As every startup becomes a bank and every tech company does the same, one 12-year-old company that is already in the fintech space isn’t joining the growing crowd. Instead, San Francisco’s Credit Karma is finding innovation in a five-person team about two miles away from its current headquarters.
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Credit Karma, which has amassed 100 million users to date, has acquired a five-person company to build out its savings app: Haven Money.
The terms of the deal, including the price, were not disclosed. It’s part of the Credit Karma’s investment in autonomous finances for its customers, moving from understanding their customers money through credit scores and taxes to “playing an active role in it,” Jagjit Chawla, the vice president and general manager of Tax and Savings at Credit Karma, told me.
“The industry of neobanks is trying to do a lot of different things,” he said. “I don’t intend for us to ever become a bank. But we still operate in a highly regulated financial industry.” This is the company’s seventh acquisition to date.
Haven Money helps users manage their savings for investing and retirement using proprietary technology and algorithms. Per its website, Haven will no longer be available after December 15, 2019. After that. “any money still in Haven will be returned to its original source account,” the website says. Users were told to withdraw money before this date.
While Credit Karma hasn’t yet made a decision on specific product plans, the company said it will leverage Haven Money’s technology and assets (once the deal closes, of course).
“We have trust with customers to hold their money, the next step there would be is [to] help people managing someone’s personal finances,” Chawla said. “It’s not just a recommendation engine, it’s a place where you will go to think about your personal finances.”
He said that of the 100 million people on the platform, half of the users come back on a quarterly basis. It makes sense, Credit Karma is assumedly trying to be on your mind not just during tax season, or when you’re worried about your credit score. Think week by week basis, instead.
Back To Before
Credit Karma is one of the more old school companies in a blossoming crew of startups taking a crack at finance. During our call, Chawla said that historical perspective is one of the reasons he is optimistic about the company’s future.
“Each [other fintech companies] has about 1 to 5 million users right now,” he said. “We’re in a different headspace. We are not looking to get to scale, we have already scaled.”
Comparatively, Chime, which was founded in 2013, reached 5 million customers in September. It’s creating an FDIC-insured mobile bank with lower fees. It also recently raised $500 million in a Series E.
Instead, Credit Karma has “the reverse problem” said Chawla, which is to keep building and compounding products to keep those millions of users happy.
Each fintech company I’m seeing pop up is targeting a niche, whether it’s savings, micro investing, or something else. But just as we’ve seen with wellness apps, users aren’t going to want to download a million options for each aspect of their financial life
Bigger companies, and eventually consolidation of smaller companies, will recognize how a holistic company that does everything from credit scores to savings products could be the slow and steady home screen mainstay.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias