FinDEVr Shines a Light on Fintech’s Developers at FinovateSpring

FinDEVr Shines a Light on Fintech’s Developers at FinovateSpring

With apologies to LL Cool J, feel free to call it a comeback.

FinDEVr, our conference series dedicated to developers in fintech and financial services, is back. We’re saving the final day of FinovateSpring this year to shine a light on the role that developers continue to play in building and applying the technologies that keep fintech at the cutting edge.

Some of Finovate’s most illustrious alums have, in fact, been alums of FinDEVr. Among those at the top of the list are innovators like Plaid. The company, nearly acquired by Visa for more than $5 billion last year, was a big part of one of our earliest FinDEVr events in 2014 where it introduced its “API for Financial Infrastructure” to fintech audiences.

FinDEVr has also served as a platform for innovative fintechs not just from outside of Silicon Valley, but from outside the U.S., as well. An excellent example of this kind of FinDEVr alum is Nubank. Making its FinDEVr debut at our first developers conference on the east coast, FinDEVr New York, in 2016, the Brazilian financial services startup has grown into a major regional neobank and the biggest fintech in Latin America with more than 34 million customers.

For this year’s return, FinDEVr will feature a quintet (or more!) of innovative companies that are busying building tomorrow’s fintech today. Each company will provide both a TECHTalk and an informative workshop to dive deeper into the enabling technologies being discussed. Take a look at our current line-up below, as well as the topics we’ll be talking about.

Connecting Siloed Financial Data: Open Banking’s Impact on the Financial Experience

Join Finicity as they explore the implications of an open financial ecosystem, shifting control to consumers, what the impact is for technologists and developers, and how open banking is being leveraged to improve financial literacy and inclusion. Finicity will follow this with a workshop on how to leverage the power of open banking with a hands-on introduction to their platform. Learn more.

The Tango: Operationalizing Predictive Models, an Engineering and Data Science Collaboration

Instnt will examine the different workflows followed by data science and engineering and discuss why they must come together in the deployment and maintenance of application models. The conversation will be followed by a workshop on rapid feature development and analysis in the identity verification space. Learn more.

Simplifying the complex with an innovative tech stack

LoanPro’s TECHTalk will discuss the importance of a modern and secure technology stack that is cloud-based, uses a configuration first approach, and maintains security throughout the process. LoanPro will follow up with a workshop on how to connect with and build loans via LoanPro’s API in less than 90 minutes. Learn more.

Data for sustainability

What is the relationship between data, sustainability, and financial services? In their TECHTalk Ecolytiq will discuss how their Sustainability-as-a-Service model helps ensure that financial institutions have access to relevant, contextual information at the right time. After the presentation, Ecolytiq will lead a conversation on how to ethically manage different data assets, and how to integrate them into the decision-making process. Learn more.

Scalable fintech product development

How can product development teams keep up with the rapid pace of fintech product adoption while remaining efficient and keeping costs down? Praxent’s TECHTalk will examine this challenge in greater detail and highlight ways to resolve productivity challenges. The workshop afterward will feature best practices for identifying bottlenecks in the development process and how to accurately benchmark your team’s progress. Learn more.

To find out more about the return of FinDEVr, visit the FinDEVr section of our FinovateSpring hub for more information.

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Plaid Scores $425 Million in Series D Funding

Plaid Scores $425 Million in Series D Funding

Plaid to DOJ: No acquisition? No problem.

There has been no stopping Plaid since the U.S. Department of Justice put the kibosh on its planned acquisition by Visa at the beginning of the year.

Last week, the financial data connectivity platform announced that it was collaborating with fellow Finovate alum DriveWealth. Before that, the company introduced the first graduates of its diversity-oriented fintech accelerator, FinRise; announced a partnership with Dun & Bradstreet; and unveiled its new income verification tool, Plaid Income.

Today brings news that Plaid has secured a massive $425 million investment in a round led by Altimeter Capital. The Series D round also features participation from Silver Lake, Ribbit Capital, and other current investors, and gives the firm a total capital amount of more than $734 million. Now sporting a valuation of $13.4 billion, Plaid said it will use the additional capital to “grow its platform, invest in infrastructure, payments capabilities and global expansion,” according to the company’s U.K. head, Keith Grose.

