Featured Guest: Wayne Brown
Wayne has several decades building innovative solutions for banks and FinTechs. Through his leadership at The Walker Group, a boutique management consulting firm, his primary focus is to launch and support revenue strategies to help FinTechs scale and expand. Clients of The Walker Group are from key global markets including North America, South America, Europe and Asia.
Through his industry accomplishments, Wayne is a sought after FinTech industry speaker and continues to present at conferences on topics ranging from Digital Transformation and Banking, Cash Flow and Payment Strategies and The Future of FinTech among a host of other topics. He continues to partner with a growing portfolio of FinTech startups to increase their visibility, brand and accelerate business connections through the introduction to The Walker Group Network.
Before launching The Walker Group, Wayne focused on product development roles at several large global banks, within the treasury organizations, and payment technology firms. His previous role was Vice President and Product Manager of the Citigroup North America Global Treasury-Receivables Team, where he was responsible for a suite of digital payment products. Prior roles consisted of both senior product and account management responsibilities at Fidelity Information Services (FIS) Deutsche Bank and MasterCard, respectively.
Wayne holds a B.B.A in Finance from Baruch College, City University of New York and has completed his Master’s of Science coursework in Management and Strategic Planning at Manhattanville College.
As a marketing, public relations and corporate communications leader, Becca (only her mom calls her Rebecca) started her career in consulting and has been involved with six startups ranging from film, fashion, technology and food, with her first startup being a social enterprise importing leather fashion accessories made by single mothers in Nairobi, Kenya. Speaking across the country, she is known for leading award-winning teams and has received recognition from the Cannes Film Festival for Best Media Campaign, Hermes, MSPBJ Women in Business, and most recently, the Top Women in Communications awards. When the day is done, you’ll find Becca behind a good travel book planning her next adventure, plunking a tune on the piano or laughing with her blended family.
Bryan Toft is Sunrise Banks’ Chief Revenue Officer. In this position, Bryan oversees commercial banking/lending, treasury management, mortgage and fintech partnerships. He has been with Sunrise Banks for more than a decade. From 2014-2017, he served as president and CEO of Community Bank Owatonna.
Bryan has held a variety of roles at Sunrise Banks including credit analyst, commercial loan officer and EVP regional manager of commercial lending in Minneapolis.
Bryan received a B.S. in Computer Science from Buena Vista University and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. He is a board member of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Twin Cities Metro CDC and Charter School Property, Inc.
0:00 – [MUSIC PLAYING]
0:01 – Wayne Brown
But the key question is what the future looks like. In my perspective, I feel that it will be the fact that fintechs could take away clients, products, and services that banks provide. And they can be in a competition of the banks where they compete where those products and services are.
0:27 – Becca Hoeft
Welcome to the NextGen Banker podcast, where we explore what’s next in banking and talk with the innovators responsible for creating positive change in the financial sector. I’m your host, Becca Heft. And I am joined by my Sunrise colleague, Bryan Toft. And I am excited to welcome Wayne Brown to the podcast. Wayne, thank you for being on the NextGen Banker podcast.
0:49 – Wayne Brown
Well, thank you, Bryan and Becca. I’m actually looking forward to y’all discussion on this after today.
0:54 – Becca Hoeft
Well before we get started, just a reminder to stick around to hear our musical feature at the end of the episode. Each NextGen Banker episode showcases one new artist from somewhere around the globe, representing a wide range of different genres. So be sure to check it out.
1:12 – Bryan Toft
Now let’s hear about Wayne. He has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. He’s the managing partner at the Walker Group, which is a consulting firm for fintechs and banks. And Wayne is also the founder of Fintech Virtual Lunch, which is an initiative started in 2020. Hopefully we can hear about that more soon. So, Wayne, let’s just jump in here. We were wondering if you could tell us about your background and maybe how you got into finance.
1:36 – Wayne Brown
Well, I started my career on Wall Street as a Wall Street banker. And I worked in auditing for the early part of my career, for about six, seven years before moving out of the US, where I was working as a group controller for an offshore real estate development company in the Caribbean. When I returned back to the US five years later, I had the opportunity to focus on e-commerce.
2:01 – Wayne Brown
And at that particular time, with web development, consumers were shifting to using the internet as a vehicle in order to move money. And so, I had the opportunities to work in e-commerce. And my first position in e-commerce was at Mastercard. I worked at Mastercard. I worked at FIS. I worked at Deutsche Bank and Citibank, where I was part of a product delivery team building e-commerce solutions or digital solutions.
