Green Dot is feeling the pinch from digital-only banks on the market.
Founded in 1999, Green Dot provides a wide range of financial services products, including deposit account programs, network-branded reloadable prepaid debit cards, consumer and small business checking accounts, and network-branded gift cards. It has a market capitalization of about $2.5 billion.
By developing a bank product that sports the look and feel of its competitors, Green Dot is hoping to attract more millennial and Gen Z customers as they turn away from the company’s existing offerings. During the company’s second-quarter earnings call yesterday, Green Dot delivered a disappointing outlook: The company reported that it lost about 500,000 active prepaid accounts year over year. The enemy, said CEO Steve Streit, is the group of digital-only banks flooding the U.S. market with free accounts and sleek user interfaces.
“The digital banking industry segment has become incredibly competitive this year, and over the past several months in particular, with several so-called ‘neo-banks,’ flush with new of rounds venture capital, spending a record amount of marketing dollars to convert customers to their largely free bank account offerings,” Streit said. “There’s little doubt in our minds that the increased marketing spend from so many competitors in aggregate is taking its toll on our new customer acquisition.”
In late July, Green Dot launched its own mobile bank account, which it calls Unlimited by Green Dot. The offering includes 3% cashback on debit purchases and a 3% APY on a savings account for balances below $10,000.
Through Unlimited, Green Dot is gunning for customers’ primary checking account relationships, Streit said. A nod to the product’s youthful appearance, Streit even went so far as to call Unlimited a “cool bank account” during the call with investors. For its part, Green Dot is taking the challenge seriously, including features such as peer-to-peer transfers, mobile check deposits and personal finance tools. Similar to Varo and Chime, Unlimited customers also can receive their paychecks two days before payday. It also offers in-app messaging support, instructional videos and compatibility with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. A social media and TV marketing campaign will be designed for the “mainstream millennial,” according to Streit.
The push towards a Green Dot-branded “challenger bank” marks a shift in strategy which previously focused on co-branded cards. The company partnered with Uber in 2016 to provide bank accounts and debit cards for drivers as part of the company’s GoBank platform. Green Dot is also the bank behind the Walmart Money Card and the Wealthfront debit card offering.
The challenge for Green Dot is not to cannibalize its customer base with the new mobile banking offering, a factor the company acknowledged, along with other digital-only banking competition. For example, MoneyLion raised $160 million in July to grow its banking and personal finance management tools, and Varo raised $100 million as it filed for a banking charter with the FDIC. At the same time, N26 and Monzo have both launched in the U.S., and Revolut plans to do so as well.
While competition from startups is one thorn in Green Dot’s side, large banks also are quickly ratcheting up their tech offerings, amplifying the pressure on Green Dot to differentiate.
“The great ‘disruption’ of banks promised (or hyped) by the neobanks has certainly not come to fruition,” wrote Cornerstone Advisors research director Ron Shevlin, noting that digital-only banks typically are secondary accounts for customers. “[Customers are] looking for better tools, rates, and/or rewards. They ‘accessorize’ their primary checking account with ancillary, or secondary, accounts from providers who can give them those things. Those providers just happen to be called digital banks.”