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Guide:
Partner Banks used
by US Fintechs

Discover the intricate world of fintech-bank partnerships with this comprehensive guide. From understanding the symbiotic relationship between innovative fintech firms and traditional banks to navigating the challenges and leveraging middleware technology, this guide provides invaluable insights for industry professionals seeking to thrive in the evolving financial landscape. Explore the top partner banks in the USA leading the charge towards innovation and collaboration, and unlock the potential of strategic partnerships to drive growth and deliver superior financial services to customers.

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Author: Ekaterina Podgaiskaya

Last updated March 29

Contents

Introduction

Financial technology firms are beginning to partner with licensed, regulated financial institutions. This is because these partnerships can provide fintech companies with access to a wide array of financial services for their customers. In the United States, this includes things such as card issues, bank account openings, deposit holds and even getting into Federal Reserve accounts.

When fintechs use banks to support these services, the banks often operate unseen. The end users of fintech may not even know they exist because they work so subtly in the background. In this guide, we will highlight the benefits of this partnership as well as the challenges these partnerships (between fintech companies and banks) have to go through. We will also include a list of some major U.S. banks that are supporting these partnerships with fintech companies in unique ways.

Why Fintechs are Partnering with Banks

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1. Access to New Markets

The world of banking is changing, and newcomers to the financial industry are fintech companies. Banks are forming partnerships with these tech-oriented companies. This alliance fetches them fresh audiences in demographics and untouched markets.

These companies bring tech tools that make banking simple for people, whether they prefer banking through their smartphones or by physically visiting the banks. A study by EY shows that around 64% of people globally use fintech services for financial matters such as money transfers.

But there's more! These partnerships allow banks to reach places where traditional bank branches aren't common - think remote areas or developing countries. It has been estimated by the World Bank that around 1.7 billion adults around the world don’t have access to standard banking systems – that's definitely a big market where fintechs can thrive and slowly integrate with local banking systems.

2. Enhanced Digital Offerings

Banks partner with fintech companies because it lets them provide their customers newer, better services. Fintech firms have fresh ideas and easy-to-use designs which can enrich the digital banking experience. or this reason, most banks are now tapping into the power of fintech partners, about six out of ten or 60% according to research findings, for effective digital banking services. They also leverage these collaborations to create custom solutions that fit different customer needs perfectly while keeping up with market trends as it evolves over time.

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3. Improved Customer Experience

Another reason for banks to turn to fintech companies is that they offer cutting-edge technologies and easy-to-use interfaces. Banks aim for a more digital, customer-friendly service with these partnerships. Figures from Gartner highlight that the average bank partners with around 9.4 fintech companies at one time. 

Moreover, in 2019 it was reported that around 84% of banks are on the lookout for partnering with new fintech companies aimed at enhancing how they serve customers.

These partnerships provide benefits beyond just improving customer service though; they offer these traditional institutions flexibility as well - so much so that they can meet specific needs of diverse customer groups effectively and keep up with changing consumer demands as well.

4. Backend Infrastructure

Banks play a huge role in helping fintech firms grow. They provide these tech-driven firms with the backend infrastructure they need to thrive. Think of it as a partnership where both parties benefit. For instance, look at how Cross River Bank and Affirm work together.

The bank oversees Affirm financial matters and makes sure it complies with regulations. In return, Cross River gains from the new and innovative ideas that Affirm brings to the table through its buy now, pay later offering.

These successful collaborations pave way for more partnerships called Banking as a Service (BaaS). Experts estimate BaaS will generate massive revenue rates by 2030. It could pull in between $300-$350 billion globally while Europe alone might see earnings between $60-$80 billion by 2025.

In other words, up to one-quarter of all income in banking may come from BaaS offerings over this decade! This is just the beginning of how banks working with fintechs can reshape finance services.

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5. Compliance Support

Banks must follow regulations and they also do lots of paperwork. However, fintech companies can help with this. Take for instance, innovative solutions. Fintechs supply these to simplify compliance processes for banks. This results in less costs and confusion for financial institutions.

Some fintech firms go further; they create RegTech solutions to automate tasks, ensuring compliant behavior becomes easier than ever before.

A study shows this is a real need too: According to the study, out of all the respondents working in fintech, 16% of the respondents already use RegTech solutions. Not only that - another 34% say implementing these has altered managing their compliances altogether.

Banks need fintechs because they offer simple ways for banks to fulfill strict laws using technology so they can focus more on satisfying their customers' needs.

