Most people assume that fintech companies are out to take business away from banks, but what if the opposite is true?
What if, instead of being a threat, fintech companies actually open up new opportunities for banks?
That’s what a handful of banks are exploring right now. They’re doing so by essentially white-labeling deposit insurance, regulatory expertise and access to credit platforms.
You can think of it as a partnership that leverages a fintech company’s strengths on the front end of the customer experience, with attractive and refined digital interfaces, as well as a bank’s strength on the backend, by providing access to safe and secure financial products.
It’s a classic win-win situation.
One bank pursuing this course is TAB Bank, an online bank based in Ogden, Utah, with $711 million in assets.
“We came to the conclusion that we would build our strategy around how we think the market will look in two to five years, not how it behaves today,” says Curt Queyrouze, president of TAB. “What we determined was that once consumers try a digital interaction, they stay in that lane.”
Queyrouze has been cultivating this model for years.
The 20-year-old online bank has “sponsored” non-banks before who wanted access to the Visa and MasterCard credit platforms, says Queyrouze. Then TAB began working with marketplace lenders and offering traditional transaction accounts—in other words, white-labeling banking services to its partners.
“To the extent we can be the infrastructure for that cash account that attaches to whatever payment systems are out there, yeah, there’s a lot of benefit to that,” says Queyrouze. “As traditional banks we can hold that money, we can insure it and then we can take that money and turn around as the traditional banking model has always been and lend out that money, (or) use it in other ways to create profitable margin.”
The Bancorp Bank is pursuing a similar course. The $4.4 billion online bank headquartered in Delaware makes it clear what their model is all about: enabling non-bank companies to offer bank-like products.
“Take a close look behind some of the world’s most successful companies: that’s where you’ll find The Bancorp,” the company boasts.
The Bancorp backs Varo Money, for example, a mobile app offering users insured deposits, fee-free ATM withdrawals, interest-bearing savings accounts and personal loans in 21 states. (Varo Money was among the first fintechs to apply for the new national charter offered by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency last year.)
Yet another bank pursuing a similar strategy is Cross River Bank, a New Jersey-based bank with $1.2 billion in assets.
Getting back to TAB, another epiphany came to Queyrouze in late 2018 at one of the biggest financial services conferences of the year.
Queyrouze thought about all the money being spent to lure new customers by both banks and non-banks.
As Queyrouze saw it, this gave TAB two potential paths to follow.
One would require a massive marketing budget to compete against bigger banks and fintech companies in the competition to acquire customers. The other was to stick to what it knew on the backend—namely, banking—while leveraging the strength of fintech companies on the frontend.
“While we do have the option to market against this tide, we also have the opportunity to build a banking infrastructure to align with the fintech world and provide banking services to support their client base,” says Queyrouze.
In short, small banks like TAB don’t have the resources to compete in the digital realm against larger peers. Nor can they pump money into a national marketing blitz to grow their customer base.
But they can stick to what they do just as well as any bank regardless of size—banking—and let fintech partners handle the rest.