Andera: Helping Small Banks Against Big Competition

Founded in 2000 by first-time entrepreneur and Brown University student Charlie Kroll, Andera was started with the original intent of building and designing websites. As the turn of the century saw the burst of the dot com bubble, Kroll quickly realized that the timing just wasn’t right to launch a web development company. Instead of giving up and pursuing other opportunities, Kroll stayed true to his entrepreneurial spirit. “Being a first-time entrepreneur, the stakes seemed really high. A serial entrepreneur on his fifth company might have thrown in the towel. It was my first company, my first time with employees and benefits to pay for.”

So Kroll and his team worked on building Andera as a web development firm until an opportunity came along. “We bounced along the bottom for a couple years,” Kroll says. “But we ended up building a software product for one of our clients that ended up becoming a product to allow us to get out.”

Kroll and his team developed an online platform to open up a checking account without having to fill out traditional paperwork. The service was originally intended for Bank Rhode Island, which wanted an easier way for students to open checking accounts.

Andera recognized that applying for a deposit account or a loan is one of the most important interactions a customer and members will have with their financial institution, however the experience was often filled with complications that make applicants frustrated, employees inefficient, and cross-selling difficult.

The product was so popular that Andera started adapting the online platform for other small banks looking to gain a technological edge. “We thought there was a problem we could fix,” Kroll explains. “So we transitioned out of the web design business into the software business.”

By 2004, Andera found its niche as a Software as a Service (SAAS) company servicing banks and credit unions nationwide. They believed that good design and the right technology can improve peoples’ lives and fundamentally change the way financial institutions interact with their customers and members.

With the development of their proprietary software oFlows, consumers can originate accounts and loans online, in branches, over the phone, and out in the field with a single platform that’s optimized for Macs/PCs, smartphones, and iPad®/tablet devices. oFlows supports the application, identity verification, decisioning, and funding processes with the most integrations with core process providers and third-party data services on the market today. Currently, hundreds of banks and credit unions across the country are using Andera’s technology to originate deposit accounts and loans online, in the branch, over the phone, and in the field.

“IPads and tablets are transforming the branch experience and driving delivery in a multichannel environment. They use native mobile capabilities to capture signatures and image documents. This is bringing about the consolidation of a previously fragmented ecosystem of niche systems and peripherals. We think that trend is going to accelerate in 2013, and Andera is gearing up to be there,” said Kroll.

“This year will be all about our users. We will shortly be releasing our Branch 2.0 platform, which is currently in beta and going very well. It will bring a number of important new capabilities to our clients’ frontline staffs and will have a variety of user-experience enhancements like upgrades to document upload and to the electronic signature,” continued Kroll.

Now servicing over 560 banks and credit unions, Andera saw a 63% increase in sales bookings in 2012, and signed five times as many oFlows customers than in 2011. Andera has grown to over 100 employees and will be seeking to hire about 24 more over the coming year.

As Andera continues to grow, Rhode Island will continue to benefit. Originally from New York, Kroll committed early in his career to Providence. He always felt as though it was the perfect place to start a business which is why he never returned to his hometown after graduating from Brown University. Its close proximity to world-class institutions helps growing companies like Andera recruit top talent and its strong network of entrepreneurial companies and leaders allows start-ups to learn from and support each other.

Kroll helps to strengthen this community by staying actively involved in the entrepreneurial scene in Providence as a board member for Venture for America, a mentor at Betaspring, and a presenter and regular attendee at the Providence Geeks events.

As for 2013, Andera is ramping up its marketing efforts. The company will be exhibiting at 18 industry conferences this year. First-time appearances are slated for national shows including the Credit Union National Association’s America’s Credit Union Conference, June 30-July 3 in New York and Bank Administration Institute’s Retail Delivery, November 5-7 in Denver. The company will also expand its menu of webinars on topics such as servicing the under-banked client and best practices in online marketing.

Kroll added, “Consumers are demanding that their banking and credit union relationships have the same ease and convenience that they experience when buying goods and services in stores and on line. Technology bridges the gap between these consumer expectations and financial institutions’ ability to meet those expectations. We’re projecting that 2013 will be a year when hundreds of institutions decide to build those bridges, and Andera is poised to help them make that happen.”

Click below to view this article in the printed version of RISBJ, Volume 2 Issue 1

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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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