Banking application Dave announced its plan to go public via a special purpose acquisition merger last week, a transaction that values the neobank at $4 billion. But while the app touts overdraft fee avoidance as its flagship feature, it’s unclear whether this will entice customers to switch accounts.
Backed by investors like Tiger Global and Mark Cuban, the Los Angeles-based fintech noted in an investor presentation released last week that it is, “going up against legacy banks and their $30 billion of overdraft fees,” and aims to offer an improved banking experience driven by better technology and reduced fees. The transaction is expected to close by the third or fourth quarter of this year.
For $1 per month, Dave users can access checking accounts and up to $100 in overdraft protection without fees or interest. The app’s direct deposit customers are offered automated budgeting and can build up their credit scores via Dave reporting their rent and utility payments to credit bureaus.
The fintech, which already has a customer base of 10 million, is counting on these perks to resonate with potential customers.
“About 150 million Americans that cannot afford a $400 emergency,” Jason Wilk, chief executive at Dave, said in a transcript filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, noting that such customers are Dave’s target growth area.
In its investor presentation, Dave, which was founded in 2016, said it has helped customers avoid about $1 billion in overdraft fees and “relies on a machine learning model that ingests a customer’s existing transaction data,” to offer them advances of up to $200 without fees. While emerging banking platforms like Chime and SoFi often tout reduced fees as a strong pull factor for customers, acquiring new users can require more than just low fees, experts say.
“Fintechs can provide [services] at a lower cost due to their technology and operating models,” Stephen Greer, an analyst at research firm Celent, told Bank Automation News. While fees have traditionally been a huge area of opportunity for financial institutions, the entry of newer platforms means that “their margins are being eaten into,” he added.
Neobanks are not alone in reexamining overdraft fees as a revenue source. The $172 billion Ally Bank and $469 billion PNC Financial have also announced moves to help customers eliminate or avoid such fees.
“Banks have come a long way from a fee-based model,” Greer said, adding that while lower fee offerings provided by neobanks work for certain customer segments, long-term growth also depends on how well these newer banking models can diversify their offerings. “Growing their deposit base,” and pouring their funding into newer products are likely to be key growth trajectories for challenger institutions, he said.
As highlighted in its investor presentation, Dave hopes to build a customer base by helping users build credit and runs an internal job-matching platform for gig workers with firms like Uber, Lyft and Instacart.
The banking platform has raised a total of $173 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. The deal with special-purpose acquisition company VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings III includes a $210 million investment led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from Wellington Management and Corbin Capital Partners.