Most fintechs partner with banks. Varo became one, and says it’s paying off

Last month, Varo Bank celebrated the two-year anniversary of obtaining its national bank charter. The move made Varo the first-ever all-digital nationally chartered U.S.

consumer bank. The startup launched its banking services aimed at younger consumers comfortable doing all their banking online in 2017. It has raised nearly $1 billion

since its 2015 inception and was valued at $2.5 billion at the time of its last raise in 2021. Its backers include institutions such as Lone Pine Capital, Warburg Pincus and The

Rise Fund as well as U2’s Bono and NBA player Russell Westbrook. Today, the startup competes with Chime, Current, N26, Level, Step, Moven, among many others. Varo’s step to

obtain a charter separates it from the pack in that rather than partnering with a bank, it became one. A lot has happened since Varo took the complex, and costly, bank

charter route. I caught up with Colin Walsh, the company’s chief executive and founder, to get an update. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. TC:

Was it worth it for you to get a charter as a company? And if so, why?