Central Payments in the Middle of Productive Fintech Ecosystem

Updated: Aug 17

It pays to regularly revisit even the oldest of assumptions and look at them with a new lens, to see if you can deliver added value in new and exciting ways. That is the experience of Central Payments, America’s fastest growing prepaid card issuer.

Central Payments works on behalf of the Central Bank of Kansas City (CBKC), a financial institution certified by the United States Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution which means it has a focus on assisting people of modest means who often do not have equal access to affordable financial products. Central Payments founder and president Trent Sorbe has led Central Payments for seven years. During this period he helped design the Open*CP Fintech API Marketplace, a bank-as-a-service platform, an achievement which has driven Central Payments’ prepaid card issuance success. He also cofounded Falls Fintech, a startup accelerator focused on the bank-fintech partnership gap.


Mr. Sorbe brings a strong resume to the role. He began his career with the FDIC before working with all forms of banking and payments. The CBKC is focused on helping the residents of northeast Kansas City, he explained. The 2008 recession hit that community hard, and in its aftermath the bank looked for ways to grow its deposit base by extending its reach to other communities in need.


That’s how Central Payments was born. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the CBKC, Central Payments began administering nationwide payments programs with the CBKC. In 2019 they expanded their focus by looking at some of the impediments they saw when fintechs attempted to form partnerships with banks. The fintech sector as a whole had some clear momentum and Mr. Sorbe believed the solutions existed that would help startups improve their chances of success.


“We had to get fintechs to think like banks and banks to think like fintechs,” Mr. Sorbe said.


He envisioned bringing young fintechs into an accelerator where they could receive mentorship and other assistance. They could partner with financial institutions to offer products designed for their clientele. That was the impetus for Falls Fintech, which takes two classes of five promising fintechs each year, those with compelling ideas but who need help to get to market. One Falls Fintech graduate, First Boulevard, a bank that recently raised $5 million to serve Black America.


While Mr. Sorbe’s decades of experience in the region has helped the growth of Central Payments, so has the explosion of fintechs seeking to take new technologies in exciting directions. He described it as having “second mover advantage” because they saw the disruption and flipped it on its ear by looking at ways to make the bank more of a hub than a spoke. The Central Payments ecosystem certainly offers that, with Open*CP, a single source API marketplace providing access to a whole payments ecosystem providing by the bank and not someone else. The menu has been popular with fintechs and popular brands looking for a one-stop shop to find services they can embed into a broader offering without having to develop them on their own.


One recent success story is the payroll firm Ceridian, which provides payroll services to four million people employed by 4,000 companies. Ceridian wanted to accelerate their payroll by offering pay on demand services where people could log into the Ceridian app and put their money on a prepaid card.


Falls Fintech has started a podcast. Fintech Brews and News provides a behind-the-scenes look at unique partnerships and ways to bridge the gap between banking, startups and the entire fintech industry. Read the published article features on Bankless Times here: https://www.banklesstimes.com/author/tony-zerucha/