When the word “disrupt” is thrown around in the startup world, it’s often used by a startup founder who believes their technology could destroy an entire industry.
But talk to Brian Alvarez-Bailey and you’ll soon realize he has something else in mind to “disrupt” the community banking industry.
“The narrative has shown that fintechs can disrupt or crowd out community banks,” he told Hypopotamus. “I think it’s all nonsense. I think fintech, like any other tool, has a role to play in community banking. And I think the community banking industry and fintech can work together on this. It looks like one without the other will not take the real chance.”
Alvarez-Bailey wants to bring fintech and community banks together with his new startup Allison.
The low-code platform and SaaS startup are helping to improve custodial capabilities for community banks and credit unions. Alvarez-Bailey describes it as a “virtual financial container” connecting fintechs with community banks.
“It’s about combining the speed, efficiency and stability that comes from building new financial technologies with the stability and confidence that comes from community banks and credit unions,” he said. “We don’t want to be expelled” [community banks], We don’t want to put them out of business. We want to develop them further.”
Fintech startups often have difficulties getting off the ground without bank sponsorship. Community banks, on the other hand, often lack the infrastructure to connect up-and-coming fintech companies.
Addressing the community banker’s pain points is personal to Alvarez-Bailey. Not only did her grandmother work at a community bank for several years, she herself worked in the world of fintech remittances and financial services before founding Allison.
Speaking to the Community Bank’s CEO, Alvarez-Bailey admitted that her biggest pain after Dodd Frank is the cost of her internal compliance and legal upkeep. Many of these institutions have been consolidated – or all closed together – as the landscape of financial regulation has changed over the past 15 years.
New city, new fintech problems
Alvarez-Bailey may be relatively new to the Tampa Bay area, but he’s already making waves on the local startup scene.
After pursuing a career in Austin, he fell in love with Tampa when he arrived in early 2020. “It had an Austin 2010-ish feel to me,” he told Hypopotamus. He has already been heavily influenced by startup community creators like Lakshmi Shenoy of Embark Collective.
He recently won the grand prize at the regional Black Founders Demo Day. He will represent the Tampa area at Black Founders Demo Day in Miami next December.
Alvarez-Bailey is among a growing number of fintech entrepreneurs in Tampa — an industry being helped by a surge in newcomers to the city and a growing startup infrastructure supporting finance, human resources and insurance companies.
“I am a person who sees problems as opportunities. And the bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity,” Alvarez-Bailey told Hypopotamus. “That’s not to say I think I can solve every problem, but I would argue that if you solve it well enough, an ecosystem will be built around the solution that solved the bigger problem. Allison is actually part of a larger solution that will eventually be implemented within the next five or ten years.”