In a blog post titled “Digital finance is everywhere, but it’s just getting started,” Plaid CEO and co-founder Zach Perret described how, in some ways, the dream that led to the founding of Plaid “nearly a decade ago” is beginning to come true. “We dreamt of a financial system that was built to empower consumers and unlock financial freedom for everyone,” Perret said. “We are humbled to watch as fintech continues to expand and improve the financial lives of billions of people worldwide.”

More specifically, Perret’s post makes it clear that “scale” is the next big objective for the San Francisco, California-based fintech. In order to meet increasing global demand, as well as deliver on the growing expectations of ever-more-digitally-savvy consumers, Plaid will continue to invest in API technology as well as “tools and services to support enhanced privacy, personalization, decisioning, and automation.”

Founded in 2012, Plaid made its Finovate debut two years later at our developers conference, FinDEVr. The company has grown from an API-building technology infrastructure startup to now also offer key insights into the data access it provides via a suite of analytics solutions. Plaid’s technology enables users to access detailed transaction histories, setup direct debits and payouts, verify borrower assets, user identities, and real-time account balances; and make instant, in-app bank payments.

Since inception, Plaid has analyzed more than 10 billion transactions. Use cases for the company’s technology range from personal finance, lending, and wealth management, to consumer payments, banking, and business finance.

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DriveWealth Forges Partnership with Plaid

DriveWealth Forges Partnership with Plaid

It’s getting hard not to wonder if Plaid is better off as a bachelor …

Last week, we highlighted how the financial data connectivity platform rebounded from its failed union with Visa to launch a range of new initiatives including new offerings (new income verification solution Plaid Income), new partners, and a diversity-oriented accelerator program, FinRise.

Today brings news that Plaid has teamed up with global brokerage infrastructure platform – and fellow Finovate alum – DriveWealth. Courtesy of a single API integration, customers of both firms will be able to streamline and simplify the online investment account funding process for their clients.

“The combination of DriveWealth and Plaid to enable anyone from fintechs and banks to investment advisors and RIAs to quickly and securely add investment capabilities to their current offerings, via a simple API, will give more consumers equal access to investing in the U.S. markets,” DriveWealth CEO Bob Cortright said.

The integration will enable customers of both DriveWealth and Plaid to authenticate end user bank accounts using Plaid’s technology, and leverage tokenization to provide fast and secure verification of bank funding sources using DriveWealth’s API. The combination not only improves the ACH success rate, it also boosts transparency into the fund transfer process while safeguarding client data.

Plaid Head of Revenue Paul Williamson credited the wealth management industry for its advances in technology in recent years. But he pointed out that there is still more friction in the process than there needs to be. “Companies like DriveWealth are changing that and this partnership combines to power of Plaid with DriveWealth to make digital investing experiences even easier,” Williamson said.

In addition to this week’s partnership with DriveWealth, Plaid also announced that it is working with Dun & Bradstreet to bring the benefits of alternative data to small business credit risk analysis. The new integration will enable small business owners to safely share financial account information and potentially improve their credit profile with the commercial credit reporting agency.

“Small businesses need all the support they can get, and this integration makes the process of creating and building a business credit profile secure and simple, which can lead to better access to financing and more business opportunities,” Global Head of Policy at Plaid John Pitts said.

And by the way, Plaid is not the only fintech in today’s partnership announcement that is populating the headlines of late. DriveWealth began 2021 with the acquisition of institutional broker dealer Cuttone & Company. The deal will bring additional market and regulatory expertise to the Chatham, New Jersey-based brokerage infrastructure API provider – as well as a network of institutional trading partners.

More recently, DriveWealth teamed up with Aghaz to support the Seattle-based roboadvisor’s investment app for Muslim customers, partnered with cross-border roboadvisor Hemista to bring fractional share investing in both U.S. and Indian stocks to Indian ex-pats, and collaborated with GenZ-focused investment app Alinea.

Plaid Introduces the Inaugural Cohort of its New Fintech Accelerator

Plaid Introduces the Inaugural Cohort of its New Fintech Accelerator

Not letting any grass grow beneath its feet in the wake of the U.S. Justice department’s decision to block its acquisition by Visa, fintech infrastucture company Plaid has since launched its FinRise incubator to support early-stage founders who are members of ethnic minority groups.

