FinTech Interview with Jeff Grobaski, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Epic River

FTB News DeskNovember 23, 202329 min

Get insights from Jeff Grobaski discussing digital banking for streamlined payments.
Jeff Grobaski CEO and Founder, Epic River

Jeff Grobaski is the founder and CEO of Epic River, a lending-as-a-service platform provider that connects banks and credit unions with healthcare providers to streamline patient payments. As CEO, Grobaski draws on more than 20 years of experience in software development and product management. Since founding Epic River, Jeff has provided the product vision and oversight for each of Epic River’s product launches.

Jeff, tell us about your journey leading up to the founding of Epic River? What inspired you to start this venture?
I would love to explain what brought Epic River to where we are today. In 2005, Epic River was established to streamline the digital lending process for banks and credit unions by delivering a user experience superior to that of big banks and non-bank lenders.

Then, in 2010, our company was seeking ways to expand our business and we were approached by one of our clients, the Bank of Colorado. The bank had initiated loan transactions with a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and needed to digitize the process of scanning and uploading signed documents. We helped the bank achieve their goals, but in doing so, we recognized a much larger opportunity, leading us to collaborate closely with the bank and healthcare provider to better understand the evolving landscape.

As the Affordable Care Act reshaped the industry, we established a purpose-built module on our platform for the Bank of Colorado to expand its network of participating hospitals, resulting in a continued surge in loan volume. We realized this patient lending approach was unique to the industry and determined this space presented a strong growth opportunity for our platform.

Epic River is known for infusing innovation and alternative approaches into the financial sector. Could you share an example of a particularly innovative solution or approach that Epic River has introduced to the market?
Absolutely, we have proudly introduced several new solutions to the market that I can share. In 2005, we launched ProSign, the first eSign solution built for banks. This solution enabled banks and credit unions to collect all necessary signatures from applicants, distribute disclosures and gather all necessary customer documents, regardless of whether there is one consumer borrower or dozens of commercial signers.

This platform then allowed us to capitalize on two different market opportunities.

The first opportunity was after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, Epic River was the first to launch a patient lending software platform in 2011 for community banks and credit unions to help patients access alternative payment financing options. Our unique offering allows healthcare providers to improve cashflow, offload nonpayment risk, and eliminate the burden of payment plans.

The second opportunity came during the COVID-19 pandemic. Epic River was able to quickly and effectively create a module on the platform to allow community financial institutions to gather Paycheck Protection Program applications, closing documents, and forgiveness applications. Community financial institutions employees worked tirelessly to ensure the small businesses in their community received the funding they needed to stay afloat during that tumultuous time and we’re proud to say that the Epic River Platform was there to help.

How has your background in software development and product management shaped the strategic direction of Epic River?
With a foundation in software development, I understand that a good product development team needs leadership that can definitively speak for the market. We strive to make sure our designers and developers can focus on what they do best while product and executive management makes sure the product they are building will solve a problem for the market. One of my key strengths is providing the coverage for my leadership team to place people in the right position for success. A very small number of Epic River team members are working in the job for which they were hired. We love ambitious people and the way you keep ambitious people on the team is by giving them the ability to follow their ambitions wherever it may lead them. We have people who were hired for bookkeeping and now run quality assurance, testers who have become accomplished front-end developers and directors who were originally brought in as interns.

Could you elaborate on how Epic River’s solutions create a superior user experience for banks and credit unions compared to marketplace and peer-to-peer lenders?
What sets our Patient Lending solution apart is that it was built specifically to bridge the ever-widening gap between healthcare bills and affordability to the patient. This gap is a particular problem for those who are employed, own a home, have a family but are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Our solution gives these patients the ability to determine the best option for their family from the privacy of their own home and without having to talk to anyone. From zero-percent financing for short term loans and low-interest if they need a lower monthly payment that comes with a longer term, we have built the infrastructure between healthcare and financial institutions that puts this decision directly in the hands of the patient.

Unlike other fintech options, we do not limit or change the program based on credit score and we offer our Patient Lending platform to healthcare providers without licensing fees, ensuring that additional costs aren’t passed along to the patients.

Patient-directed loan terms, local community lenders partnered with local community healthcare providers, all delivered through an easy to use and fully integrated online platform. Our solution offers essential support to patients, generates low-risk revenue for financial institutions, and positively impacts healthcare providers.

Since its inception in 2005, Epic River has been delivering innovative software solutions. What would you consider as some of the key milestones or achievements for the company over the years?
We have achieved several recent successes that I am proud to share! In 2023, we celebrated a significant milestone as we processed our one-millionth loan, underscoring the strength and scalability of our solution. We take pride in the fact that our platform has empowered numerous community banks and credit unions to discover and capture new loan volume, all within a single platform.

We have also recently partnered with regional banks poised to offer patient lending on a national scale. This collaboration unlocks new opportunities as more healthcare providers are nationally owned and operated requiring a different profile bank partner with a wider reach and larger lending capacity.

Epic River specializes in streamlining and accelerating payment processes for healthcare providers, financial institutions, and patients. Can you share a success story or case study that highlights the impact of your solutions on one of these stakeholders?
Absolutely, one partnership I am particularly proud of is our work with BankVista. BankVista is an independent community bank based in Minnesota. Leveraging our platform, BankVista introduced low-interest loans with a duration of up to five years, aimed at assisting patients in covering their medical expenses. BankVista’s commercial team manages the healthcare provider on-boarding process, ensuring only healthcare providers that demonstrate strong management and financial accumen.

