Customers Bancorp readies spinoff of its BankMobile subsidiary

Tom Paine

West Reading-based Customers Bancorp plans to spin off its BankMobile technology business, which will merge with a SPAC and become a publicly listed company. Its BankMobile subsidiary, offering services to college students and thru T-Mobile and other white label accounts, has been a pioneer in the emerging mobile banking business. It attacks the traditional branch economics of most banks. Customers is spinning off the technology business behind BankMobile, not the mobile bank itself.

BankMobile was developed internally by Customers and launched in 2015.  in late 2015, it acquired Higher One, a student loan disbursement company and a partner of Customers.

The spinoff is expected to be completed by year-end. Customers says BankMobile has 2 million customer accounts. Its shares are expected to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BMTX.

Customers seriously considered a similar proposal in 2018, but that deal fell through because of regulatory issues.

The merger transaction is valued at $140 million. Megalith Financial Acquisition Corp (MFAC), the SPAC vehicle, is the merger partner. Customers will still own 46.7% of the new company, to be known as BM Technologies when listed. That way, Customers would still participate in BM Technologies’ potential upside, while avoiding regulatory hurdles that would hinder the venture if it stayed under its full ownership.

Jay Sidhu, Customers’ CEO, built it from a tiny bank to one with $12 billion in assets as of March 2020.

Luvleen Sidhu, his daughter,  is the Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer at BankMobile. She got her BA from Harvard, according to her LinkedIn Profile, and also attended executive programs at Harvard and Stanford Business Schools.

BankMobile reported its first quarterly profit last year: $890,000 in the third quarter on revenue of $24 million, Customers said.

Just yesterday, BankMobile announced a new partnership with Prudential Financial.

Also, BankMobile has been named 1 off 11 partners of the revised Google Pay, which was unveiled today.

Philly resident Stessa Cohen, a veteran Gartner banking analyst, set off a year ago as a Strategic technology advisor and analyst, under her own shingle (Pivotassets). She started off in banking with the former Philly bank CoreStates. She’s followed bankMobile since its beginnings. I spoke with Stessa by phone.

Cohen saw bankMobile as unique “challenger” bank, though now there’s more competition in the mobile space. But she doesn’t see mobile being a standalone solution in most cases. Rather, she emphasizes it as being part of strategy of reimagining and extending the branch. Most people still needs branches, she believes, but they are going to be different than before.

Going public will give BM Technologies more freedom to keep up with best-of-breed technologies. Its probably been constrained as part of Customers. It will have more financial flexibility.

One thing Cohen doesn’t feel she knows enough about is the quality of its technology stack. It hasn’t been a huge investment by Customers, and things have advanced in the five years since its founding. Has BankMobile kept up? (Note: BankMobile just hired a new Chief Digital Officer.)

Lastly, she wanted to mention that she thinks Philly has the potential. to be a leader in FinTech.