2:31 – Wayne Brown
And then after that, when I left Citigroup, I decided there was a large opportunity in this space to bring fintechs and banks together. And that was something that I really wanted to do for a long time, because I felt that there was so much opportunity in this ecosystem for fintechs and banks to partner, since banks really do partner with a number of different companies along those lines. And I realized I had the opportunity to create both opportunities for fintechs and banks for partnerships and collaboration. And so that is what I’ve been focusing on for over a decade.
3:05 – Bryan Toft
Yeah, that’s good timing on that. That has only been propelled forward in those last 10 years in a really, really quick way. So, tell us a little bit more about the Walker Group, then. What does the organization do, and what do you focus on?
3:19 – Wayne Brown
When we first started, we had an opportunity to work with a large payment company as an independent consultant to help them with their credit card and healthcare initiative. So, I realized that after 11 months of working directly for this credit payment card company, that there was a huge opportunity to work with other companies that really were looking at, how can they leverage their technology and their consumer base, how that’s going to interact?
3:48 – Wayne Brown
So, then I realized that there was a great opportunity to duplicate that model to other payment technology companies that had good products and had a consumer base. And so that was really the genesis of the Walker Group. So, from that point of working with this payment credit card company, duplicating that model, in over a decade, we have worked with over a thousand fintechs, whether directly or through incubators and accelerators.
4:16 – Wayne Brown
So, there’s one accelerator that’s in Canada, in the Atlantic Canada. They had over 107 fintechs in their accelerator. The Walker Group had developed a partnership with Ben Innovation, which is the accelerator in the Moncton, Canada, out of Moncton, Canada, that covers the four provinces that are east of the St. Lawrence River for those from a geographic location.
4:38 – Wayne Brown
And we’ve been recognized by the Canadian government as working with fintechs to help them expand in the United States. So, there’s one fintech in particular that we have worked with over the last 3 and 1/2 years. And right now, they have a strategic partnership with Mastercard. That’s public. As a press release that came out at the end of October of 2021.
5:01 – Wayne Brown
As well as two large banks, as well as a large payment processor. And that came directly as a result of our collaborating, working with this fintech, and expanding our– helping them to expand with our network. That we continue to help fintechs to gain a critical mass and opportunities.
5:21 – Becca Hoeft
You know I didn’t realize, a thousand fintechs, that’s quite a bit. Let me ask you something, Wayne. In the news, in the last six months or so, there’s been just layoffs at fintechs, fintechs closing down. From your perspective, especially from your wealth of expertise from consulting with so many fintechs, what does a successful fintech look like that will succeed in this volatile marketplace today?
5:54 – Wayne Brown
You know Becca, that’s a really good question. And I will tell you that for someone who’s been involved in the ecosystem for well over a decade, to see where we are today is one thing that I continue to work with and help fintechs. This is not the first time that we have been involved in an ecosystem or a situation of a downturn economically. I remember being involved at the time in 2000 and 2007, 2008.
6:23 – Wayne Brown
When I was starting to look at even focusing on starting the Walker Group, it was a downturn, and working with fintechs at that particular time was challenging. But to answer your question, one of the things that we do see, that there are going to be some fintechs that are going to work through this storm. And there are going to be some unfortunately that are going to not necessarily work through this situation.
6:45 – Wayne Brown
Some of that is because of the fact that they’re not well capitalized. Or their funding is not going to be– their funding is going to have been strained. Or they’re not receiving the funding that’s necessary that’s going to take them through the next life cycle on their journey. We are seeing that. The other side is that we are seeing that some fintechs need to really set– to get their expenses more aligned of what their money that they’re dealing with or what they’re working with, to get that more aligned with the actual reality.
7:15 – Wayne Brown
Therefore, some that were used to spending more have not been able to cut back that spending. They’re also going to be impacted. There’s also going to be some fintechs that are not necessarily going to see the signals that are out there in order to respond to what’s happening in the system. I totally ignore that.
7:32 – Wayne Brown
So some of the things that we are seeing– all of these different cases with these fintechs, many of them, where they have taken the advice from their advisors where they are looking at what they need to do to cut back on the expenses, when they’re looking at how they’re going to manage their business differently going forward, many of those I see that have some life that will continue.
