Goals/Objectives Varo Money is a mobile banking startup that uses mobile technology to change the future of banking by offering a frictionless bank account that integrates banking, saving and lending products with tools to help customers smooth cash flow and build savings from their phones. Varo was founded by CEO Colin Walsh, a banking and finance veteran who has held positions at major financial companies including Wells Fargo and American Express. 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 United States designed for people who want to bank on their smartphones. Strategy Prior to the announcement, the PR team held multiple messaging and positioning sessions to finalize the messaging and worked with a videographer to develop a video to demonstrate the Varo message. The PR team was on site at the video shooting to help refine messaging and ensure the company aesthetic showed through. The result was a video directly from the CEO talking about the positive outcomes for consumers of the announcement being made so that we would have a friendly, approachable face on the company when people go to the website. The PR team also developed a thought leadership platform for the CEO to place high-level contributed content placements, and secured a position on Forbes Finance Council for the CEO. The team worked with the CEO and Varo’s content team to develop pieces that demonstrated the company’s positioning around the Bank Charter. Additionally, the PR team developed a comprehensive, highly vetted media list, inclusive of media and analyst contacts, covering the following areas: o Business o Finance o Technology o VC/Funding Execution PR wanted to reach the top tier finance, banking and technology media, and to do this, the team researched the top contacts in each space and pitched the announcement under embargo to secure reporter interest one to two weeks before distribution of the press release. Additionally, the team conducted simulated interviews beforehand to ensure that spokesmen were well prepared and able to successfully communicate key messages. Prior to each interview, the PR team provided journalists with images, fact sheets and additional information needed to get the full story. The PR team moderated each interview ensuring that the key messages were delivered and managing all follow up after the interview. Following the interviews, the team sent reporters any additional collateral including videos, photos and bios. Results The result was that we created a snowball effect with the coverage, with positive articles hitting just as the press release published and the public notification of the application began. Taking cues from the early coverage, the subsequent coverage was overwhelmingly positive – contrary to what we saw with SoFi’s extremely similar news event. For the bank charter announcement, PR generated more than 117 pieces of coverage to equal 592 million impressions. 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, PYMNTS and Nasdaq. ● Here’s a coverage snapshot: o The Wall Street Journal: Fintech Firm Backed by Warburg Pincus Files for Bank Charter o TechCrunch: Mobile banking startup Varo Money has applied for a bank charter o American Banker: Mobile-only fintech makes play for (regular) bank charter o PYMNTS: Varo Money Applies For Charter To Become A Mobile-Only Regulated Bank o San Francisco Business Times: Why another S.F. company is moving its headquarters out of state o FOX Business: News Highlights: Top Financial Services News of the Day o Reuters: BRIEF-Varo Bank applies for a national bank charter o Bloomberg: Rules Relax, Rates Rise and Some New Banks Start Up in the U.S. o Buzzfeed: Square Wants To Be A Bank, And Real Banks Are Pissed o Nasdaq: 5 Questions for Colin Walsh, CEO of Varo Money In the month following the announcement, inbound installs increased 75 percent month over month and have continued on an even stronger growth trajectory since. Innovation/Creativity The PR team watched SoFi apply for an Industrial Loan Charter prior to Varo’s announcement and face quite a lot of media backlash, as well as backlash from industry groups. Having seen that, PR’s main goal at the time was to control the narrative and educate journalists on the storyline we wanted: that the implications of this application, a National Bank Charter (more difficult to get, and with additional capabilities beyond an Industrial Loan Charter), was that consumers would now increasingly benefit from additional competition, more innovation and lower interest rates. We did this by pursuing a strategy of working with the OCC and FDIC to negotiate a period of lead time in order to brief the top financial and consumer reporters on what was coming, hearing directly from us with our press release and messaging – which did not happen when SoFi announced.
Wallace Church & Co.