6. Brand Reputation

Partnerships between banks and fintechs also reflect the brand image of both of the partners. This type of collaboration brings in many benefits. It leads to wider distribution networks and enhanced product portfolios. Banks can modernize their platforms and make their operations more effective.

A study by PWC in 2019 showed interesting facts about these collaborations. 42% of surveyed banks were actively engaged in partnerships with fintechs. Over time, that number more than doubled to 94%, as more firms showed faith in fintech partnerships for revenue growth.

The trend further reveals that 78% among them have at least 11 or more fintech partners under their fold. This data makes it clear that digital expansion through innovative services is in every bank's benefit.

7. Cost Efficiency

The partnership between fintechs and banks also results in making the services cost effective. Banks leverage tech to become more efficient in their operations. They automate tasks, streamline processes and cut down on mistakes made by humans.

These partnerships bring along advanced data tools as well. These tools offer insights into customer behavior patterns or hidden market trends. This results in better decisions being made, where resources end up where they're needed most, and bank performance gets a boost.

However, there's yet another big win from these collaborations: expansion of banking services. By partnering with fintech solutions, new opportunities of growth and expansion opens up, whereby undeveloped populations get access to crucial financial services while existing customers get products crafted precisely for them.

A perfect case of bank and fintech cooperation was JPMorgan Chase partnering with OnDeck back in 2017. The goal for JPMorgan was to update their small business lending process, using advanced technology from OnDeck. They employed data analytics and this sped up the process.

This new speed was not the only benefit, as the partnership also helped run things smoothly. It used to be hard for small businesses to get loans but that changed with this partnership.

The outcome exceeded expectations - costs went down while better loan decisions were made thanks to helpful insights drawn out by data analytics. This expansion also now meant the availability of more opportunities for small business owners.

Challenges of Partnering with Banks

Dependency on a Single Partner

Fintech companies face constraints tied to a single bank partner. Benefits exist, like managing laws and licenses, but their growth may be limited.

This is because the bank often asks the fintech company to follow risk and compliance practices. That's difficult with a lean structure. Additionally, they're responsible for legal issues connected to their services through the partnership.

Quick innovation poses another challenge due to these regulatory pressures. As of July 2023, publicly traded fintechs have totaled around $550 billion in market value. This shows a large growth potential in this sector.

Limited Flexibility for Product Launches

Another challenge hindering partnership between fintech companies and banks is that partner banks may not be quick enough to support new product launches. Large and complex, these traditional financial institutions have processes that can take time.  

In contrast, fintech companies are usually small but fast-moving businesses. They have the capacity to create fresh ideas quickly. But the legacy systems of their banking partners could slow them down. This lack of flexibility challenges how fintechs work best: By innovating and adapting swiftly to market needs.

This also limits space for launching products and is a significant obstacle that hampers these partnerships, which if addressed right, holds great potential in revolutionizing our banking experience!

Geographic Coverage Constraints

Banks that are partnered with fintech companies usually work in one country only. This can limit how far these fintech companies can reach and might even hinder their plans to grow bigger. The reason behind this is the numerous rules and regulations each country's bank has to follow. When a bank tries to operate in another country, it encounters many more complex rules which can be a challenge for any fintech company planning expansion.

Experts predict that the value of all the businesses within fintech could rise up to $882.30 billion by 2030 alone! On the other hand, if partner banks keep preventing fintech from growing beyond borders due to local laws then this predicted growth might face some obstacles.

Operational Challenges

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Another challenge banks and fintech companies might face relates to operational challenges when they enter into partnerships. A study points out that 75% of banks find it hard to meet the business needs in such partnerships. Fintechs, too, have their share of challenges meeting high quality standards and using outdated methods set by banks.

Data also becomes a challenge for fintechs. This is because around 81% of fintechs worldwide find it tough to use data for analysis, machine learning, or linking with customer's apps and data systems. These issues may slow down new ideas coming from these partnerships or limit what they can achieve together.

Structural Misalignments

The way banks and fintech startups are run is different. These differences can make creating partnerships hard. Banks use outdated systems which makes it difficult for them to incorporate new, more efficient ways of doing things. New government regulations may also limit their ability to change.

Fintech startups on the other hand value innovative ideas, accept changes easily and quickly introduce new tech solutions. This difference in approach between the two often leads to challenges when they try to work together.

Even so, data shows an interesting trend: As of 2021, it was found that banks often partner with about 2-3 fintech companies in spite of all these difficulties which shows a move towards collaboration between both regardless of challenges faced.

