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Forging fintech partnerships to co-create the future of banking: A Q&A with M&T Bank’s Claire Verville

Mass Fintech Hub member M&T Bank is committed to supporting and engaging with each of the communities in its footprint, including Massachusetts’ thriving fintech community. We sat down with Claire Verville, head of Fintech Partnerships at M&T, to learn more.

What impact do you see M&T’s recent acquisition of People’s United Bank having on customers, communities and technology?

Following the acquisition, the combined company has a network of over 1,000 branches and 1,800 ATMs spanning 12 states—from Maine to Virginia and Washington, D.C.

With this increased footprint, we see a lot of potential for fintech to increase accessibility to financial services—bringing banking and financial services easily and affordably to people where, when, and how they most want to consume it. Innovation is key to providing the tools our bankers need to interact in a rich and meaningful way with our expanded customer base across multiple channels. The questions that drive us are, “How do we serve our customers better and really meet them in the moments that matter in their lives? How can we ensure we’re offering the right solution at the right time? In a nutshell: how do we show up for our customers and communities in ways they find valuable?” While our branch network remains critically important, the growing shift towards digitization—both of banking, and of business operations more generally—means fintech has a crucial role to play in answering those questions.

M&T Bank is aiming to be a “locally-focused, digitally forward” bank for communities. Could you please unpack this, and explore how collaborations within Massachusetts’ fintech ecosystem could contribute towards this goal?

While small businesses have often been neglected by traditional financial services, this is an area where M&T Bank has demonstrated commitment. We’re proud to have been one of the largest PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) lenders during the pandemic. We recognize the importance of continuing to build on this strong foundation by expanding the range of services offered to small businesses and showing up for them every step of the way—from the formation of their business onwards. This is where fintech can add a huge amount of value. With the payments space increasingly developing new paradigms such as real-time payments, cyber-crime, and identity theft threats escalating rapidly, we’re also thinking a lot about how fintech can help protect our customers and us. As such, advancements in payments technology and fraud prevention are major areas of focus for M&T.

The golden thread through all of these is leveraging innovation and partnerships to meet our customers’ evolving needs and helping to shape the future of banking in the process.

How do you anticipate membership of Mass Fintech Hub will contribute towards growth and success at M&T Bank?

In managing fintech partnerships at M&T, a huge part of my job is devoted to sourcing innovative, high value fintechs that we can work with to solve problems, leverage opportunities for growth, and deliver innovation for an optimized customer experience. Membership in the Hub offers excellent opportunities for networking within Massachusetts’ compact, but mighty fintech ecosystem, enabling us to uncover new start-ups and facilitate new and exciting relationships between promising fintechs and incumbent corporations. For example, Mass Fintech Hub’s Fintech Forum is an event series that is a catalyst for Startup-Corporate fintech collaboration across the state.

The failure and subsequent bailout of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) in March sent shockwaves through the financial services and fintech sectors. What would you say to those concerned about the future prospects for regional banks and growth in the tech space?

At M&T, we’ve always focused on—and remain committed to—the fundamentals of banking and good balance sheet management. This approach also applies to our fintech partnerships: we focus on companies that are well-run, with solid fundamentals, mature growth and who are thinking carefully about how they can build their business rather than participate in the kind of trend-chasing behavior that’s been so prevalent in recent years.

In the light of recent events, it’s important not to lose the forest for the trees, so to speak: the collapse of SVB doesn’t negate the importance of innovation or the need for fintech partnerships.

Times like these offer a reset: they’re when the wheat gets separated from the chaff. There are plenty of strong fintechs out there (several of whom we’re proud to be working with), and I believe that many of them will continue to grow and prosper despite tricky market conditions. My advice to fintechs is to focus on quality operations, good balance sheet management, and appropriate growth. There’s a lot to be said for getting back to the basics.

M&T Bank, Member FDIC.

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