Lee Farabaugh,Co-founder and President of Core10
Lee Farabaugh is the co-founder and president of Core10, a provider of API integration and SaaS implementation solutions serving the banking, fintech, and financial services industries. She is responsible for revenue generation, stewarding company culture, and creating partnerships with industry and non-profit partners. Farabaugh currently leads the Banking and Financial Solutions business line, where she oversees operations, services delivery, community relations, business development, sales, strategic account management, and marketing.
Lee, can you tell us about your background and how you got involved in the technology industry?
The day my dad brought home our first family computer, I fell in love with technology. On our computer, I’d explore the internet of the early 80s, playing video games, creating graphic designs, and imagining the infinite possibilities. My interest in technology and design carried through to my higher education. During my senior year of college, I worked as a freelance web designer and have been working in the tech industry ever since.
Seven years ago, I entered the fintech industry with Core10, a U.S.-based provider of banking and lending products and services. As the co-founder and president of Core10, I lead the Banking and Financial Solutions business line and manage over 55 employees, overseeing operations, services delivery, community relations, and business development.
What inspired you to co-found Core10, and what are your primary goals for the company?
We wanted to build a software consultancy that would solve fintech-community bank connectivity challenges – a common challenge for institutions that want to manage, expand and own their tech stack, but do not have the bandwidth to do it on their own. We also wanted to find a low-cost alternative to the typical high rates for U.S.-based IT teams, whose costs are typically driven by the high cost of living in metro areas. We pioneered a new model, Hereshore®, in which we sourced talent from smaller communities where the cost of living was lower.
Today, Core10 exclusively provides community financial institutions and fintech with subscription and project-based API integration solutions to eliminate backlogs, reduce staffing costs and support business growth opportunities. The company’s Accrue platform is a highly-configurable and scalable solution designed specifically for community financial institutions. An OEM Salesforce Platform, Accrue provides digital account opening, digital lending, and core-fintech connectivity to accelerate community financial institutions’ digital transformation strategies.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the tech industry, and how do you ensure that Core10 stays ahead of the curve?
Core10 knows the financial services industry, inside and out. Our developer teams, many of which have years of experience in fintech, are fluent in a vast majority of fintech systems and can offer unmatched advice, with respect to current regulations and best practices. We are highly specialized, which makes us the best source of API integration solutions for community FIs.
We support each of our team members with an annual training budget to use for books, classes, or other professional development. Additionally, industry organizations provide forums to share the latest and greatest fintech innovations, including the ICBA and state banking associations. Both of these provide inspiration for improvements to user experience and spark the team’s creativity when building new products.
Can you describe your leadership style and how you motivate your team to achieve their best work?
I’d say that my leadership style is based on reliability, creativity, accountability, and empathy. I trust my team and encourage their autonomy and independence. Throughout my career, I’ve learned time and time again that despite my instincts to independently tackle every challenge, others may be more qualified and able to handle that responsibility differently or better than I could. I have learned to let go of control, delegate responsibilities, and place trust in other people – a core value for our company. Our team is incredibly strong because of our trust in one another, and the more you surround yourself with smart, capable people, the more you can ultimately accomplish.
What do you believe sets Core10 apart from other software development companies, and how do you maintain a competitive edge in the market?
Core10 is solving problems that community financial institutions face on a daily basis through leading API integration and SaaS implementation tactics. Aside from our unique products is our story; many years ago, when we were brainstorming what Core10 would become, we knew we wanted to provide an alternative to offshoring. We created the Hereshore® model – a concept of outsourcing IT services to smaller cities in the U.S. This model enables Core10 to provide high-paying jobs with benefits in parts of the country where the cost of living is low and talent is high.
Since our first Hereshore® presence in Huntington, we’ve opened operations in Martin and Johnson City, Tennessee where we continue to recruit a diverse workforce, especially as an outsourced implementation partner for B2B SaaS companies. Our people truly set us apart from other fintechs and I am immensely grateful for our fantastic team.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the fintech industry today, and how is Core10 working to address these challenges?