“While technology has come a long way to level the playing field, the reality is that many minority-owned businesses are still frequently denied access to some of the most basic resources needed to start and grow their businesses,” Nell Malone and Bhargavi Kamakshivalli wrote on the Plaid blog when the program was announced in January. Highlighting in particular the plight of African-American owned businesses as noted in a report from the Small Business Administration, Malone and Kamakshivalli wrote: “It is a shared responsibility to help power a financial system that works for everyone, and we recognize that one way to achieve that is to support and promote a diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs.”

All this makes today’s announcement that FinRise has chosen the first companies to participate in its accelerator program that much more exciting for supporters of financial inclusion and diversity. Out of more than 100 applications, five early-stage fintechs were selected, offering solutions in everything from identity verification and authentication to financial wellness and lending.

The qualifications for consideration were startups with at least one founder who is African-American, indigenous, or a “person of color,” has two or more employees, and is post-seed, pre-Series B in its funding status. The members of the incoming class are below:

Global Data Consortium: a global identity verification API that provides KYC and eKYC services for businesses

Guidefi: a financial wellness marketplace to help members of ethnic minority groups connect with “vetted, culturally-attuned” financial advisors

OfColor: a financial wellness program that offers personalized PFM and loans to help ethnic minority employees maximize their 401(k) contributions

Walnut: a point-of-sale lending platform that works with healthcare providers to make it easier for patients to pay for their medical bills

Zeta: a financial wellness company that specializes in PFM solutions for couples and families

FinRise begins with a three-day bootcamp of workshops covering issues ranging from regulatory and policy concerns to marketing and communications strategy. After the bootcamp, startups will be paired with Plaid mentors to help them further develop and scale their products. The nine-month program consists of workshops and networking opportunities with accelerator partners, as well as discounts on services offered by Plaid network partners. Even those startups not selected for the accelerator this session will be eligible for discounts and credits from companies supporting the program.

FinRise’s network partners include: Alloy, AWS Activate, Brex, Fintrail, FS Vector, Hummingbird, Very Good Security, and Zendesk.

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Plaid Releases Income Verification Tool

Plaid Releases Income Verification Tool

Banking technology player Plaid announced Plaid Income this week, the company’s new income verification tool.

Income offers a secure and fast way to help consumers prove their salary in order to qualify for and secure loans, rent apartments, lease vehicles, and more. Lenders benefit from this data by being able to make better-informed risk decisions, issue pre-approvals or approvals faster, and allocate fewer resources to manually reviewing documents. 

Plaid places consumers in control of their own data by offering them the option to choose whether to share their data. With Income, they can opt to share their salary information by connecting to their employer account, payroll provider account, or by verifying their salary using documents such as paystubs, W2s, and some 1099s.

To help users connect directly with their payroll provider, Plaid supports real-time payroll authentication for over 250,000 of the largest employers in the U.S. The company is also developing credential-less authentication capabilities with leading payroll providers, including ADP.

The new Income tool is part of the Plaid for Payroll suite, which also includes the company’s Deposit Switch offering launched earlier this year.

Plaid’s income verification tool is similar to an offering from its competitor Finicity, which launched its Verification of Income and Employment solution in 2019. Among Finicity’s clients are Freddie Mac, Quicken Loans, and Experian.

Interestingly, Finicity was acquired by Mastercard late last year, just days after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block Visa’s ability to acquire innovative fintech.

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In the Battle for Direct Deposits, Plaid Stands with the Little Guys

In the Battle for Direct Deposits, Plaid Stands with the Little Guys

Plaid’s newest product is sure to make consumers happy and large banks slightly terrified. The company is tapping the power of direct deposits for its new launch, Deposit Switch.

The new offering, which goes live in beta today, does exactly as it sounds. It offers financial institutions and fintechs a tool to help end consumers easily change which account their paychecks are deposited into.

Switching the destination of direct deposits is a hassle for consumers, and generally requires manual paperwork that has to change hands between their bank and employer. Deposit Switch aims to end this headache. The company is relying on its instant switch method that connects a consumer’s payroll account directly through Plaid Link, the quick-start method to integrating with Plaid’s API.

