Find your platform and find a way to promote it

Writers looking for a book deal or agent representation learn rather quickly that success hinges on two things: Name recognition and a marketable platform. Most bankers don’t have name recognition outside of their communities or institutions, but a platform is clearly within reach and building one can be good for business. Not only can a platform position you as a thought leader, it can raise the visibility of your institution.

Consider how David Reiling, CEO of Saint Paul, Minn.-based Sunrise Banks, is building his platform as a proponent of fintech. Last year, Reiling published “Fintech4Good: 5 Stories About Changing the World with Groundbreaking Technology.” It’s a small book, available only digitally, but Reiling deployed it to tell origin stories of five startups that are meeting consumers’ financial needs with tech solutions.

He writes about Peanut Butter, which facilitates employer-funded student loan assistance; Nova Credit, which allows immigrants to transfer their credit history to the United States; Self Lender, a tool to help people build credit without relying on credit cards; TrueConnect, an employer-based short-term lending tool designed to keep the cash-strapped from relying on payday loans; and EarnUp, which allows payment automation that aligns with income streams.

In an interview with TechBullion, Reiling said he wrote the book “to highlight how certain trailblazers in the financial industry are using technology to solve some important financial challenges and issues.” All were sparked by issues they themselves faced.

Who doesn’t love stories about scrappy entrepreneurs who saw a need and figured out a way to fill it while also making money? What I find more interesting than the narratives themselves, though, are the disclaimers Reiling weaves into the narrative, where he reveals that Sunrise Banks either partners with these companies or offers similar services to fill the same need. He is, in effect, linking the Sunrise brand to the five forward-thinking entrepreneurs and their missions for doing good. And he does it, by my count, at least five times in 52 pages.

I talked to Reiling about 18 months ago when I wrote about Sunrise and the bank’s partnership with TrueConnect. At the time, Reiling called himself a social entrepreneur, not a banker. He repeats that mantra in his book. He also uses a distinct metric when describing his bank. He doesn’t measure the bank’s size by deposits or assets or locations or the number of employees. Instead, he measures Sunrise Banks’ success by its “impact.”

Reiling is all about financial inclusion. By publishing “Fintech4Good,” he solidifies his platform in a way that will pay dividends for his bank. I doubt the book will turn up on any bestseller list, but that was never the point.