At this point in his career, John Sculley could rest on his laurels.

A former president of Pepsi and former CEO at Apple--famous for mentoring, and eventually breaking with, a young Steve Jobs--Sculley has an extensive resume in the tech world. But he's still looking for new opportunities to shape it.

"I look for transformative opportunities," is how he put it this week during a conversation at Lendit, an annual gathering of fintech startups and standard-bearers that this year drew 5,600 people to midtown Manhattan.

Sculley has gotten more notice for his recent forays into healthcare, including his involvement with cloud-based platform RxAdvance. But he's also interested in the evolving financial technology industry, recently investing in software provider Lantern Credit and joining the Newport Beach, Calif.-based startup as vice chair. (CEO Chad Swensen also credits Sculley for luring former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack to chair Lantern's board.)

Lantern is a relative unknown in the rapidly-developing fintech market, in part because its product is not yet on the market. It has developed machine-learning technology that banks and other traditional financial firms can use to assess a borrower's creditworthiness--meaning that someone who might not initially qualify for a loan could get reconsidered.

Sculley says he's looking for technology that can contribute to "revolutionary change" rather than "evolutionary change" in the financial industry, where "there are huge customer problems that can be addressed."

And his choice of affiliation indicates an ongoing shift in, and perhaps maturation of, the fintech industry that started out trying to replace banks. After a 2016 that was rough on several fronts, many financial startups have tempered their ambitions--looking to provide services to banks or work alongside them rather than to completely replace them.

Hence the rise of software providers like Lantern and Plaid, which has developed software that makes it easier for banks and other financial technology providers to share information. San Francisco-based Plaid counts established financial giants Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and American Express among its investors.

Plaid CEO and co-founder Zach Perret on Monday agreed that there's less animosity between established companies and would-be fintech disrupters, although he framed it slightly differently.

"The banks are coming full circle with this concept of fintech," he claimed.

Published on: Mar 7, 2017