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Digital disruptors take home top honors in BBVA Open Talent 2015 competition

HOUSTON, Sept. 16, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Startups making their mark in lending took top honors in the regional finals in New York of the BBVA Open Talent 2015 competition, designed by the global bank to nurture the fintech ecosystem and support companies with great ideas.

(l-r) Director of Innovation Centers and Open Innovation at BBVA Gustavo Vinacua, LendingFront CEO and co-founder Jorge Sun, LendingFront CTO and co-founder Dario Vergara, ModernLend co-founder Kobina Ansah, ModernLend co-founder Shuo Zhang, BBVA Chief Development Officer and General Manager of New Digital Businesses Teppo Paavola

LendingFront, co-founded in January 2015 by CEO Jorge Sun and CTO Dario Vergara, is an integrated platform that gives lenders the business technology they need to provide short-term capital to small and medium enterprises. ModernLend was founded in June 2014 by Kobina Ansah and Shuo Zhang, and is an online lender to international citizens in the U.S. that uses alternative data metrics to identify credit-worthy borrowers.

"LendingFront and ModernLend are deserving winners of this BBVA Open Talent final, and we're pleased to help them raise their profiles," said Gustavo Vinacua, director of Innovation Centers and Open Innovation at BBVA. "We anticipate that each of them will realize their potential as industry disruptors, and we look forward to working with them and learning new ways of thinking — and banking — from them."

LendingFront and ModernLend claim two of the six spots in the winners' circle for BBVA Open Talent 2015. Bitnexo and were named the BBVA Open Talent 2015 winners from Latin America last week in regional finals in Mexico City. European winners will be named next week during that region's finals in Barcelona. LendingFront and ModernLend represent the U.S. and the rest of the world.

The judges for Open Talent were BBVA Chief Development Officer and General Manager of New Digital Businesses Teppo Paavola, Vinacua, BBVA Ventures Executive Director Jay Reinemann, BBVA Compass Director of Mobility and New Digital Business Technologies Chad Ballard, Managing Partner at Core Innovation Capital Kathleen Utecht and co-founder and CEO of Simple Josh Reich. They said LendingFront and ModernLend both used innovative approaches to address a standard banking practice, and that is one factor that pushed them to the top of the leaderboard.

"BBVA Open Talent has been a game-changing experience for us," said Sun, of LendingFront. "To have a bank like BBVA say that what we've built means something is validation, and that is important and exciting."

As winners of BBVA Open Talent 2015, LendingFront and ModernLend will each receive 30,000 euros in prize money and a two-week immersion program in London and Mexico during which they will network with BBVA professionals, investors and others in the fintech ecosystem. They will also have the opportunity to enjoy a day of innovation in the kitchen of Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, BBVA's culinary tour partner, which landed at No. 1 again this year on Restaurant magazine's influential World's 50 Best Restaurants list.

"Over the past two days, we've had firsthand access to the mentoring capabilities of BBVA senior leadership, and we're ready and excited to meet other team members and learn even more during the immersion program," said Ansah, of ModernLend.

Now in its seventh year, BBVA Open Talent is an annual global competition and part of the BBVA Group's open innovation strategy, which encourages partnerships with entrepreneurs and developers that are disrupting the financial industry. In 2015, BBVA Open Talent focused on fintech in order to discover the startups that could have a direct impact on the financial services industry, or other relevant industries, like e-commerce, user experience or big data.

"Judging by the entries in this year's edition of BBVA Open Talent, there is much to look forward to in the financial industry," Vinacua said. "BBVA intends to be a bank that thrives in the face of so much disruption, and we want to continue to find ways to partner and work with these innovative startups."

A winner of last year's competition, Epiphyte, was on hand to demonstrate technology it's pioneering that uses the blockchain for peer-to-peer and remittance payments.

For more information on BBVA Open Talent 2015, please visit the BBVA Innovation Center.

About BBVA Group

BBVA Compass is a subsidiary of BBVA Compass Bancshares Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of BBVA (NYSE: BBVA) (MAD: BBVA). BBVA is a customer-centric global financial services group founded in 1857. The Group has a solid position in Spain, is the largest financial institution in Mexico and has leading franchises in South America and the Sunbelt region of the United States. Its diversified business is geared toward high-growth markets and relies on technology as a key sustainable competitive advantage. Corporate responsibility is at the core of its business model. BBVA fosters financial education and inclusion, and supports scientific research and culture. It operates with the highest integrity, a long-term vision and applies the best practices. The Group is present in the main sustainability indexes. More information about the BBVA Group can be found at

About BBVA Compass

BBVA Compass is a Sunbelt-based financial institution that operates 672 branches, including 341 in Texas, 89 in Alabama, 77 in Arizona, 62 in California, 45 in Florida, 38 in Colorado and 20 in New Mexico, and commercial and private client offices throughout the U.S. BBVA Compass ranks among the top 25 largest U.S. commercial banks based on deposit market share and ranks among the largest banks in Alabama (2nd), Texas (4th) and Arizona (5th). BBVA Compass has been recognized as one of the leading small business lenders by the Small Business Administration, and its mobile app recently earned the Mobile Banking Leader in Functionality Award for the second consecutive year from Javelin Strategy & Research. Additional information about BBVA Compass can be found at, by following @BBVACompassNews on Twitter or visiting

Editor's Note:
BBVA Compass is a trade name of Compass Bank.

(l-r) LendingFront CEO and co-founder Jorge Sun, LendingFront CTO and co-founder Dario Vergara, ModernLend co-founder Kobina Ansah, ModernLend co-founder Shuo Zhang


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