BMO’s Ben Schack on what’s next for bank-fintech collaborations

BMO Harris partners with fintech  startups through the BMO Harris Bank 1871 Innnovation Program.

The bank usually works with five to seven firms each year and announced its third cohort of startups last October. Some of the companies BMO Harris has worked with in the past include Blend, a software platform for lenders; SpringFour, which connects consumers to local financial health resources and Holberg Financial, a fintech firm that develops tools to help reduce financial stress.

In this episode of “Fintech Unfiltered,” Bank Innovation sat down with Ben Schack, head of U.S. digital partnerships at BMO Financial Group, to discuss the bank’s approach to cooperation.

Schack, who is based in Chicago, is responsible for sourcing bank-fintech partnerships. He said BMO is focused on working with startups that address pain points of its customers.

“[The partnership program] is an opportunity to find startups who might be able to complement our capabilities or help us reach a new pool of customers that we’re interested in,” he explained.

One trend Schack has noticed is the growth of socially-engaged firms that are working to address financial inclusion for underbanked communities. He argues that for banks, the biggest obstacle to reaching underserved communities is risk. “Large U.S. banks have been built on a foundation of solid risk management and that permeates everything from management to strategy. Having a different risk philosophy is really helpful when you’re trying to serve underserved communities.”

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