Tech People in the Know: Epic River’s Jeff Grobaski
In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus will profile interesting and intriguing tech professionals who are positively impacting the credit union industry.
For this issue, we visited with Epic River’s CEO and Founder Jeff Grobaski. The Fort Collins, Colo.-based fintech provides software and service solutions designed to streamline the lending process for community banks and credit unions.
By W.B. King
As a college student pursuing a degree in marketing and publications, Jeff Grobaski caught the tech bug when he realized he could access sports scores and view detailed box scores for baseball games online in real time.
“The advent of the internet marked a significant milestone,” he told Finopotamus. “In those early days, Yahoo offered an enticing incentive: They would grant shares of their company to users who created new accounts. This led me to create an account and receive 10 shares of Yahoo, which I eventually sold at a profit of $200. I found these new opportunities to be incredibly fascinating and revolutionary.”
Midway through attending Westminster College, Grobaski changed his academic focus and in 1997 earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and minors in public relations and computer science.
Comprehend Holistic Functioning
Prior to founding Epic River in 2005, Grobaski held positions as a software engineer and a senior director of product for an enterprise document management and report management software solution.
“The biggest difference within technology departments today has been the shift away from traditional ownership of hardware and physical server infrastructure, which entails a significant change in management dynamics,” Grobaski reflected. “Today, there is a reduced emphasis on individuals capable of assembling hardware components, as this ability has become increasingly outsourced.”
As a result, he said there is now a “heightened requirement for professionals well-versed in security infrastructure who possess a comprehensive understanding of the intricate interplay of various components within the digital ecosystem.”
For those organizations that are reliant on data centers and other tech infrastructures, oversight is required, he said. “Experts who can comprehend the holistic functioning of these systems, adeptly safeguard them against potential threats, and optimize their performance for the benefit of the company and its workflows.”
In previous years, when exploring new technology trends and advancements, Grobaski relied “heavily on reviews for insights,” but noted that the credibility of these reviews, due to outside bias (and sometimes paid influence), have diminished.
“My strategy has shifted to seeking out users who have encountered issues with the technology or service. For example, we recently subscribed to a service that tracks our service organization controls (SOC) criteria in real time,” he said. “Although several providers offered similar services, closer examination revealed that the primary issues and complaints associated with the service we chose were not pertinent to our operations.”
With a strong background in in software development and as well as running a software company for nearly 20 years, Grobaski is “naturally inclined” to conduct hands-on evaluations of new technology.
“I analyze its interface, assess its age and investigate its update frequency,” he continued. “This approach allows me to make comprehensive, informed decisions regarding each solution’s suitability for our organization's needs.”
Autonomy and Freedom
With 25 employees, 18 of which are tech-facing, Epic River’s support team is comprised of an “older demographic,” while its developer pool “skews younger,” Grobaski explained.
“This demographic distribution can be attributed, in part, to our headquarters location in Colorado,” he said, noting that the leadership team encompasses a range of backgrounds and experiences. “As a state with a significant emphasis on technology, this has naturally attracted a younger-leaning workforce.”
Grobaski’s leadership approach is making sure employees don’t feel micromanaged and recognizing and rewarding individuals who proactively identify opportunities for enhancement across the organization.
“We provide our employees with the autonomy and freedom to complete their tasks effectively and produce high-quality work,” he said. “We believe the role of our leadership team is to set the overarching direction, strategy and goals.”
He likened the approach to sailing a “high-end” sailboat. “Constantly dictating every aspect of the journey is counterproductive – instead, we communicate the intended destination and make course adjustments as necessary. We trust our team members to contribute their expertise and efforts towards achieving our shared goals.”
Tech trends on Grobaski’s horizon include low-code or no-code integrations. Many financial institutions (FIs), he said, are looking to “integrate numerous systems in the hopes of assembling the best-of-breed solutions” across their digital experience.
“Achieving these integrations typically requires highly skilled professionals who not only engineer the technology but also conduct ongoing testing and maintenance,” he offered. “The challenge lies in ensuring that these integrations remain up to date and functional.”
Low-code or no-code integrations could also enable a more streamlined process for FIs that would allow components to be connected with greater ease, thus reducing the constant need for manual updates.
“Moreover, they offer the potential for self-healing mechanisms, which adds an extra layer of efficiency and reliability,” he added. “While this concept has not yet come to fruition, I am closely monitoring its development as I believe it holds significant promise.”
A Greater Willingness to Collaborate
Epic River’s solutions are designed to streamline and accelerate payment processes for healthcare providers, financial institutions and patients, Grobaski said. Currently, the company’s client list includes 18 credit unions and 600 community banks.
“Our community preservation messaging and collaborations with local healthcare providers to safeguard their financial stability resonate within the credit union space,” Grobaski noted.
While credit unions are willing to collaborate with fintechs, he said that without a trusting vendor relationship, shared ventures can’t be successful.
“Credit unions prioritize trust and reliability when it comes to partnering with technology vendors, and the process of building this trust can be an essential prerequisite to fostering collaboration within this sector,” he said. “After establishing a strong relationship with vendors, credit unions are highly adaptable and open to integrating new tech solutions into their operations.”