After Target’s massive data breach in 2013, harrowing corporate executives hired David Ness to re-launch the retailer’s dying engine of innovation. He ran with and delivered more than 50 proofs of concept from startup and enterprise tech partners in the following 18 months.
These months in the fire prepared Ness well for his job as VP Innovation R&D at US Bank, a position he has held since mid-2017. Today, Ness manages engagements with outside financial technology companies whose solutions challenge and stimulate established companies like the US Bank in equal measure. Its job is to forge strategic partnerships with promising fintechs – without killing them.
“We believe in quick ‘no’ and long ‘yes’,” said Ness. The US Bank’s tedious onboarding process is costly and time-consuming for early-stage companies that have few resources for lengthy, half-hearted advertising. As soon as Ness knows that a prospect is not working, they deliver the bad news.
Ness’ fintech expertise – and his extensive connections in the rapidly evolving space – made him perfect to lead planning for the new FinTech track at Twin Cities Startup Week. Last year, in the track’s debut season, Ness received buy-ins from colleagues at Sunrise Banks, Wells Fargo, Bremer Bank, Thrivent Financial, Securian and Allianz Life. It interfaces with Minnesota DEED and Make It. MSP. And he interviewed participants from the fintech founding group he led.
The result: two full days of Fintech-centric programming plus an independent conference for foreign investors. The track hit its self-imposed visitor limit of 100 guests per day and welcomed around 60 companies, according to Ness. Highlights included a panel discussion with GoKart Labs co-founder Don Smithmier and Bremer Bank CEO Jeanne Crain – “You could hear a pin drop as you spoke,” said Ness – and “Meet the MN Fintechs” with the CEOs of local startups live. Give. Save., Apruve and Sezzle.
Next year promises more: “We plan to grow five-fold next year,” says Ness. Also in progress: a central location still to be determined for all planned program items and “top-class stage events” that are intended to increase participation in the C-Suite without the founders being neglected in the pitch.
Title: Vice President Innovation R&D at US Bank
Education: BA, Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Stirling (Scotland); MSc, Business Information Systems, Edinburgh Napier University
Most important turning point in career: “The target data breach. Then I had the opportunity to set up a new innovation function within Target – to find external startups and bring them into the company. “
What’s next: “I love my job. Right now I’m focusing on building, growing and making US Bank even better.”
Family: Wife, Colleen; Daughter, Isla