For end users, the direct deposit switch can be done in four steps, as illustrated below:

deposit switch flow

“For financial institutions, high-friction onboarding experiences can lead to consumer drop-off and inactive accounts—and can ultimately prevent banks from becoming a consumer’s primary financial institution,” Plaid noted in a blog post announcement. “A significant opportunity exists for expanded innovation that leads to better consumer outcomes. Plaid can help by building the infrastructure that bridges the gap between financial institutions and payroll data, starting with direct deposits.”

In addition to giving consumers more control over their financial lives, Deposit Switch could also be a boon for smaller financial institutions (FIs) and fintechs. That’s because Deposit Switch is a new tool for them to win over consumer deposits.

Generally, banks use a high interest rate, a one-time bonus, or an enticing gift to incentivize their clients to change their direct deposit. These options are costly, And for smaller FIs and digital banks especially, may not be feasible.

Many digital banks are having difficulty boosting their total assets under management in the first place. This is due to two reasons 1) consumers use them as an “accessory” bank while storing and depositing the bulk of their money in larger institutions and 2) Many clients that use a digital bank as their primary financial institution may not have as much net worth and/or don’t receive as high a salary as those who choose to bank with traditional FIs.

Yotta, a fintech app that helps users build their savings, is one of the fintechs beta testing Plaid’s Deposit Switch. “Working with Plaid, we’ve made it faster and easier for customers to take the first step by establishing and funding their accounts with direct deposit,” said Yotta co-founder, Ben Doyle. “Yotta also integrates with Plaid Exchange, so customers can securely use their Yotta account with other fintech apps for digital payments, financial planning, investments and more. Fintech is the new normal for most Americans and Plaid helps Yotta meet customers where they are.”

So what about large, traditional FIs? Should they be worried that fintechs are making it too easy for clients to pour their paychecks into competing accounts? The short answer: yes.

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How Plaid is Helping to Level the Fintech Playing Field

How Plaid is Helping to Level the Fintech Playing Field

Banking technology innovator Plaid is kicking off Black History Month ahead of schedule this year. The San Francisco-based company announced the launch of FinRise today. FinRise is a nine month accelerator program designed to support early-stage founders who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC).

“While technology has come a long way to level the playing field, the reality is that many minority-owned businesses are still frequently denied access to some of the most basic resources needed to start and grow their businesses,” the company said in a blog post.

The program, which was developed during an internal hackathon, offers three key areas of support:

  1. Access to capital and services
    Plaid is leveraging its network of venture capital firms, network service providers, and accelerators to offer startups networking opportunities, discounted services and ad credits, and pitch practice.
  2. Resources for growth
    The program will kick off with a three-day virtual bootcamp led by Plaid experts and other thought leaders who will lead workshops on technical, product, and business topics. The sessions will focus on topics like communication and storytelling, engineering best practices, navigating the policy and regulatory landscapes, and designing user-centric experiences. 
  3. Mentorship and support
    Participants will receive support for nine months following the bootcamp. In addition to benefitting from others in the bootcamp cohort, startups will have access to a dedicated account manager, an internal skillshare network, and mentorship from Plaid leaders.

The FinRise program certainly fills a gap. Historically, much of the attention on diversity has been focused on driving more women into the fintech sector. With Black History Month starting in February and the Black Lives Matter Movement still fresh in everyone’s mind, we can expect to see more initiatives dedicated to solving the gap in ethnic diversity in fintech and the technology field in general.

The first FinRise program will take place from April to December, 2021.

Eligible startups are U.S.-based, BIPOC majority-owned businesses incorporated in the United States with two or more employees. A panel of Plaid leaders will select the participants, giving preference to those that offer a product that leverages financial data.

Founders can apply starting today and the first cohort will be announced in early March.

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How Plaid Expanded its Network

How Plaid Expanded its Network

Earlier this year banking technology company Plaid launched Plaid Exchange, a new tool to facilitate open banking.

The new open finance platform offers banks a way to provide open banking connectivity to their clients while keeping their end customers’ data safe and giving them control of their data.

Plaid Exchange helps banks establish token-based API connectivity with the 2,600 third party apps in Plaid’s network. This single connection simplifies integration for banks, helping their clients connect with more third party providers securely. Plaid Exchange can help banks bring an API solution to market in 12 weeks. 

