Thecombination of the two will allow SoFi to move deeper into the financial lives of its customers.While today it focuses onstudent-loan refinancing, mortgages and personal loans, integrating Zenbanx will allow it to providean alternative to the traditional checking and deposit services most of SoFiscustomers today get from banks like Bank of America, Citi or Chase.
Zenbanx offers a variety of banking services, including savings and debit, money transfer and bill payment, and the ability to deposit or holdmoney in up to nine currencies. The companywas founded by Arkadi Kuhlmann, who previously served asCEO of online bank ING Direct, which was acquired byCapital One in 2011.
The dealshows how SoFi is thinking about new ways to getcustomers hooked on its services. The company has explored the possibility of applying for its ownbanking charter, according to The Wall Street Journal, and a source tells TechCrunch the company explored the acquisition of a credit-card startup last year.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but The Wall Street Journal has pegged the price ofthe acquisition as nearly $100 million in an all-stock deal. Thats consistent with the price BBVA paid for online banking startup Simple back in 2014, and marks a significant investment for SoFi, which is still private but has raised more than $1 billion in private funding.
It also shows how strategically important SoFi believes banking will be to the future of its business.The problem faced bySoFi and for any company looking to get into the consumer banking space isthat new bank charters are tough to come by due to heavy regulation in the banking industry. While more than 100 new bank charters were formed each year on average from 1990 to 2008, just seven were formed from 2008 to 2013in the wake of the financial crisis.
As a result, most startups in the banking space end up partnering with regional and community banksthat are digitally savvy and looking for new ways to boost deposits and assets under management. That process can take a long time to complete, however.
With thisacquisition, SoFi wont have to go through the headache of finding a banking partner and integrating with their services, as Zenbanx already hasa partnership withWSFS Financial Corp. In addition to being a partner, WSFS was also a small strategic investorin Zenbanx which means it will now also hold a (very small) stake in SoFi.
The hope is that SoFi will be able to leverageits existing user base and marketing muscle to get people signed up for banking services, something most new banking startups struggle with. And by offering banking on top of its loan and financing offerings, it will have a deeper and stickier relationship with users.
SoFis investors includeSoftBank, Third Point Ventures, Wellington Management, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), Renren, Baseline Ventures and DCM Ventures.