addition to Nelson and Pridgen, Pritchard hired Laura Kneavel, Director – Shared Services & Program Management Office and Kelly Bock, Manager – FinTech Operations to round out the initial leadership team. The physical office space in the Bank’s new Operations Headquarters was still being built—hence the temporary conference room home—and the nature of those partnerships was equally under construction, and Pritchard, whose title has since evolved to Executive Managing Director – FinTech, Operations, & IT, knew that the people would ultimately determine the success of the Bank’s FinTech program.

Though neither Nelson nor Pridgen had worked within a FinTech structure before, they were both excited by the challenge of something new in what could be considered a traditionally static industry, and Nelson especially appreciated the open-mindedness that First Carolina has in considering opportunities for the future.

FinTech, a shortened term for financial technology, can have a broad definition, Pritchard said. First Carolina’s mobile app, for example, might be considered a FinTech product, as it is a piece of technology that facilitates financial transactions. At a business-level scale, FinTechs are companies that invest heavily in financial technology and provide completely virtual or digital platforms to access financial services.  

Since finances constitute an aspect of life that transcends age and background, these platforms reach diverse customer bases. For example, the Bank’s first partner, BMTX (read more here), is a FinTech that provides bank accounts to college students across the country receiving federal aid. Being able to serve new populations that the physical footprint of the Bank might not have previously touched is an exciting part of expanding into the FinTech realm.

And, as Pridgen added, FinTech “is an opportunity for us to get creative about how we’re bringing deposits to the Bank.”

Partnerships with FinTech companies are mutually beneficial, as their deposits are held within and allowed to be used for growth of the Bank, and the Bank in turn provides FDIC insurance for those deposits as well as regulatory oversight—two items that should be important from a customer perspective.

In addition to growing deposits, FinTech partnerships also enable the Bank to grow in other tangible ways that will ultimately enhance customer experience. The Bank’s partnership with BMTX is at such a size and scale that it has necessitated full buy-in and a foundation being built right from the start. The investment in developing completely new policy and application processes is part of that. With BMTX being a national brand, all kinds of local niche regulations and laws had to be considered, “really helping us to lay the groundwork for the future,” Nelson said.

And, of course, the foundation also includes the team of 16 (at the time of publishing), and that piece of the puzzle is what Pritchard, Nelson, and Pridgen are all most motivated by. All three echoed sentiments about the level of camaraderie and support they feel amongst their team.

“The people that are here are invested in what we’re doing, and it’s not about the level [or title] that they’re at,” Pridgen said.

Nelson agreed, noting that what excites her most about the team is “the growth and the future success that we know we’re going to have because no one on our team will accept failure.”

Put succinctly by Pritchard: “Highly experienced, highly talented team. I think it will add a lot to the Bank.”