By using simplified processes for payments and other services, a new generation of innovators is disrupting major financial institutions and demonstrating how a technology-first approach can vastly improve customer experience.

Consider payment companies like Square and Stripe, as well as innovative companies in lending and financial management such as LendingClub and Wealthfront. Within the span of a few years,  these companies from novel ideas to formidable financial brands.

Today’s banks can learn from these emerging companies that are elevating financial services beyond the imagination of just a few years ago.  In many cases, banks can even leverage these technologies for their own benefit through partnerships.

New payment systems, automated “robo” financial assistants, peer-to-peer lending and more, are changing the way consumers interact with their finances. More importantly, though less publicized, is the impact these financial technologies are having on small businesses and merchants. With these technologies, the owners of a quaint “mom and pop” shop, too, can be a tech savvy financial services provider.  New technologies are changing the way SMBs manage money, financial relationships and internal procedures.

A fundamental shift in the way companies operate is underway as the world’s small to medium-sized businesses (SMB) transition from paper to digital payments. While not as high-profile as recent innovations in lending and investing, the potential impact of this change is tremendous.

The rise of companies like PayPal and Square, have changed the SMB currency. Electronic payments mediated by card or mobile devices have overtaken cash as the preferred method for transacting business. For the consumer, it means more ways to pay. For a SMB, the management of these systems begins to cloud other processes.

Account payables and receivables are perfect examples. As B2B payments shift from paper to digital, it is necessary for SMBs to integrate digital systems in order to manage their account payable and receivable processes with vendors and customers.  Digital payments need to map to invoices and seamlessly integrate with accounting solutions.  This represents a major opportunity for banks – because while many already have small business online bill payment systems, these systems are only used for a small portion of business payment volume.

Outside of payments, companies are also improving customer experience in areas such as alternative digital lending and investing. Rather than continuing the status quo, banks should consider partnering with independent solutions that meet their business customers’ needs. This partner-first approach for mission-critical technology takes much of the guess work out of determining what customers want. The best solution will naturally surface from the available market.

What the future holds is anyone’s guess, especially in the world of today. For banks, however, there are ample opportunities to elevate their services and make the banking experience better—through partnerships with today’s emerging financial technology leaders in payments and other industries.

Rene Lacerte is the founder and CEO of