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Symbiotic collaborations between major financial institutions and

up-and-coming fintech startups are a hallmark of Massachusetts’ thriving fintech ecosystem. These relationships offer a win-win: banks and other kinds of traditional financial players can help startups gain momentum and grow; in turn, startups can help larger companies optimize their systems and introduce new helpful technologies.

We heard from leaders at several of the Bay State’s most prestigious financial institutions (and our members) about how they successfully collaborate with startups. They discuss both the challenges and benefits that come with partnering, and how Mass Fintech Hub helps to foster closer, more fruitful relationships.


Working together to unleash innovation


The financial services industry faces an ongoing challenge: how to adapt to a rapidly evolving customer landscape while maintaining a long-term value proposition, says Mohammed Dastigir, MassMutual’s Head of FinTech & HealthTech Partnerships – Ecosystem Development. He believes that innovation is the bridge that allows established players like MassMutual, founded in 1851, to thrive in today’s environment. Customer needs have diversified dramatically, so new products and services are required to ensure continued competitiveness.


“One way to stay ahead of the curve is partnering with and investing in disruptive startups that are agile and forward-thinking,” says Dastigir. He notes that Mass Fintech Hub is bringing together corporations and startups through its Fintech Forum programming to ensure that maximum impact is generated when they collaborate.


“The Fintech Forum showcases how industry veterans and startups can collaborate effectively to solve real-world business challenges,” he explains. “These relationships provide two-way value and open the door for a booming fintech ecosystem that will continue to thrive into the future.”


Nikolas Casagrande, Vice President, Digital Innovation & Strategy at Citizens Bank echoes this. “Mass Fintech Hub does a wonderful job of bringing startups and corporates together through organizing events, networking, and workshops,” he says.

Cultivating compatibility: A challenge to overcome


Claire Verville, Head of Ventures & Strategic Partnerships at M&T Bank, says that when a large financial services firm begins working with a startup, the  vastly different organizational contexts particular to each can often create friction.

“Startups often have much flatter and simpler organizational structures (especially if they’re early-stage), clean tech stacks and generally less regulations and requirements,” she explains. “As a result of those structural factors and the startup ethos, they are able to make decisions and iterate on product quickly.”

In contrast, an organization like M&T Bank, with its staff of 22,000, obviously has a much more complex structure. It takes time even to assemble the right teams to engage in a partnership dialogue and to ensure strategic alignment. She notes, “Additionally, given the size of our organization and our responsibility towards our customers, we have a range of different rules and regulations that are designed to protect the bank and our customers, but often add significant time to a startup project, particularly if a startup is new to working with banks.”

Behaviorally, there can be big differences too.

“Startups tend to approach conversations as a more consultative, rather than transactional sale, which can be different from large incumbent technology providers that banks are used to buying from,” she says. “There are pros and cons to this approach, but at the very least recognizing that this may be the first time your buyer is engaging in this kind of engagement is important.”

Verville believes the best way both large financial institutions and startups can improve the partnership experience is to take the time to understand the respective perspectives, contexts and motivations at play.

“At M&T, we really try to take a partnership-first approach with startups and work hard to build a relationship and mutual alignment to find success from the very start,” she says.

From pitch to partnership: tips for startups


Nicholas Sweeney, BankProv’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships says

that it’s important for startups to understand the unique strategy, culture, and approach to collaboration that an institution they want to partner with has.

“Startups can benefit greatly by identifying and networking with the appropriate decision makers and subject matter experts to help navigate these complexities,” he says. “It is crucial to clearly articulate the startup's value proposition and how their solution aligns with the bank's strategic objectives, needs, and any challenges it is facing.”

Financial services’ evolving regulatory landscape is something else to keep top of mind.

“Startups should come to initial discussions with robust compliance frameworks, documentation, and consideration as to how the solution might impact the bank’s risk, compliance, and regulatory requirements,” Sweeney says. While banks are keen to collaborate, “being prepared for initial assessments, due diligence, and onboarding will only help make the process easier.”

Powerful pairings


Mass Fintech Hub is here to help nurture successful collaborations between corporations and startups. Follow us on LinkedIn and X to stay up to date on all Mass Fintech Hub happenings. Also, click here to sign up for our newsletter and learn more about becoming a member of Mass Fintech Hub.

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