BankVista’s adoption of our platform was driven by the desire to enhance its Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) standing, create new interest revenue through very low risk, high-quality loans and foster immediate deposit relationships. In the first 12 months of implementing our program, BankVista achieved outstanding results, issuing hundreds of new loans totaling over a million dollars in principal.

The unique offering of Epic River allows providers to offload nonpayment risk through low-interest patient loan agreements. How does this model benefit both healthcare providers and financial institutions?
Our model benefits both healthcare and financial industry professionals because they share a common approach to what they do – they possess similar goals of delivering exceptional service and building goodwill in their communities. The Epic River platform unites these community leaders, creating a triple-win for the financial institution, the healthcare providers and their patients.

With the proliferation of high-deductible insurance plans, many patients don’t have enough
savings to cover out-of-pocket expenses, resulting in 55% of patient responsibility never being recovered by healthcare providers. Hospitals need to improve accounts receivable and decrease collection costs to assure financial integrity, improve services and support future growth. Our program model effectively accelerates patient payment, minimizes collection expenses and enhances cash flow for participating healthcare providers.

Patient loans also provide a unique lending opportunity for community banks and credit unions – an additional interest revenue stream with a low customer acquisition cost. Loans are guaranteed by the healthcare provider, meaning there is no risk to the financial institution. This empowers community banks and credit unions to facilitate immediate, positive impacts, build trust, gain new customers and shore up financial integrity within their communities. While patients can avoid collections and eliminate the stress of a looming medical bill.

In a rapidly evolving tech landscape, how does Epic River stay ahead in terms of technology trends and innovation?
Our team maintains a few key strategies when it comes to monitoring tech innovation trends. We regularly conduct market research to identify emerging trends and evolving regulatory requirements. This approach allows our product roadmaps to remain aligned with market demands while identifying technologies that could be deployed to assist our customers.

We have a large customer base with an active group of customer advisors. The ability to quickly communicate with a tight group of financial institution leaders, IT staff and operations personnel allows us to test out new technology concepts through conversation, prototyping and beta testing to ensure market fit.

Can you share any insights into the future of financial technology and how Epic River plans to adapt and innovate in response to emerging trends?
Of course, I’m excited about the future of financial technology, particularly the potential for low-code or no-code integrations. Although many financial institutions are looking to integrate various systems to create the best digital experience, these integrations often require costly and time-consuming maintenance and updates.

Low-code or no-code integrations could streamline this process, taking the integration process out of the coding world and making it accessible to the operational staff making it easier to connect components and reducing the need for high-cost and disruptive programmatic interfaces. This innovation also offers the potential for self-healing mechanisms, enhancing efficiency and reliability. While this concept is still in development, I’m closely tracking its progress as it holds significant promise for the future of financial technology. Keeping a vigilant eye on these emerging trends allows our team to proactively prepare for the future of our platform.

What are some of the core values and principles that guide Epic River’s operations and decision-making processes?
Our team is guided by two core principles that shape our operations and decision-making processes. The first is a commitment to autonomy, as we do not believe in micromanaging our team. We trust our employees to complete their tasks independently and effectively, fostering high-quality work. The second principle is a culture of proactive collaboration, where team members are encouraged to identify opportunities for improvement across various aspects of our organization. We acknowledge and reward those who actively contribute to enhancing our operations regardless of their primary role.

As a leader, what do you consider as the most critical qualities or skills for navigating the challenges and opportunities in the fintech industry?
In my experience, there are several skills successful fintech leaders must cultivate. Given the ever-evolving landscape of technology and financial trends, it is incredibly important to have an adaptable mindset in the fintech industry. The market is always evolving and fintech leaders must actively embrace opportunities for continuous learning to ensure they remain well-informed about these industry shifts. To best serve customers, fintech leaders should also strive to be attuned to changing customer needs to create truly user-centric solutions and experiences.

In addition, one of the most unique challenges in fintech is the role of regulation. It is not good enough to make a strong product and solve a problem in the market. You must do so while ensuring you stay within regulatory boundaries. Everything from technology decisions to partnerships to marketing must stay abreast of the ever-changing regulatory environment. While laws and policies can be challenging, they also offer tremendous opportunity and I know how critical it is to have team members who not only have the skills necessary to monitor the regulatory environment but actually thrive in that role.

How do you envision the future of Epic River in the next five to ten years? Are there any exciting developments or initiatives on the horizon that you’d like to share?
Certainly, there are a few initiatives we plan to bolster to further the growth of our program. In the coming years, Epic River will continue to expand our platform and partnerships to further harness the relationships and access community financial institutions maintain. The community connections together with Epic River’s ever improving digital platform creates an interconnected referral network between community leaders with a strong willingness to listen to and trust one another.

In addition, we will be expanding to solve another problem in the healthcare space. Physicians, healthcare practices and clinics regularly need access to working capital due to the cash flow challenges presented by providing care to patients. These commercial entities often resort to signing up for loans with predatory interest rates because of an urgent need and a lack of awareness of better options. Our community financial institution network is now large enough and our platform has advanced to a point where we can provide loans with minimal interest rates to the individuals and facilities that provide medical care to our communities.

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