One of the biggest challenges facing fintech and financial institutions is overcoming legacy technology. Modernizing these system technologies for organizations can come at a high cost, however, and many organizations lack the bandwidth or savvy to update their tech stack. Core10 understands the challenges on the financial services side as well as the evolving customer expectations and is working to reduce the barriers to move past legacy technology and accelerate digital transformation for community FIs.
How do you foster a culture of collaboration and innovation within your team, and what steps do you take to ensure that everyone’s ideas are heard?
In the early days of Core10, we knew that innovation would not be possible without meaningful collaboration. Our leadership team focuses on creating an environment where everyone’s ideas and input are valued because we understand that our workforce is what drives our innovation and helps us overcome obstacles.
For example, when we faced the challenge of integrating third-party systems into our Accrue lending platform, the team created a solution that then turned into a new opportunity. They built a middleware solution that became the Mesh Integration Service, which is now a stand-alone product that enables banks and fintech to integrate essential financial services systems with ease. The team’s dedication to understanding customer needs resulted in a solution that not only solves a pressing problem but also provides a competitive edge, and we wouldn’t have been able to get there without true collaboration.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs in the fintech industry, and what do you believe are the most important qualities for success in this field?
One of the most important qualities for entrepreneurial success comes from Core10’s core values: Success comes in “cans.” We approach every situation with a can-do attitude. There is so much that we can accomplish when we do not allow our inability to achieve the “perfect” outcome to deter us from striving for what may be a “good” outcome. Especially when starting out, it is important to create a path forward by establishing realistic, manageable steps that empower your team to move toward overarching goals within a reasonable timeframe.
I also counsel young people who are interested in financial services entrepreneurship to spend some time understanding technology and how it affects financial markets. We are not very far from the day when knowing how to build software will be as commonplace as knowing how to use Microsoft Excel.
Can you discuss any notable partnerships or collaborations that Core10 has formed, and how have these relationships benefited your clients and the company as a whole?
We’re lucky to have several partners and customers that have improved our company as a whole. We’ve been fortunate to work with fantastic companies, such as Jack Henry, ICE Mortgage Technology, and Plaid, who have been instrumental in Core10’s growth. We serve the community FI space which is filled with fantastic institutions that are focused on community growth and prosperity. It is incredibly rewarding to see our solutions help community FIs grow resilient, local communities across the U.S.
Our investors, including FINTOP Capital, Patriot Capital, JAM FINTOP Banktech Fund, and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), are integral in our success, from providing valuable insight to introducing us to bank prospects who need our products and services.
How does Core10 ensure that its software solutions are user-friendly and accessible for all users, regardless of their technical expertise?
I believe that good design relies on understanding the end user and key business processes involved. We must remember that customers who use our bank-facing products are the same ones who use top-rated consumer applications every day, and they expect the same level of experience. If you can design with a full understanding of the current challenges and final experience in mind, you can create intuitive, game-changing products. Our solutions are designed so that our customers can easily navigate and install new capabilities into their institution’s systems seamlessly. Additionally, Core10 provides ongoing customer support throughout the entire project and after it goes live so that if our customer has a question or concern, our team is there to help educate and resolve the issue.
Can you discuss any future plans or goals for Core10, and how do you see the company evolving in the coming years?
The past year has been huge for Core10, with the launch of our Mesh Integration Service, the closing of a $6.5 million Series B funding round, several board appointments, and the expansion of our Accrue platform. Looking ahead to the rest of 2023 and beyond, we’re focused on expanding our community FI footprint and improving our customers’ offerings with our Mesh Integration Service and Accrue platforms as well as continuing to grow our development teams. It should be an exciting year for Core10!
How do you ensure that Core10 remains agile and adaptable in the face of changing market conditions and client needs?
Leveraging APIs is a critical strategy for unlocking banks’ full competitive potential in today’s digital marketplace.
At Core10, our priority is to deliver agile solutions to our customers that enable the FI to respond rapidly to these challenges and deliver a best-of-breed customer experience.