This interview focuses on an important piece of innovation that has the potential to relieve the financial pain of many consumers who suffer under the pain of high health insurance deductibles.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to yourself as well Epic River.
Jeff Grobaski: I’m the founder and CEO of Epic River. We are a Colorado-based FinTech company. We focus on enabling community banks to stay relevant in today’s increasingly high-speed world. We created Epic River because it seems like most FinTech companies are trying to replace community banks rather than help them succeed.
We found that there is a real value if you focus on what community banks and credit unions provide for healthcare providers and small businesses in the communities in which they all live and work in. Community banks are a tremendous source of information, connections, and cost savings.
They need the right tools and a better user experience to entice today’s increasingly fickle online consumers. I grew up in the northeast of the US. I went to school in Pennsylvania and then spent 10 years in the DC metro area working for a couple of large FinTech companies.
I also started my first startup during that time. It was in that time that I gained an appreciation for large versus small companies, the balance of technology, and regulation. I hit my stride when I started spending time in the market and learning where to apply technology to improve processes.
That’s what we do at Epic River. We took one of the processes that we cared the most about – online lending. At the time that we started, it was a difficult task to accomplish, but we wanted community banks to look just like every other online fintech lender.
Sramana Mitra: Do you have a background in community banks?
Jeff Grobaski: I do. One of the large companies that I worked at was EDS – Electronic Data Systems. I worked on their core system. EDS would have us go and work in a community bank to see what it looked like.
I worked the teller line and the back office. Back then, it was all about reviewing checks and comparing signatures. I’ve done all those tasks. It was interesting to sit in those seats.
Sramana Mitra: Typically, when we do these interviews, usually people have domain knowledge for the company they have come up with. They have identified problems in the domain and come up with solutions. It’s always interesting for me to see what perspective brings interesting insight.
Jeff Grobaski: It was interesting for me to sit, see, and get to know the people who did those jobs and hear how much they cared about their customers. To them, it wasn’t just a customer somewhere and some revenue point. It was a person that they knew. Maybe, their kids played on the same sports team and it was a business that they frequented.
The deep level of connection between community banks and the small businesses and healthcare providers around them was remarkable.
Sramana Mitra: What are the gaps in the community bank capabilities where you are inserting yourself to bring solutions?
Jeff Grobaski: The first big one is user experience. There are a lot of online lenders. The big banks provide a nice user experience online if you need a loan or if you are a business that needs a line of credit. A lot of those come at a higher cost.
You might be able to save money working with your community bank, but especially today in the COVID pandemic, people aren’t looking to go walk into a community bank branch.
We need to elevate a community bank or credit union’s online presence and their user experience instead of going to a marketplace lender or a nonbank lender who might have a better user experience, but it would cost a lot more in fees and interest.