A couple of weeks back, Plaid formed a key partnership to help it reach more banks to access the Plaid network. The company is working with Jack Henry & Associates to enable Plaid Exchange for banks on the Banno Digital Platform.

The deal helps Plaid reach more than 350 institutions currently using Jack Henry’s Banno Digital Platform. These financial institutions can benefit by offering their accountholders access to Plaid-powered fintech apps. Plaid has designed the integration process to be simple and Banno clients will be able to access the technology for free.

The deal with Jack Henry comes as an extension of the Plaid Exchange Partner Program, which is aimed to get banking platform providers, API management platforms, and software development companies on board to offer Plaid Exchange to their bank clients.

The network effects of the Plaid Exchange Partner Program will be a boon to the San Francisco-based company. That’s because the more banks Plaid partners with, the more attractive Plaid is to fintechs.

Plaid works with thousands of third-party fintech apps such as TransferwiseBetterment, and Venmo to connect with their users’ financial institutions. The company made headlines at the beginning of 2020 after it announced it had been acquired by Visa for $5.3 billion and made the news again after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a suit to block the acquisition last month.

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Justice Files Suit to Block Visa’s Acquisition of Plaid

Justice Files Suit to Block Visa’s Acquisition of Plaid

It looks like the Biden transition team aren’t the only ones being told to slow their roll by the Trump administration: the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block Visa’s ability to acquire innovative fintech – and Finovate alum – Plaid.

“American consumers and business owners increasingly buy and sell goods and services online, and Visa – a monopolist in online debit services – has extracted billions of dollars from those transactions,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said. “Now, Visa is attempting to acquire Plaid, a nascent competitor developing a disruptive, lower-cost option for online debit payments.  If allowed to proceed, the acquisition would deprive American merchants and consumers of this innovative alternative to Visa and increase entry barriers for future innovators.” 

The move by the Justice Department was anticipated. An investigation into the acquisition was launched in late October, after the department spent a year examining how the deal would impact the financial services market more broadly. And in its statement, the Department has concluded not only that the impact would not be good, but also that Visa’s motives for the acquisition are problematic, as well. DOJ accuses Visa of purchasing the fintech company as an “insurance policy” to defend its U.S. debit business. The statement indicates that Visa feared that, either by itself or in partnership with a competitor, failure to deal with the “threat” of Plaid could result in “potential downside risks of $300 million to $500 million” in its debit business.

Visa’s criticism of the lawsuit mirrors somewhat the broader critique that we often hear when politicians get involved in technology; namely, you just don’t get it. Specifically, Visa accused the government of not “understanding Plaid’s business and the highly competitive payments landscape in which Visa operates.” The company, which has 70% of the online debit transactions market compared to rival Mastercard with 25% share, added that rather than a competitor, it sees Plaid simply as a firm with complementary capabilities.

“Visa’s business faces intense competition from a variety of players,” the company’s statement read, “but Plaid is not one of them.” For its part, Plaid has not commented on the lawsuit at this point.

What are the odds of the Visa-Plaid acquisition emerging successfully from this legal challenge? While it is difficult to predict an outcome, what is catching the eye of some observers is the possibility that DOJ’s interest in Visa’s Plaid acquisition could be just the beginning. Citing language in the lawsuit that refers to Visa’s “long history” of aggressive action toward fintechs like PayPal, Bloomberg Law quoted former DOJ antitrust division attorney John Newman who said a “monopolization case” could be in the offing against Visa – even if the current case is limited to blocking the acquisition of Plaid.

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Finovate Alums Take Top Honors at Lendit Fintech Awards

Finovate Alums Take Top Honors at Lendit Fintech Awards

Lendit Fintech announced the winners of its fourth annual Lendit Finitech Industry Awards this week. And out of the 500+ entries competing for awards in 13 different categories, Finovate alums left the stage with nearly half of them.

Taking the highest honor as Fintech Innovator of the Year was Stash. The New York-based mobile-first investment platform made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall 2017, demonstrating its Stash Retire solution. This year marks the second year in a row that Stash has picked up Lendit’s top prize in this category. Fellow Finovate alum Marqeta was among the category’s finalists.

