Fintech startup Varo Money announced it has received approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to receive deposit insurance and take customer deposits directly rather than relying on a partner.
In a statement, the company said the approval was, “a significant step in [its] application process for a national bank charter.”
Varo was granted preliminary approval by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to form a de novo national bank in 2018 and has been in the application process for three years.
Fintech firms typically partner with community banks that hold customer money instead of taking deposits themselves.
Square, which is led by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, is partnered with Celtic Bank of Utah, while Google has launched checking accounts through partnerships with Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union.
“We see it as a pretty big moat,” Varo Money Chief Executive Officer Colin Walsh said in an interview with CNBC. “It was a long process — for this to finally see daylight is a big deal for the industry.”
Varo initially partnered with Bancorp on a branchless mobile product in 2016. Under that agreement, Bancorp provided private-label banking services to support Varo mobile checking and savings accounts. Varo also partnered with Galileo Processing on payment and transaction services.
Varo said those customer deposits would be transferred in the second quarter if it wins final approval from regulators.
The company’s investors include TPG and Warburg Pincus, and it was last valued at $417.8 million, according to Pitchbook.
Varo said it planned to offer credit cards, loans, and more savings products once it was approved as a full charter.
“Despite historic economic growth, only 29% of Americans are considered financially healthy,” Walsh said. “Varo is committed to creating inclusive financial opportunities that deliver measurable benefits to all consumers.”
Varo launched in July 2017. Its customers can get paid up to two days early with direct deposit, and the company’s no fee overdraft feature allows qualified customers to overdraw their bank account up to $50 with no fees if they are running short before the next payday.