7:53 – Wayne Brown
But if those fintechs are waiting for funding, whether they’re working through their expenses and they’re not figuring out exactly what they need to do in this particular environment, they may be a potential casualty. And that’s really what we’re seeing. I’ll give you an example. There’s one fintech that I have been working with for over a decade. And they’ve been a client where I have introduced them to large banks, as well as credit unions and partners.
8:21 – Wayne Brown
One of the things that this fintech has been working with is that they realize the fact that there has to be a way that they have to cut back from some of their expenses. And some of those expenses are going to come from things that were or initiatives that were very front office. Right, so some of the marketing, some of the sales. Which really could be a lifeblood. But looking into some of those things, they have to cut back so that they could continue to work in a very nimble, agile way.
8:51 – Wayne Brown
Meet their client expectations, continue to focus on that to succeed. It’s a way of doing more with less. And when I say less, some companies have to be– are challenged to do much less. Now, there are some fintechs ironically that are not even impacted by what we are seeing as far as the economic situation. One of the things that I mentioned, even though we are helping them from a post-border perspective, they’re closing deals. They’re continuing to close deals there in the AP automation space. They’re continuing to close deals.
9:23 – Wayne Brown
Now, it’s interesting aspect. Those deals are taking longer to be ingested within the organization. Deals are taking longer to close. The deals are taking longer to scale. So, from a revenue realization standpoint, that’s going to have an impact downstream from a fintech’s perspective. So, when they thought a deal can close with an x amount of months, now it’s x plus y. That y, that additional number of months that many of those fintechs have not been aware of or they have not had the experience previously during a downturn where they know how to maneuver or manage through that process.
10:03 – Becca Hoeft
So, Wayne, really quick. What I’m hearing is that the fintechs that use agility and innovation are the ones that are going to survive. It has nothing to do with if they’re a startup, a mid-sized fintech. It’s around using innovation and agility; did I capture that correctly?
10:23 – Wayne Brown
I would say that’s 90% of it. However, in reality, managing through those expenses, managing through the– especially if they’re in a situation that they are receiving a capital infusion, managing through that is also going to be important. Because of the fact that even with the innovation, even with the technology, for those startups that are relying on capital infusion, many of those particular situations have been deferred. They’ve been delayed. They have been reduced.
10:53 – Wayne Brown
So even with great technology, running through those experiences. And the burn rate that continues to accelerate will put that fintech in a situation that they may not have been in previously. So, where I do see what you’re mentioning, the agility, the innovation. Those late stage fintechs that do have somewhat of a reserve. That do have a customer base that are profitable or receiving revenue. Positive revenue, right? Those are going to be in a better situation than those startups that are still scrambling for funding. I have seen situations in an answer to the question and working with fintechs that are looking for funding, many of those conversations in the fintechs that I’m working with have been delayed or those conversations have even been terminated.
11:45 – Wayne Brown
So even with the great, great technology, innovation, everything could be stacked, there still need the funding, because they’re not receiving– their cash flow is still not where it needs to be, or should be or they think it should be as opposed to a company that they’re meeting their expenses and so forth. So, I just want to make sure from a clarification standpoint, that I look at this in multiple buckets, right?
12:12 – Wayne Brown
And that’s why one fintech– you got two fintechs. Look, they be looking– they could look like, they could be in the same industry. But when you pull up the covers a little bit, they could be very different situations. Even though they could be at the same stage.
12:27 – Bryan Toft
Yeah, so that investment is that investment in funding has slowed down. Those deals have slowed down, and maybe even in some cases, don’t exist anymore. And maybe those investors are getting a little more careful in who they’re investing in and why. And so that brings me to my next question. That’s that you have that– there is a problem for a consumer that still needs to be solved with a fintech, right? And that’s still something that all fintechs need to be thinking about we talk a lot about fintech for good. And as a Community Development Financial Institution, CDFI, we’re investing in low to moderate income census tracts.
13:04 – Bryan Toft
And we’re seeing some– with that problem to be solved and some of those customer niches, some of those fintechs are trying to also help solve that problem. And I was wondering, are there certain segments of the population that could be especially well served by innovative fintechs, or have you seen some examples of that where that’s really been successful in trying to find that niche in some of those underserved areas?
13:30 – Wayne Brown
Bryan, that’s another excellent question. So, one of the things that I did not mention about my background, which I think is important and relevant to this question. Back in 2000, I started to focus on the under-banked and underserved market. So, at that particular time. I was actually working with a company that was a payment technology company that was focusing on the unbanked. The walking payments industry. And even though I left that company and moved into other companies, I have always kept from an interesting perspective. I kept strong contacts. I sketched a strong network around the underbanked.
