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Startups Woo Wall Street Banks in Tech Arms Race

In Washington, it took three years for entrepreneur Tim Estes to convince the government to take his digital data-mining program seriously. In New York City’s financial industry, Estes needed just one meeting.

At the start of a 12-week entrepreneurship mentoring program called the New York FinTech Innovation Lab, Estes was invited to explain his software to executives from Bank of America Corp., UBS AG (UBSN), Morgan Stanley and other top banks. Three of the companies that saw the pitch — Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) — were assigned to give him advice to help him tailor his services to the needs of the industry.

As banks rush to improve their technology, they’re giving startups top-level access via the FinTech program, which on July 18 wrapped its second year. The banks get a first look at how entrepreneurs like Estes are developing software for everything from trading to research to customer relations, and the companies have a chance to forge relationships and make sales that might have taken years to develop.

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