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Commerce’s focus on tech startups is something customers can get excited about

Commerce Bank is deeply committed to innovation. There’s evidence of this commitment in the products and services that the bank continuously develops for its customers to make their banking experience the best it can be. The new Commerce Bank CONNECT® app is one example. The bank’s dedication to innovative thinking is reflected in other ways as well. A good example of this is Commerce’s recent announcement that it has deepened its relationship with SixThirty Ventures, a St. Louis-based capital venture firm that invests in early-stage technology companies building fintech, insurtech, cybersecurity and digital health solutions.

Charles Kim, chief financial officer and executive vice president at Commerce, explains that the increased level of affiliation with SixThirty offers the bank a variety of benefits. “It’s a great company that, while being right here in our backyard in St. Louis, is an international powerhouse in financial innovation,” he says. “Our relationship with them is a unique opportunity to be part of something local, yet international that specializes in areas of interest to our customers.”

Most importantly, Kim says, the SixThirty alliance gives Commerce customers much to look forward to. “It shows that we aren’t just following what other banks are doing,” he says. “We’re committed to innovation, we’re agile, and we’re getting involved in new ideas at an incubation level. It shows our customers that we’re staying current and always thinking ahead.”

Molly Hoffmeyer, SixThirty’s director of corporate partnerships, agrees that the relationship is something that can ultimately be of great benefit to the bank’s customers. “It’s an exciting development for Commerce’s customers and will benefit them in a lot of ways,” she notes. “Customers want to work with a bank that’s going to be around for the long term, and today that requires developing technology at a pace that’s different than it was in the past. Working with a firm like SixThirty can help Commerce get new offerings to customers faster. It shows that Commerce is a very forward-looking company.”

As part of the expanded relationship with SixThirty, Commerce will provide hands-on training and mentoring to the companies that SixThirty selects to take part in its go-to-market program. “We get access to a global pipeline of companies that are working on ways to use technology to solve problems for our customers,” says Kim. “And we’re always interested in anything that will help our customers. This relationship gives us the ability to get to know emerging companies and see some of their fantastic ideas early on.”

The agreement also provides Commerce leaders with the ability to network with leading tech and financial services institutions, providing access to some of the brightest and most innovative minds in the country. Kim says he’s excited by the opportunities this aspect of the relationship presents. “We’re investing people’s time into these relationships, and it’s a good investment,” he says. “Some of our best people get exposed to new ways we may be able to serve our customers. If we see a company doing something we’re interested in, we can bring them in and learn from them. It pushes us further down the innovation spectrum and helps us learn more.”

The leadership team at SixThirty sees a great deal of benefit in the relationship for themselves and their partner companies as well. “One of the underestimated attributes to helping startups scale and enhance their competitiveness is something I call ‘speed to trust,’” says Atul Kamra, managing partner at SixThirty. “Companies don’t collaborate with vendors they don’t trust; it takes time to establish that bond. By bringing startups into a relationship with Commerce early on, you can move with confidence and it accelerates speed to trust.”

Kamra believes the startups benefit from the skills of Commerce’s leaders in many ways. “They provide subject matter knowledge from an industry viewpoint,” he notes. “Leaders and decision-makers within Commerce can give a startup founder a sharper view of what would ultimately be appealing. They provide practical perspective.”

Hoffmeyer says that in many cases, having the ability to consult with financial professionals at Commerce can make a valuable difference for a startup. “These startups are often looking for a product-to-market fit,” she explains. “That’s a huge benefit they get from working with Commerce. They learn a lot just from understanding how a bank like Commerce works with vendors in general and what initiatives might be the most valuable. It helps them know whether they’re playing in the right space.”

Commerce isn’t investing in technology for its own sake, says Kamra; it’s investing to make a difference for its customers. “We’re operating in a hyper-connected world, and it’s necessary to apply technology and data to fundamentally enhance the client experience,” he says. “Customers want the convenience that comes with technology, but they also want a human touch, and they want to associate with a brand that shares their values. Commerce combines all of those qualities. For that reason, we’re looking to bring technology ideas to Commerce that align with their values and purpose.”

Kamra says SixThirty and Commerce share a desire to focus their efforts on solutions that can have a high impact. “We invest in things that are big and bold,” he says. “When you do that, it’s great to have category leaders like Commerce with us along the way. It helps increase the probability of finding solutions that are successful.”

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