Varo Money was set to change banking as we know it – they just needed to raise the capital to support their vision.
The question was how?
In July 2017, Varo applied to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for a national bank charter, which would allow Varo to deliver on its promise of offering its customers nationwide access to a full range of products and solutions and the highest standards of consumer protection. If approved, Varo would become the first national bank in the U.S. designed for people who want to bank on their smartphones.
The PR team knew we would need to get ahead of the public disclosure if we were to influence the media’s reaction. We convinced regulators to agree on a specific time and medium for making the disclosure and to allow advance briefings with top media we knew would be reporting on it.
Since we knew downstream media would take cues from the positioning given by first reports from top reporters/influencers, we created a snowball effect by seeding them with consumer benefits, a friendly video of the CEO explaining a customer-first message, and consumer spokespeople – all timed to coincide with a major speech from OCC that might have sparked additional negative coverage from the original SoFi story on its own.
Following the announcement, we released consumer research on what millennials are looking for from their bank, before they become parents and how the gender pay gap influences spending – all tactics and topics that we found from direct research would drive downloads and new accounts.
- Pitched the announcement under embargo to secure reporter interest one to two weeks before distribution of the press release
- Conducted simulated interviews beforehand to ensure that spokesmen were well prepared and able to successfully communicate key messages
- Provided reporter opportunities to interview customers and select analysts
- After interviews were completed, PR sent reporters key messages, ensuring accurate and targeted message delivery
- Leveraged collateral and discovered relevant points from additional interviews for follow-ups
- The Wall Street Journal: Fintech Firm Backed by Warburg Pincus Files for Bank Charter
- TechCrunch: Mobile banking startup Varo Money has applied for a bank charter
- American Banker: Mobile-only fintech makes play for (regular) bank charter
- PYMNTS: Varo Money Applies For Charter To Become A Mobile-Only Regulated Bank
- San Francisco Business Times: Why another S.F. company is moving its headquarters out of state
- FOX Business: News Highlights: Top Financial Services News of the Day
- Reuters: BRIEF-Varo Bank applies for a national bank charter
- Bloomberg: Rules Relax, Rates Rise and Some New Banks Start Up in the U.S.
- Buzzfeed: Square Wants To Be A Bank, And Real Banks Are Pissed
- Nasdaq: 5 Questions for Colin Walsh, CEO of Varo Money
For the bank charter announcement, PR generated more than 117 pieces of coverage to equal 592 million impressions – 97% of which had a positive sentiment. The team secured coverage in major business and technology outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Reuters, BuzzFeed, Bloomberg, San Francisco Business Times, American Banker and PYMNTS.
Even more important: the company was able to raise $45 million in its latest round.
Emily Brauer Gill, Director of Brand and Communications at Varo, says, “In the month following the announcement, inbound installs increased 75 percent month over month and have continued on an even stronger growth trajectory since.”