Middleware Technology for Fintechs

Middleware takes care of communicating safely between core banking systems on one end and customer-facing systems on the other. Building a fintech project with a middleware technology allows for greater flexibility in managing the product life cycle. Additionally, the middleware helps facilitate the partner ecosystem and marketplace within a single fintech app.

API stands for Application Programming Interface. In a simple way, it's the part of the server that receives requests and sends responses. The use of both of these tools is highly beneficial for the fintech companies. Some of the benefits of API orchestration and middleware technology are discussed below.

Product Development Opportunities

The use of API orchestration and middleware technology can help financial tech companies in building new products when they work with banks. Based on a study by Velmie, these tools allow different services to be packaged together for customers. This helps a company stand out from its competitors.

These tools also make data sharing easy and provide tailored experiences based on what customers want or need. The good thing about them is that companies can add new services any time they spot changes in customer needs or their own business operations.

This is quite unlike old legacy systems that require total replacement if you need to add new features or services. These legacy systems are also difficult to manage due to their basic technology processes which limit flexibility.

Functional Portability

Another great thing about APIs is that it lets financial tech companies create exactly what the market needs. They help connect different systems together to make personalized solutions that can change when business changes.

A global survey found that around 88% respondents think APIs have become more critical in the past two years, while 81% respondents see it as an important factor for both businesses and IT tasks.

Additionally, data also reveals that the number of open banking API calls is also set to increase to 580 billion in 2027 from 102 billion in 2023, highlighting the use of API’s in financial processes.

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Automation and Efficiency

Software tools like API orchestration and middleware can help fintechs to automate tasks, making them more efficient. They can also help manage APIs better, increase safety, and provide more info about how these APIs are functioning.

Separately, middleware technology also connects the main banking system with other platforms that deal with customers directly. This allows information to flow smoothly between them all while saving time and reducing errors.

A study by McKinsey highlights that half of the jobs being done today could be automated between 2030 to 2060. Moreover, it was also reported separately that about 64% of people around the world used at least one app from a fintech company in the year 2022. This number was two times larger than what it was five years ago. This shows how important and impactful automation is becoming in the field of finance technology.

Increased Security

API orchestration and middleware technology can also help make baking procedures safe. These kinds of technologies let you manage, control, and watch over APIs better which makes it harder for online threats to breach into the systems.

With rising cyber threats worldwide, fintech companies are focusing more on cybersecurity. A recent study shows almost 84% of leaders in fintechs plan to invest more in IT safety measures like identity authentication within the coming years.

Another report showed a huge increase - about 742% every year on average - in attacks on software supply chains for three years straight. All this just further strengthens how important raising security is through use of API orchestration and middleware technology specially for fintech's.

Top Partner Banks in the USA in 2024

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Bancorp, also known as The Bancorp, is a bank that's been running for over 20 years. It's well-known and trusted in the financial industry because of its stable roots, focus on its partners and dedication to tech innovation. Bankorp works closely with fintech companies, including some big names, to change the way people make payments in this digital age. What makes it different from most banks is how it handles finance: instead of going for long term and fixed rate investments like other banks usually do, Bankorp goes for short to medium term at varying rates which provides flexibility in adapting to market conditions.

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Stride Bank is a bank in Oklahoma that began its operations in 1913. It provides all kinds of financial services. This bank has built a strong bond with fintech companies, helping them fulfill their goals. Recently, it continued its private banking deal with Chime Financial - a well-known company which belongs to the fintech industry. The specialty of Stride Bank lies in its clever mix of creating new ways to do things while keeping intact traditional community banking practices. They provide tailor-made solutions acknowledging the fact that every company's needs are different. In addition to this, for over a century now, Stride Bank has been offering home financing options, too.

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Pacific West Bank, also called PacWest Bancorp, holds assets worth more than $41 billion. It's known for its strong ties with fintech companies, through banking service platforms like Unit. The thing making the Pacific West Bank special is how it treats its clients and always puts their needs first. It provides many business-focused options including checking accounts, money market accounts and savings accounts. By February 28 of 2023, the bank made $48.9 million profit and the worth of its stockholders was up to $4 billion dollars.

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Blue Ridge Bank is a community bank with many different financial services. It's well known for partnering up with fintech companies, such as Aeldra Financial Inc. Over the past six years, Blue Ridge has made four major deals including partnering on equal terms with Bay Banks of Virginia in January 2021. They had maintained 10 active partnerships with fintech firms by 2022 to support their growth. The unique thing about Blue Ridge Bank is how skillfully it manages any risks from these informal tech finance relationships. As of the last few months of 2021, they earned $12.8 million in net income and had a team of 158 people, more than half being women.

