Atlanta will host BAI Beacon, a conference dedicated to sharing thought leadership, financial services advances and powerful technology advances. The 1.5-day event, which takes place Oct. 4 and 5, offers a compelling look ahead to banking’s future—and this year with added significance. That’s because BAI Beacon will take place in a city forging that future on a daily basis: Atlanta.
With a metro-area population of 5.8 million, Atlanta has emerged as an up-and-coming hub of American fintech activity. Recently named by Bank Innovation as a rising star, Atlanta ranks 7th in the U.S. in number of fintech startups and 12th in overall startups.
But it’s not as though Atlanta is new to financial technology businesses. It’s estimated that 70 percent of global payment transactions pass through companies headquartered in metro Atlanta. In a recent BAI Banking Strategies podcast, Don Campbell, president at RightCourse LLC and contributor to a new report from the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), discusses the city’s role as a payments nerve center.
So what is Atlanta doing right to build itself into a global fintech contender? From smart branding to broad-based support for the sector, here are five factors that explain why Atlanta has risen to the peak of recognition and reputation.
Branding that’s right up their “Alley”
For any city with fintech aspirations, it’s hard to compete with well-established centers of financial innovation, such as the Silicon Valley, Boston and New York City. So how do you top Silicon Valley? Well … how about “Transaction Alley”?
Local fintech leaders chose that moniker because of the dominant role companies based the city and region play. The nickname was catchy and stuck, making turning the city’s payments status into a PR pay off.
Incubator and accelerator cultivator
Atlanta has cultivated a nurturing environment for fintech startups. The Advance Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech ranks as one of longest-running startup incubators in the country and boasts a 90 percent success rate for its graduates. ATDC doesn’t take equity in firms, but provides much-needed mentorship and assistance.
Additionally, Atlanta Tech Village is the fourth largest tech hub in the U.S., while Switchyards in downtown Atlanta is home to more than 300 startups.
Broad-based fintech sector support
Even companies outside Atlanta’s financial technology sector recognize its importance and provide mentorship and leadership support. Earlier this year, Georgia Tech and 10 Atlanta companies launched Engage, a mentorship-driven accelerator program that will house nearly 50 startups. Engage’s funding partners include AT&T, Delta Airlines, UPS and Home Depot, while executives at those companies will mentor the program’s participants. Add to that the role TAG has played in uniting the area’s various fintech forces, and you’ve got a recipe many cities would be hard pressed to match.
Brewing in the lab: Sector-specific talent
Universities in the Atlanta region rank second in highest quality engineering programs in the U.S., according to a WalletHub study. But Atlanta is also growing its own fintech sector-specific talent; Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business has launched one of the first university fintech labs in the U.S.
A fine fintech ecosystem
While the above factors prove crucial for any fintech ecosystem seeking to sprout startups, it’s another matter to grow them into healthy contenders. To that end, Atlanta’s healthy venture capital community provides a valuable pipeline for investment. Having a well-established payments industry nearby also creates unique opportunities for partnerships that drive revenue growth for fintechs and catalyze innovation for incumbents.
As banking and financial services leaders arrive in Atlanta for BAI Beacon, they’ll enjoy a prime opportunity to discover and learn from what Atlanta’s fintech scene has done exceedingly well—even as the city’s sparkling accomplishments unfold in real time on the conference floor.
And if you want to toast it all with a Coke and a healthy slice of peach pie, so much the better.
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Jay Palteris the chief engagement officer at Jay Palter Social Advisory, based in Calgary.