Simple (bank)

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Simple Finance Technology Corp.
FormerlyBankSimple
IndustryFinancial services
Founded2009 (2009) in Brooklyn, New York
FoundersShamir Karkal
Alex Payne
Joshua Reich
DefunctMay 8, 2021 (2021-05-08)
Headquarters
Area served
United States
Key people
  • David Hijirida (CEO)
  • Susan Ehrlich (CFO)
Number of employees
Over 300 (Nov 2015)
ParentBanco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria[1]
Websitesimple.com
Footnotes / references
[2][3][4][5]

Simple was an American neobank based in Portland, Oregon. It is recognized as the first neobank.[6] The company provided FDIC-insured checking accounts to US citizens, but not to Permanent Residents, through a partnership with The Bancorp Bank before transitioning over to BBVA USA in 2016.[2] It is part of the Allpoint network for surcharge-free access to around 55,000 ATMs.[2] Since 2014, Simple has been part of the BBVA Group, one of the largest banks in Europe.[1][7]

History[edit]

Simple's logo from 2011 to 2016.

What was initially known as BankSimple was founded in 2009 in Brooklyn[8] by CEO Joshua Reich and CFO Shamir Karkal.[3] The initial seed capital was provided by Jerry Neumann. In August 2011, the company raised $10 million from investors led by IA Ventures, Shasta Ventures[9] and Dave McClure's fund 500 Startups. Later that month, the company moved its headquarters to Portland, where five of the company's 17 employees already resided.[9]

The company launched in the summer of 2012 as a limited beta.[3][10]

By January 2013, the company had 20,000 customers and had processed more than $200 million in transactions.[11] By July 2013, its customers had increased to 40,000 and total transaction values increased to greater than $1 billion.[4] At year's end in 2013, Simple reported processing on average around 13 debit transactions per minute with an overall customer balance of $64 million.[5]

On February 20, 2014, Simple announced it had been acquired by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA).[1] Paying through its US subsidiary BBVA Compass.,[7] BBVA acquired Simple for $117 million or about $1200 per customer.[12] BBVA was also part of the initial venture funding; it originally became interested in Simple in 2011 when a co-founder of Simple criticized the technology of banks and their approach to customer service.[13]

On May 14, 2018, co-founder Reich announced his plans to step down as the company's CEO.[14][15]

In February 2020, Simple announced that its automated, round up savings feature had saved customers 1.2 million dollars in less than 4 months since the feature was introduced.[16]

On November 16, 2020 PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC) and the Spanish financial group, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A. (NYSE and MAD: BBVA) announced that they have signed a definitive agreement for PNC to acquire BBVA USA Bancshares, Inc., including its U.S. banking subsidiary, BBVA USA, for a purchase price of $11.6 billion to be funded with cash on hand in a fixed price structure. Simple Bank is included in the transaction.

On January 7, 2021 Simple notified customers via email that BBVA USA has made the strategic decision to close Simple.

On May 8, 2021 Simple was formally closed, and remaining accounts began to be transitioned to BBVA checking and savings accounts, although that led to issues with account access.[17]

Business model[edit]

In contrast with traditional consumer banks, Simple had no physical branches.[18] Instead, account-holders were issued Visa debit cards and had access to an online banking system accessible through Simple.com or mobile apps for Android or iOS. Simple earned revenue by collecting interest on customer deposits and through the collection of interchange fees.[2]

Features[edit]

  • Simple mobile apps became available for iOS and Android in May 2011 and January 2013, respectively.[19][20]
  • Checks up to $9,500 USD were deposited through Simple's smartphone apps, or for any amount by postal mail or express courier. This amount that a customer is eligible to deposit at one time varies based upon length of time with the account had been open and number of checks previously deposited. All deposits were subject to a hold, regardless of customer status.
  • A bill pay service printed checks and mailed them to specified recipients. Previously, Simple did not provide blank checks for customers, nor did it honor checks printed by a third party. However, in February 2018, a limited beta program was rolled out to specific customers which gave customers the ability to request free books of 25 checks via mail, with no fees associated with ordering or banking (i.e. returned checks or NSF fees). This program was in beta phase and was gradually rolled out to users throughout the first half of 2018. Simple’s “Bill Pay” service was shut down on July 9, 2019.
  • Simple's online banking interface integrated hashtag searching, memos and location-based information for users' transaction history.
  • Using the Goals feature, account holders were able to schedule automatic savings on a daily basis.
  • Using the Expenses feature, account holders were able to schedule automatic goal allocations for the purposes of paying bills.

Controversy[edit]

After BBVA acquired Simple, they required non-citizens of the US to open Simple accounts at a BBVA branch rather than online. A federal lawsuit challenging this practice was filed in 2018. Chattopadhyay v. BBVA Compass Bancshares, Inc., 4:19-cv-01541-JST (N.D. Cal. 2019).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Joshua Reich (February 20, 2014). "The Next Chapter". Simple.
  2. ^ a b c d "Simple: FAQ". Simple.
  3. ^ a b c Reich, Joshua (July 25, 2012). "The Beginning". Simple. Retrieved August 7, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Reich, Joshua (July 15, 2013). "One Year with Our Customers". Simple. Retrieved August 7, 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Simple / 2013". Simple. Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
  6. ^ "Matt Harris of Bain Capital Ventures on New York's Fintech Evolution, Friendliness to Vendors, and Failures in Regulation". NYC Founder Guide. June 1, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "BBVA acquires digital banking service pioneer Simple" (press release). BBVA Compass. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  8. ^ Jeffries, Adrianne (August 25, 2011). "Brooklyn Not Friendly and Passionate Enough for BankSimple, Start-Up Moves to Portland". betabeat.com. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Rogoway, Mike (August 24, 2011). "Promising NYC startup BankSimple moves HQ to Portland". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  10. ^ Kincaid, Jason (November 11, 2011). "BankSimple is Now Just 'Simple'". TechCrunch. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  11. ^ "A Financial Service for People Fed Up With Banks". The New York Times.
  12. ^ David Wolman (February 26, 2014). "The Bank and the Anti-Bank". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  13. ^ William Alden (February 20, 2014). "BBVA Buys Banking Start-Up Simple for $117 Million". NY Times. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  14. ^ Rogoway, Mike. "Simple's founding CEO leaving Portland online banker after nearly a decade". OregonLive.com. The Oregonian. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  15. ^ Spencer, Malia. "Simple co-founder and CEO stepping down". BizJournals.com. Portland Business Journal. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  16. ^ Green, Rachel. "BBVA USA's digital offshoot Simple surpassed $1.2 million in auto savings". Business Insider. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  17. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (May 9, 2021). "Simple bank shutdown goes awry leaving customers without account access". The Verge. Retrieved May 10, 2021.
  18. ^ "Can BankSimple Live Up To Its Name?". GigaOm.
  19. ^ Robertson, Adi (May 9, 2012). "Banking substitute Simple releases iPhone app". The Verge. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  20. ^ Jeffries, Adrianne (January 15, 2013). "Simple's online-only banking app launches on Android". The Verge. Retrieved February 12, 2013.