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 spent time with Head of Pidgin, Abhishek Veeraghanta. The Atlanta-based company, powered by VSoft Corporation, offers a secure, real-time payments platform for financial institutions.
By W.B. King
Prior to accepting his first position as a product manager at VSoft Corporation in 2016, Abhishek Veeraghanta served as a product experience intern at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif. headquarters. A major take away from that formative year was the importance of a company remaining nimble.
“Tesla is widely known as a market disrupter – creating a new era for automakers, not only through different technology and different processes, but also from an approach that is breaking boundaries,” said Veeraghanta.
“Unlike many automakers that are big, bureaucratic and slow to respond to customers, Tesla is nimble,” he noted. “This nimbleness is allowing for innovation at greater speeds, because they were unafraid to break things as they moved at those speeds.”
For financial institutions to remain relevant and compete with nonbanks and digital-first disrupters, he said credit unions need fintech partners that “think like Tesla” – those “willing and unafraid” to quickly implement new technologies.
Be Unafraid to Make Mistakes
While at VSoft Corporation, Veeraghanta assumed a host of roles, including business development executive of digital initiatives, vice president of marketing and product management and head of managed services in IT, marketing and digital products.
Earlier this year, he was named head of Pidgin, which is VSoft’s latest payments platform consisting of four payments modules to support all consumer touchpoints, including: peer-to-peer; consumer-to-business; business-to-consumer and business-to-business.
“Pidgin is a financial institution’s introduction to faster payments,” he explained. “Engineered to deliver innovation both today and in the future, no matter how payments evolve.”
Earning a bachelor of science degree from Georgia Institute of Technology, with a focus on marketing and entrepreneurship, Veeraghanta has long held an interest in financial technology applications.
“My passion for tech – and fintech especially – has deep roots,” he said. “After a couple of internships that were product focused, fintech and others, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in tech, initially as a product manager, to build new and innovative products.”
Noting that his “unique” professional background and education are well-suited to the ever-changing fintech space, he hopes that his “millennial mindset” brings a “fresh” perspective to Pidgin, which currently counts 13 credit unions as clients.
“Moving into fintech is exciting,” he said. “We’re seeing incredible innovation take place, and I’m glad to be on the frontlines.”
A small fintech, supporting three employees, two of which are tech-facing, Veeraghanta leans on his Tesla experience, in part, and the need for Pidgin to be a nimble, change agent.
“We operate with the philosophy of ‘be unafraid to make mistakes.’ Mistakes mean that we’re trying and learning,” he noted. “We must be ‘fast to fail’ to quickly deliver what our clients are ultimately looking for.”
Believing that “tenacity and agility” sets Pidgin apart from its competitors, Veeraghanta said it is “vital for credit unions to go digital” because consumers are “driving strong demand for real-time, instant payments.” And while this trend was in motion prior to 2020, he said the pandemic has underscored the issue. “Consumers aren’t running back to traditional payment methods anytime soon.”
Diverse Perspectives Needed
As is the case at VSoft and Pidgin, Veeraghanta said diversity is essential - both in employment practices and how technologies are developed to best serve banking demographics.
“Diversity is critical to driving innovation and growth. Individuals from diverse backgrounds have different ways of achieving the same results. As a result, you end up creating better processes and better solutions,” he noted.
“Diversity is helping to better understand our clients’ members, especially as credit unions experience tremendous growth and diversify their membership,” he continued. “But balance is key. It is important to have tech veterans that understand banking and the regulatory environment, but we also need new and fresh perspectives from younger individuals.”
Noting that Gen Zers are increasingly turning to nonbanks due to frustration with the traditional banking experience, he said the credit union and fintech industries must do a better job of tapping into this all-important demographic to better understand their needs.
“This means hiring them to help shape technology and modernize banking,” he noted. “Ultimately, to build technology that helps credit unions appeal to different groups, we must build teams that embrace diversity.
What impresses Veeraghanta about the credit union space is the industry’s stellar reputation for being “exceptionally” member-centric.
“As technology continues to evolve and member expectations change, credit unions will always focus first and foremost on what the member needs as a result of shareholding,” he offered. “Because of this, they are naturally innovative and will continue to see membership gains.”
And opposed to a few years ago when certain credit unions were wary of partnering with fintechs, especially those new to the industry, Veeraghanta said a sea change is taking place, but it is not without challenges.
“Financial institutions are partnering with fintechs more than ever before to innovate at faster speeds. Building technology isn’t always the best path forward, but collaborating and partnering can be. However, the risk in doing so shouldn’t be ignored,” he said.
“It is critical that credit unions work with fintechs that are not only innovative and forward-thinking, but also understand the industry and prioritize preventing regulatory risk,” he noted. “As real-time payments gain more traction, this shift could result in a significant and positive impact for credit unions and their members.”
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