14:08 – Wayne Brown
In 2013, er 2007, I worked with Nacha in order to produce a Nacha book bulletin all focused on payment processing for the underbanked and work with some of the large underbanked payment processing companies in order to give this market the visibility that it needed. Because many people look at the unbanked, the underbanked, as a market that, OK, well it’s there, but we can focus– well, let’s focus on a market that’s much larger.
14:36 – Wayne Brown
In reality, the underbanked market continues to grow. And so, from a fintech perspective, what I’ve been doing is that I have been working with a number of companies that are focusing– they are fintechs that are focusing on the underbanked. And so, there’s one particular company that is a prepaid card company. And I came on as an advisor for this company. We helped them to bring fintech partners to this company.
15:04 – Wayne Brown
But what is really a satisfaction for me is that we were able to get them multimillion dollars of marketing credits from a payment processor that can help this company through marketing come to market. One of the things that’s really important is that there are very strong initiatives with companies that are looking to focus on the underserved.
15:24 – Wayne Brown
Some companies put this under the DEI initiative. Some companies put this under other initiatives where they do have money available to help fintechs in this particular market. I worked together with another company about three years ago. I worked with them for a six-month project, helping this fintech to engage and interact with a large financial institution, because they were looking at some of the tools and products that this thing had to align them with this thing to be aligned with the fintech in order to build a partnership.
15:57 – Wayne Brown
So, from that particular point that you’ve mentioned, there are opportunities. But the only difference is that I look at these opportunities as diamonds that are in the rough of a type. And then the fact that it’s to create visibility to these fintechs that are doing or focusing in this market to bring them opportunities. And many of the times that many of the fintechs that I have worked with that are in this particular ecosystem are not necessarily fully aware of what they need to do, what that journey consists of so they can build these partnerships with banks.
16:29 – Wayne Brown
There’s money there, and there’s opportunity there. But seeking and finding that opportunity may not be as obvious as other opportunities and other collaboration opportunities that are in the space.
16:43 – Becca Hoeft
But as far as education around the unbanked, underserved– there’s different words for it in the industry, but what is the biggest thing you think we can do? We have Sunrise Banks, who we are a socially responsible bank. You are working with fintechs and other partners who are reaching this niche market, that are making an impact and helping build financial wealth for these underserved communities. What’s the one big thing that we can do to help grow that interest in getting other companies, other banks, other fintechs involved in this?
17:23 – Wayne Brown
So, Becca, I have been involved in financial services for my entire career. Sunrise Banks came on my radar with regards to a client that I was working with three years ago. Now, it was a client that was in the prepaid space that was servicing the underbanked, unbanked market, a prepaid card company. So, prior to this, I did not know where Sunrise Banks– I didn’t know what they did, what their focus was, what their mandate is.
18:00 – Wayne Brown
That put Sunrise Banks on my radar, where I started to check the website. I started looking at some of the webinars that were going on. Because I realized the fact that this was new to me. So, from Sunrise Banks’ perspective, I think the opportunity of what you’re doing right now and really getting the word out of how you work with fintechs, how you focus on this market I think is so key. Because if I wasn’t aware of Sunrise Banks, and I’m someone who’s been in this industry for 20 years, they may be others also that may fully not be aware of what Sunrise Banks is doing in their leadership position to have a key role in this industry.
18:41 – Wayne Brown
And so, as I started going down the path of my own research, then I started noticing and seeing Sunrise Banks in areas that I didn’t see them before. And I really think that from a marketing perspective, from an education perspective, I think there’s a huge opportunity to make it known further.
18:58 – Wayne Brown
So, what does that look like? That looks like collaborating and partnering with organizations. That looks like collaborating and partnering with fintechs. That looks like raising the visibility of what Sunrise Banks is doing today so that others in this ecosystem will actually know how Sunrise Banks is partnering. Not just in one geographic location, but really companies and fintechs throughout the US being aware of the role that Sunrise Banks is playing.
19:32 – Bryan Toft
We appreciate that. We totally want to get the word out and make everybody aware. Because it is a big part of our mission. I want to zoom out for a second about fintech and banking. Fintechs have, as we mentioned, a ton of investment, a ton of funding, which has pushed banks forward. At first, there was this resistance to fintechs, and now there’s this collaboration aspect. And banks even saying, well, we can do this, too, and trying to improve all things from a customer experience to trying to bank the underbanked.
