BankMobile Founder Luvleen Sidhu Creates 1st No Fee Bank
Like most millennials, 29-year-old Luvleen Sidhu of BankMobile, had an entrepreneurial drive completely unrelated to her college major. Originally a pre-med student at Harvard University, Luvleen had this burning desire to pursue finance. As the daughter of Jay Sidhu, a highly successful banking executive, she naturally wanted to create a disruptive enterprise that would revolutionize the financial industry. It was only fitting that Luvleen would work with her father to build her company.
BankMobile is the country’s first fee-free digital bank. An app that allows for checking accounts to be opened in mere minutes, saving accounts that earn up to 75 basis points, and real time updates that track spending, their company’s overarching mission is rooted in helping the millennial generation enjoy staying on top of their finances.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Luvleen at her New York office where she introduced us to the concept and team behind BankMobile. Emerging from a sun-kissed hallway, this elegantly dressed young female banking executive politely sat down with a bright white smile to tell us about her journey.
The Motivation that Launched BankMobile
Luvleen points to three motivating decisions that helped her create BankMobile. She tells us, “One, I wanted to create something that really pushes the standard forward in an industry, and banking is very antiquated.” Traditional banks take up to 25 minutes to open a checking account, and yet as Luvleen points out, buying a ticket around the world can take only a few minutes. “People are looking for that wow experience in all aspects of their life. And banking is so far behind.”
Her second motivator was finding a hole in the industry that she could use technology to disrupt. “In the US alone there are 68 million people that are under-banked. These are people who don’t have access to traditional financial services.” According to her research, most alternative financial institutions, like pay-day loans and check cashing outlets, can take up to 10 percent of the user’s income for service fees.
To offset this costly option, “I wanted to create something that has absolutely no fees and gives exceptional financial services to those who are under-banked, especially the millennials and middle income Americans that could really benefit from it,” she says.
The third element was the need to create a social enterprise. “I personally make sure that every customer of BankMobile feels financially empowered. We give them a set of tools through education and technology so that they can make better decisions and get on solid financial footing to really jumpstart their life.”
Working with Her Father
Luvleen is not alone in starting a company with a parent. And while working with a family member has its ups and downs, Luvleen insists she really enjoys it. “I’ve always looked up to his visionary mindset. He’s a really fun dad to be around and has a very engaging personality.”
Mr. Sidhu has an extensive background as a financial executive. During his time as CEO at Sovereign Bancorp Inc., he grew the market cap 1000 times from $12 million to $12 billion, making it the 17th largest bank in the country. His resume and awards seem daunting for anyone to follow in his footsteps, let alone his daughter.
Having the presence of a parent in a professional environment often makes it harder for the adult child to become recognized as an individual. “One thing about working with my father, I felt there was a lot of pressure to make sure I stand on my own and gain respect from colleagues,” Luvleen tells us. She is currently the Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer for BankMobile, responsible for strategic direction, operational compliance, and designing programs that help expand customer acquisition.
She suggests to millennials working with a parent, to not take it for granted. The ability to leave a mark comes with the unique opportunity of working with someone you love and trust. However, in addition to leveraging skills and wisdom, “Make sure you cultivate solid relationships where people respect you for who you are and the value that you are creating for the business.”
Why Millennials Are the Target User Base
According to Luvleen, 75 percent of millennials feel their current banking partner doesn’t help them make financial decisions. “Millennials are looking for someone to be their financial advisor.” Trying to alleviate this issue, BankMobile provides free financial coaching to those who enroll in direct deposit.
Their coaches speak with clients about important financial decisions that are relevant to adulthood. This includes getting married, buying your first car, buying your first home, or having your first child, and how these life events affect you monetarily. “It’s all about listening and answering financial concerns,” Luvleen adds.
She stresses the generational need to wake up to these important financial choices. “When you see 30 percent of millennials still living at home and most have a negative two percent savings rate, that means that they are spending more than they are saving. We need to change peoples’ habits because those decisions impact the rest of their lives.”
The user interface of the app is also something that Luvleen, a millennial herself, says will appeal to her target demographic. “When it comes to creating an account, we’ve really honed it down to a two to three minute process, where you just snap a picture of your drivers license, and it auto-fills the majority of your personal information.”
While easily uploading your information seems like an appealing feature to millennials, digitizing personal financial data may pose a threat to security and create a higher risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Protecting Against Cyber Attacks
The “visible web” or “surface web” represents four percent of the Internet that most use today. This consists of content that can be found using search engines. The other 96 percent is considered the “deep web” – representing content that is not indexed. This is where hackers can tap into networks to uncover user data.
Understanding the challenges that are presented within the cyber world, BankMobile has taken significant measures to make it harder for hackers to steal data. “Unlike most of the mobile banks out there that have apps for banking, we are 100 percent FDIC insured and have a lot of consultants in place that have built multi-layered security on top of the app and then also features that help you protect yourself.”
Being FDIC insured does not protect against identify theft, however, it does replace any money that may have been stolen. To help prevent this circumstance all together, BankMobile offers a debit card on/off option. “If you are not using your debit card within the app you toggle a button to turn it off so no one can use your it if they get ahold of it.”
Creating a Lifestyle Brand
While new era banking may not yet account for cash transactions, the financial institute has moved beyond traditional banking to provide a system that the market wants – no fees and solid financial advice.
“From a millennial perspective, I really want people to consider BankMobile as a lifestyle brand. We’re not just a bank, but we are a brand that is there to understand millennial needs and to help solve financial concerns holistically.”
As a passionate young entrepreneur who recognized a hole in the industry, Luvleen Sidhu is taking banking head on and doing her part to make a shift in the way we operate with our finances.
To learn more about fee-free digital banking or to sign up for a checking account, visit BankMobile.com.
Britt Hysen is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of MiLLENNiAL. In addition to being a media entrepreneur, Britt is a passionate humanitarian, international speaker, and an expert on all things related to the global millennial.