How attorneys in Delaware are shaping an industry-changing fintech product - Technical.ly Delaware

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Sep. 11, 2020 4:06 pm

How attorneys in Delaware are shaping an industry-changing fintech product

Nota, M&T Bank's first incubated startup, aims to simplify lawyer trust account management.
Legal hero.

Legal hero.

(Screenshot via trustnota.com)

To understand why Nota, a young fintech product for lawyers incubated by M&T Bank, is innovative, you have to understand why the industry was asking for it.

Delaware, in accordance with the American Bar Association, requires that attorneys do not co-mingle client funds with their business accounts used for operating expenses. If they do, they can be disbarred — and even a mistake can lead to disbarring for mismanagement of client funds.

So managing client trust accounts with accuracy is a pretty big deal for attorneys.

When M&T Bank learned that this was a pain point for customers, they called on Paul Garibian, a fintech developer of 18 years, to come up with a solution that, unlike previously existing accounting software like Quickbooks, is specifically designed to manage client trust accounts.

Nota features include one-click reconciliation reports and outstanding payment tracking, but its biggest draw is that it’s connected directly with the attorneys’ bank accounts, with a client ledger than can replace manual spreadsheets and the ability to move money between accounts instantly.

Around 200 attorneys in the eights states served by M&T Bank, including Delaware, not only have access to the Nota software, but are able to give direct feedback which can be used to make improvements to the tech with an unusually fast turnaround.

“Banks traditionally don’t work this way,” said Garibian. “The [typical] operating model doesn’t work that quickly and doesn’t sit us that close to the user. It’s been incredible having access to this user base — you have a team of 20 technologists that you, as a solo or small law firm, would never be able to afford. [It gives them] a seat at the table with us.”

It’s an approach Garibian says he’s never seen before, and one that could potentially become more common in fintech. A bank identifies a niche pain point, invests in developers to find a solution, and customers become active participants in the development process.

“We’ll be building more things with our users,” Garibian said. “We hope to keep hiring and growing.”

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