Banking on an Industry Getting Up to Date

This woman-led Canadian startup is helping banks move their business systems into the present day and connect with cloud technologies.

Share

FI.SPAN is a Canadian company that helps banks to connect financial technology (fintech) products and services with applications like accounting for commercial clients. They act as a bridge between traditional banking and new cloud technologies, bypassing the huge cost of upgrading legacy systems.

The FI.SPAN platform features a marketplace full of fintech services that banks can choose from and seamlessly integrate with their in-house systems. The software can be tested securely inside the bank’s own digital domain using a sandbox environment before going live, speeding up the time-to-market.

CEO Lisa Shields explained to the Globe and Mail that, by offering fintech as a service to banks, FI.SPAN allows them to quickly capitalize on innovations while retaining customers.

Stagnant innovation needed a kick

The outdated nature of business banking systems was a key inspiration for the creation of FI.SPAN.

In an interview with Business in Vancouver, Shields said that an accountant from the 1980s wouldn’t feel out of place in a modern office given how little has changed. Some interactions between banks and businesses still require the use of a fax machine, for example, so modernizing and simplifying transactions between the two was imperative for Shields and co.

“What FI.SPAN aims to do is bring to banks the same capability to interconnect their business, products, and services with key back-office business applications. Namely accounting systems and ERP [enterprise resource planning],” she said.

“We make banks as interconnected as other business applications.”

ERP software integrates numerous functions like inventory and order management, accounting, human resources, and customer relationship management into one system to streamline processes and information across the organization.

JPMorgan Chase partnership

FI.SPAN has developed connections with four of the top 20 US banks, including JPMorgan Chase, the biggest of them all. JPMorgan Chase’s Jason Tiede noted in 2018 that the partnership will help their bank to develop pilot programs for the corporate treasurers of major clients.

“FI.SPAN is a very young and nimble organization, and is able to do integration work with those treasury software programs,” said Tiede to the Globe and Mail.

Through their partnership with the company, the bank can “do so in a very rapid and experimental way to better understand how our clients want us to embed our services with them,” he added.

One of the main objectives of their collaboration with FI.SPAN was to enable payments and other services without the hassle of repeated logins to various systems and time-consuming technology implementations.

Tiede commented to Payments Source in 2019 that the partnership allowed them to “take this from idea to live product with approximately $1 billion [USD] in payments flow in less than 18 months.”

Security credentials

Working with tier one financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase requires a special security clearance: the SOC 2 Type 1 certificate. SOC 2 monitors reporting standards to ensure that online service providers securely manage data so they are not left open to attacks like data theft. FI.SPAN received this certification just one year after their foundation.

All of FI.SPAN’s APIs (a type of software that allows two applications to talk to each other) are covered by an SSL certificate. This certificate is a standard technology for safeguarding any sensitive data in transfer between two systems. FI.SPAN also regularly performs penetration tests (simulated cyber attacks) to check for vulnerabilities in their system.

Regarding privacy, the company migrated towards compliance with the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation early on, since they believe the same principles will arrive in North America eventually. A central feature of the GDPR is that companies must provide transparent user control over all data exchange.

Women in STEM

Shields was the recipient of the 2015 Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year award for her role with Hyperwallet, a leading global payouts provider that went on to be sold to PayPal for $400 million USD.

Building Hyperwallet from the ground up was tough work, and finding funding proved to be an enormous challenge — especially as a female entrepreneur. Hyperwallet was made possible by a group of eight angel investors who took a major risk on her and her colleagues’ venture, and this inspired Shields to “pay back” the favour down the line by becoming an angel investor herself.

“What I’ve decided to do in my own small way is, as an investor, I’m going to invest only in women-led companies,” said Shields to BCBusiness. “That’s where I encountered the most difficulty and bias, so if I can help out in a practical way, I think that that’s the best use of my abilities at this stage.”

‹ Previous post
Next post ›

Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.