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Support for fintech swells in southeastern US cities

There is plenty of enthusiasm about financial technology in New York and Silicon Valley, but several southeastern U.S. cities are hoping to become fintech hubs as well.

In Charlotte, N.C., Dan Roselli is part of a broader push to make fintech a key part of the city's economic development. Roselli is the co-founder and managing director of Queen City Fintech, an accelerator that partners with large financial services companies in the area like Bank of America Corp., which is headquartered there; Wells Fargo & Co.; and others.

He said the city's economic development agencies and Mayor Jennifer Roberts have flagged fintech as an important growth area.

"I don't think there's a mayor in the United States of America that gets fintech to the extent that Mayor Roberts does because it's so critically important to Charlotte," Roselli said in an interview.

To draw young fintech organizations to the area, the city has "gone on the offensive" in its economic development efforts, he said. In the private sector, established financial services companies have backed this effort because they know it benefits them and Charlotte alike, Roselli added. Ultimately, he thinks Charlotte stands out because it boasts the "critical mass" of financial industry activity and a budding entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"We've had this great entrepreneurial renaissance in the last five-and-a-half, six years," Roselli said. "Really the financial recession is a lot of what prompted that."

In Atlanta, there are efforts underway to elevate the city to the status of a fintech hub, according to Barry McCarthy. McCarthy is executive vice president of network and security solutions at First Data Corp. and the chair of FinTech Atlanta, a task force created in 2015 to make Atlanta "the recognized global capital" of fintech.

Jacksonville, Fla., has become another alternative for fintech startups. Rob Lee, executive vice president of enterprise products and innovation officer at Fidelity National Information Services Inc., said the company's home base of Jacksonville is an "under the radar" spot for fintech.

Because the city has been home to fintech, banking and insurance companies over the years, Jacksonville is full of people who understand those spaces, Lee said in an interview. There are also many retirees or those with second homes in Florida looking to stay active in the space. He pointed out that while Jacksonville's angel investing network is active, there is a less robust supply of second-stage funding, which means fintech entrepreneurs may have to look to larger cities in the Southeast like Atlanta.

To bring in external innovation, Fidelity National Information Services runs a 12-week fintech accelerator in Little Rock, Ark. Though it has yet to make concrete plans, the company envisions adding similar programs in cities like Jacksonville and Charlotte, where it has a significant presence, Lee said.