Startups

Digital Bank-Backed Azlo Readies For Debut

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria S.A (BBVA)-backed U.S. digital banking startup Azlo is poised to open its digital doors this week, coming out of a pilot phase that has lasted for several months and focused on a small group of clients, Reuters reported Thursday.

The startup, which is majority-owned by BBVA and housed within its division that funds nascent FinTech companies, is an effort for the Spain-based lender to lure digitally attuned consumers spanning both the small and medium-sized business (SMB) and freelance verticals.

As part of BBVA’s startup division — and founded early last year — Azlo said it will use its parent company’s banking license and technology infrastructure governing payments to operate across the United States. CEO and founder Brian Hamilton also noted the FinTech will be run independently of BBVA.

The Spanish banking giant’s financial stake in Azlo has not been disclosed.

Azlo is one of several online banks and banking startups that have either been purchased or served as investment targets for BBVA, a firm which bought digital bank Simple for $117 million four years ago. In 2015, BBVA also acquired a majority stake in U.K.-based Atom Bank, then purchased Scandinavian digital banking firm Holvi as well.

The upcoming Azlo debut could allow BBVA to expand its U.S. presence, which currently exists through the company’s BBVA Compass unit. The digital bank’s focus will be on “gig economy” workers, particularly freelancers and self-employed individuals, among other populations that have been underserved by traditional banks, Hamilton explained.

“We are targeting an underserved segment,” Hamilton said. “If you walk into a bank and try to open a business account, it is still pretty wonky and not easy.”

Among other digital banking services to be offered, Azlo customers will be able to create accounts online and utilize invoicing products.

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