Also winning award categories were:

  • Plaid for Innovations in Digital Banking
  • Urjanet and Equifax for Most Promising Partnership
  • Visa for Top Service Provider
  • Blend for Top Technology Service Provider.
  • CircleUp for Top Small Business Lending Platform

“Our purpose at Lendit Fintech is to elevate and celebrate the achievements of others,” co-founder and CEO of Lendit Fintech Bo Brustkern explained in a statement. “This year has been a hard year for many bank and fintechs, and the many enterprises that support them. Now more than ever we need a reason to come together – even if it’s virtually – to recognize and applaud excellence in these circumstances.”

Other companies earning awards were Upstart for Top Consumer Lending Platform, PeerStreet for Top Real Estate Platform, BlockFi for Emerging Lending Platform of the Year, Orrick for Top Law Firm, and Branch for Excellence in Financial Inclusion. Two individuals were also recognized: Colin Walsh, founder and CEO of Varo Money, as Executive of the Year and Nicky Goulimis, COO and co-founder of Nova Credit, as Fintech Woman of the Year.

A number of other Finovate alums earned finalist spots in this year’s competition. Both Lending Club and SoFi competed as finalists in the Consumer Lending Platform category. And BlueVine provided a strong Finovate alum showing in the Small Business Lending Platform group.

Credit is also due to Finovate alum Mambu as a finalist (along with Stash) in the Innovations in Digital Banking category, and to both Finicity and Ocrolus, which competed in the finals of the Top Technology Service Provider category.

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Plaid Makes the Case for Real Time

Plaid Makes the Case for Real Time

If the future is digital –which it is– then the future must also be in real time. And while our industry typically thinks about real-time in terms of payments, there’s one fintech that’s working to bring information into the real time realm.

Banking technology company Plaid is launching instant account activity today. The new release allows financial institutions on Plaid Exchange to send user-permissioned transactions data to Plaid developers within seconds of the user’s activity. As a result, the consumer receives an up-to-date picture of their finances.

During a time when many consumers are working in the gig economy and budgeting for their expenses on a day-by-day basis, having the most recent information about their account balances is critical and could make the difference between overdrafting or staying afloat.

“Instant, real-time data has become standard for consumers today and it’s a critical piece of information that our users need to make sound financial decisions,” said Atif Siddiqi, CEO of Plaid client, Branch. “Plaid provides our users with the most current picture of their transaction history, empowering their daily financial decisions.”

Today’s development is the latest in a string of updates for Plaid, which recently launched Plaid Exchange, an open finance solution that offers banks a way to provide open banking connectivity to their clients while keeping their clients’ data safe and giving them control of their data.

Last week, the company announced an addition to its suite of payment products with the launch of standing orders in the U.K. With standing orders, end users can make recurring payments with a single authorization for things like gym memberships and rent payments.

Plaid is an alum of Finovate’s developer conference. In 2014, the company’s CEO and co-founder, Zach Perret, showcased the Plaid API for financial institutions.

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Plaid Exchange Offers Open Banking in a Box

Plaid Exchange Offers Open Banking in a Box

Since the dawn of APIs, the U.S. has struggled to create a consistent open banking approach. Banks and fintechs have battled with each other on screen scraping, customer data, and open access to third party providers.

Banking technology company Plaid announced a new launch today to solve this struggle and unite banks, fintechs, and consumers. The new tool, Plaid Exchange, offers banks a way to provide open banking connectivity to their clients while keeping their clients’ data safe and giving them control of their data.

Plaid Exchange helps banks establish token-based API connectivity with the 2,600 third party apps in Plaid’s network. This single connection simplifies integration for banks, helping their clients connect with more third party providers securely. Additionally, the API helps banks build a control center that empowers their customers to manage which third parties they share their data with.

To help banks with legacy systems, Plaid is working closely with integration partners to ease the transition. The company’s partners in this effort include Kunai and Core10.

“We believe APIs are the future of open finance, and we want to make it as easy as possible for all financial institutions to incorporate APIs into their broader digital transformation agendas regardless of budget size and resources,” said Plaid Product Lead Niko Karvounis in a blog post.

Plaid Exchange can help banks bring an API solution to market in 12 weeks. The company is already working with financial institutions for Plaid Exchange and expects to partner with even more as banks seek to meet increased customer demand for digital services in the post-COVID-19 era.