ValleyFinTechPay, the Arizona chapter of BayPay Forum, held its first meeting at Deloitte’s Tempe offices on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. Lanny Byers, president and board member of ValleyFinTechPay, shared insights on the newly formed organization and Arizona’s growing fintech community with The Green Sheet. Following are interview highlights.
What inspired you to start an Arizona chapter of BayPay?
I moved back to Arizona in 2021 from Connecticut and found there wasn’t a professional networking organization in the Phoenix metro area with a focus on the payments industry. I had attended networking events focused on payments in New York City and belonged to NYPay in New York.
Additionally, I had attended and presented at similar events sponsored by BayPay Forum in San Francisco and Atlanta and thought a similar organization would thrive here in Arizona, especially with all the companies directly and indirectly involved in the payments industry.
How many professionals attended your first meeting and what feedback did they offer?
We had approximately 50 people attend our first meeting, which we thought was outstanding, given that we had only announced the meeting in late December, and this was our inaugural event!
To give some perspective, we had 10 CEO/founders in the audience, five C-Suite attendees, five startups, 15 people from Fortune 100 companies and three from local universities. Areas of expertise ranged from cybersecurity to merchant processing to payment networks to banks to consultants and advertising agencies.
The feedback was very positive regarding the speakers, and everyone raved about the networking cocktail hour. We have just sent out surveys asking the attendees what they liked, didn’t like and what they would like to see at the next event.
Can you share some of the takeaways from the presentations?
Our first fireside chat was with Zach Aron, banking and capital markets payments leader with Deloitte Consulting. Zach shared his expertise, knowledge and insights on the fintech industry and startups. And our second fireside chat was with Bryce Deeney, co-founder and CEO of equipifi. Bryce engaged and impressed the audience from how he began his career to the founding of equipifi and his true-life experiences.
How do you plan to grow and evolve your association?
We plan to have an event every quarter and invite speakers from across the payments and fintech industry: speakers from legacy companies and mixing in startups, as well as speakers from across the payments industry spectrum from banking, industry regulators, payment networks, merchants, investors, colleges and universities, and anyone and any company that is directly or indirectly associated with the payments and fintech industry.
Promoting networking opportunities at unique venues hopefully will lead to collaboration and education, foster innovation, and ignite new partnerships.
What key areas do you plan to discuss in your next meetings?
We have just started to brainstorm around topics, but how faster payments are impacting the industry seems to be a hot topic—from how it impacts the bank and credit union customer experience to how the merchant community can leverage it to receive faster deposits and as a new payment type at the point-of-sale. Plus, we are waiting to receive our surveys from attendees so we can take their feedback into account.
What professional benefits does ValleyFinTechPay offer members and participants?
As I said earlier, the networking opportunities are tremendous as well as the educational aspect of our presentations. Our hope is that our participants collaborate and it leads to new innovations and maybe even an idea for a new startup.
Why do you think the Phoenix metropolitan area is becoming a hub for payments and fintech?
Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the United States and 10th largest metro area in the country. Our proximity to the West Coast and Silicon Valley makes us a natural place for expansion and provides access to highly skilled and trained people moving into Arizona, as well as students graduating each year with marketable skills from a number of outstanding colleges and universities here in Arizona.
Additionally, the State of Arizona is a big supporter of attracting new businesses. For example, a few years ago they launched a Fintech Sandbox for innovative products and services. The Sandbox enables a participant to obtain limited access to Arizona’s market to test innovative financial products or services or other innovations without first obtaining full state licensure or other authorization.
And you can’t beat the weather— the sunniest place in the country with around 300 days of sunshine.
Photos courtesy of Sumit Arora