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Evolve Bank & Trust is a bank that focuses on using technology to provide services. It also offers Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS), which means it helps other companies offer banking services. Some of the companies it works with include Affirm, Airwallex, Alloy, Bond, Branch, Dave, EarnIn, Marqeta and Mastercard.

One special thing about Evolve Bank & Trust is its dedication to open banking and making payments easier for everyone. As of 2023, this bank had employed more than 500 people out of which more than half were women. Each year the bank earns between $100 million and $500 million in revenue.

Furthermore, Evolve Bank & Trust was even named one of the Fastest-Growing Companies by Inc., a business magazine because their revenues over three years increased by almost 110 percent.

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Celtic Bank has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah; it's prominently recognized nationwide as a lender to small businesses. They specialize specifically in SBA 7(a), SBA 504, USDA B&I and conventional business loans. Like Bancorp they are partners with fintech companies providing them access to useful banking products.The standout feature about Celtic is their broad range of financing options catering according to the needs of customers moreover they regulate compliance ensuring legal protocols met by all means. As per record since 2013, the bank is counted among top ten national lenders affiliated with the Small Business Administration. As recently as June 30th, 2022 the bank's total assets were evaluated at M$1,818,400 approximately.

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Thread Bank, which started in 1906, is a financial network that helps people, business owners, fintechs and brands to add legal financial solutions into their customer service. Thread Bank partners with fintech clients using Unit. Unit is a platform that provides banking services. What makes Thread Bank special is its online solutions. These combine the best technology for an easy customer experience. By the end of 2023, Thread bank's total assets were 682,474 thousand USD.

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Piermont Bank is a mix of a common bank and an innovative tech financial company. Started by women and run by business people, this bank highly uses modern technology. It has established partnerships with tech finance companies like Treasury Prime. Through these partnerships, Piermont Bank can integrate its banking services into their partners apps.

This mixed use of traditional banking and new-age technology helps in quick actions at the bank. As of 2022, the bank held more than $420M in total assets. The bank also takes pride in supporting communities that do not earn much or are typically neglected financially. For this purpose, over half of the loans it grants go out to such groups as well as businesses owned by women or minorities.

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Cross River Bank is a company that offers tech systems and financial technology to other tech companies. It has teamed up with famous startups like Affirm Inc., Stripe Inc., and TransferWise Inc. This bank stands out because it uses API-based services for payments. By November 2020, its total assets were $9.9 billion. They made loans worth $20 billion, and earned annual income of $130 million. The bank employs 500 people, including many women who make up around 30% of the workforce. The bank helped over 480,000 small firms in every U.S state by giving them money.

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Since 1902, Lincoln Savings Bank (LSB) has been a community-serving bank. It stands out as one of the top choices in offering banking services to fintech companies. LSB started its unique partnerships with fintech firms as early as 2014. Today, it works with successful fintechs like Qapital, Cash App, Acorns and M1. What makes LSB different is its dedication to fresh ideas and blending traditional community banking with fintech banking.

By the year 2023, LSB's total wealth reached about $1.8 billion alongside over three million customers using their fintech services. Also, they housed 319 employees within their organization at that time. Among Iowa-based banks by branch size; it ranks number eleven while on a national scale across the United States; it sits on the 491st number.

Conclusion

In conclusion, fintech companies and banks working together is something that benefits both parties. It allows each one to benefit from the other's strong points. Banks provide fintechs important tools they need like backend infrastructure, regulatory expertise, and compliance frameworks while fintechs help banks grow bigger, come up with new innovative ideas and make customers happier.

Still, these partnerships come with its own set of challenges. Often, a fintech company can find itself limited because it gets tied down to one bank. Launching new goods or services becomes harder when partner banks don't offer necessary support.

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Partner banks also usually only work in one country which restricts collaboration opportunities.

 

Yet there are solutions for these challenges like implementing middleware technology including API orchestration that acts as mediator between fintech and its partner bank by simplifying communications between them.

As we look ahead to 2024, several top partner banks in the USA stand out for their commitment to innovation and collaboration. These institutions continue to foster an ecosystem where fintechs thrive, creating a win-win scenario for the financial industry and its customers.

Why Fintechs are Partnering with Banks
Top Partner Banks in the USA in 2024
Challenges of Partnering with Banks
Conclusion
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