20:04 – Bryan Toft
I’m wondering, you’ve been in a while, you’ve been in the fintech banking space for 10 years, looking at the next five years, 10 years, where do you think it’s going in terms of banking and fintech? What do you see on the horizon that we should be watching out for, thinking about?
20:20 – Wayne Brown
So, the fintech-bank partnership is one that continues to evolve. The challenge that many banks have is the ability to identify and onboard that fintech. Because again, banking, highly regulated industry. There is risk. The risk needs to be managed. There’s compliance. All of these things continue. And when I’m working with banks on a regular basis and working with fintechs, this is something that continues to resonate. It is challenging to onboard fintechs en masse.
20:56 – Wayne Brown
One of the things that I am seeing right now is that there’s also opportunities where fintechs are taking away the products and services that banks provide. Right, so where it’s seen as a partnership in a number of situations, it is seen as competitor. A fintech can actually compete with a bank. Now, banks provide their services that banks traditionally provide. And fintechs don’t necessarily provide that in and of itself.
21:29 – Wayne Brown
But when you start in examining fintechs and bank partnerships, it’s a way that there could be a collaboration of some sort at different levels. But the key question is what the future looks like. In my perspective, I feel that it will be the fact that fintechs could take away the clients, product and services that banks provide. And they can be in a competition of the banks where they compete, where those products and services are.
22:00 – Wayne Brown
When it comes to lending money, when it comes to all the other core-core services that banks provide, they will traditionally be able to do that. But this whole innovation aspect of providing new technology, all these different things that they’re partnering with fintechs, fintechs are going to provide that without the bank. And I have seen in some of the banks that I mean where banks are losing business. They’re losing RFPs to the fintechs directly.
22:29 – Wayne Brown
Because many banks are partnering with fintechs to provide these added services, there are some situations where there’s an engagement directly with the fintech. The bank is not necessarily needed in that particular situation. And I think what I think can start in the future, we’re going to see a lot more of that.
22:49 – Becca Hoeft
So, this is the perfect segue to our last question. And when we asked all of our guests this question. But when we think about the next generation banker, what do they look like?
23:06 – Wayne Brown
That’s a very loaded question, by the way, Becca. Because–
23:09 – Becca Hoeft
Mhmm, I know!
23:10 – Wayne Brown
OK, so I’m going to give you, my perspective. The next generation banker looks like nothing we’ve ever seen. And the reason why is the next generation consumer is very different. They want it now. They want it instant. They want to do payments in an instant way. They want to do it on their mobile device. They want to engage through mobile device. And they don’t want it to be complicated.
23:41 – Wayne Brown
They want to engage through an interface that they’re very accustomed to. But they want information, but they don’t want a lot of information. And they’re not necessarily going to use a bank in the traditional way that the other generations have used them. And I’m not saying because the next generation banker doesn’t even know how to write a check. We understand that, and that’s something we’ve talked about for many years.
24:06 – Wayne Brown
But they don’t even want to engage in the way that previous generations have engaged. And I think that’s something through APIs that we see this happening, through other areas that we see this happening. That’s most of one of the things which we’re seeing with that generation. And it’s something which we’re seeing evolve. We see highly segmented of products and services that they are interested in. But they’re not necessarily going to engage in the bank the way that we think they’re going to engage in.
24:38 – Becca Hoeft
Wayne, it’s been so great to have you here with us today. Thank you for your time, and thanks for listening to the NextGen Banker podcast. We’ll see you next time.
24:48 – Wayne Brown
Thank you. Really appreciated this discussion.
24:49 – [MUSIC PLAYING]
24:52 – Becca Hoeft
This episode’s musical feature, we’re showcasing August Anderson. Scandinavian duo Mike August and Adrian Anderson. Combine their inspirations of folk and electronic dance music to create August Anderson. With a spirit born on the streets of Stockholm, the two tell the melodic story of their lives through the songs they cultivate. Here is “Feelings That I Know” by August Anderson.
25:18 – [MUSIC PLAYING – AUGUST ANDERSON, “FEELINGS THAT I KNOW”]
25:53 – Becca Hoeft
That was “Feelings That I Know” by August Anderson. You can find more of August Anderson’s music on Spotify. If you would like your music featured on the NextGen Banker podcast, email David at nextgen-banker.com with a link to your music and website. Thanks for listening to the NextGen Banker podcast. We’ll see you soon.