August 15, 2022

A Q&A with Bill Coats, Head of Banking Products at Green Dot, a leading money management solutions provider

Cody Fisher

Check out Plaid Forum 2022 and explore more customer stories here

Green Dot Bank is blazing a trail as an online bank that does it all. It’s a fintech platform, a banking-as-a-service provider, and a chartered bank that serves more than 33 million customers and has more than 90,000 retail distribution locations nationwide. It’s also behind the Walmart MoneyCard, Amazon Flex, and Apple Cash. 

When they wanted to take their digital banking platform, GO2Bank, even further by giving their customers access to thousands of the world’s leading fintech apps and services, they needed an industry-leading Data Connectivity solution.

Plaid: Can you tell us a little more about Green Dot’s mission and who you serve? 

Bill: There's a whole population of people who have traditionally been underserved in the financial arena. Our mission is really about serving that underbanked population and there are three main things that enable us to do that. First, we're a chartered bank holding company so we actually issue our own bank accounts via Green Dot Bank. Second, we use our platform to sell directly to the consumer via our GO2bank mobile banking app. We also connect via our platform to some of the world's largest partners like Apple, Amazon, Intuit, and Walmart–who we also provide different types of financial services for. Third, we have a huge retail network which allows Green Dot customers to go to over 90,000 retail stores nationwide and conduct a banking type transaction there. This retail outlet is kind of like a bank branch network. It's just a different way to think about it. 

Plaid: That’s really unique. When I first opened my Green Dot account, I remember going to a Walmart to put money on my card. 

Bill: Exactly. So for customers who are going to the store anyway, Green Dot allows them to get whatever they need for their family, while being able to conduct a banking transaction. 

Plaid: What are the different products that Green Dot offers and how have you continued to expand your product offerings over the years? 

Bill: GO2bank, our flagship digital banking product, is designed to help people along their financial journey. So wherever consumers may be, whatever their income range, everyone needs help getting to where they need to be. That’s why we launched GO2bank in early 2021 and we've had great traction in the marketplace. 

Our main focus is financial health. Our key features include up to $200 in overdraft protection and a high-yield savings account. So if you need to save for an unexpected expense or a vacation, you can put money into a little savings vault. You can have up to five different savings vaults and they'll each earn that high-yield interest. We also have a secure credit card and what's cool about that is that once you establish your GO2bank checking account, you can apply seamlessly right within the app. As you use that credit card, you’re building your credit since we report out to the credit bureaus each time you conduct transactions. Our customers love the product.  

Plaid: When I think about traditional financial institutions, I don't think of them as being hubs of innovation. How does Green Dot think about product innovation? 

Bill: For us, innovation starts with our customers. We put ourselves in our customers’ shoes so that we can understand their problems and needs–then we react to that using design thinking. We use an iterative, conversational process to present concepts to customers, share ideas with them, and get feedback. That process helps keep us focused. 

Plaid: Why is it important for Green Dot users to have data access? 

Bill: In today’s open finance era, customers are looking for more ways to solve their financial problems. At the heart of this is owning your financial information and taking it wherever you need to go. We want to empower our customers with an affordable bank account that can be seamless and accessible while giving them the ability to make their financial information available to use in other apps. That completes the picture for them. 

Plaid: Why do you think it's important for Green Dot to be part of that open finance movement? Why is it relevant right now? 

Bill: Well, it's what we've been talking about, which is a sense of ownership, right? So if you think about our customer base–many of them are financially challenged. There are a hundred million people in the United States who live paycheck to paycheck and what they need are easy solutions like the ability to build credit and get paid on time or early. When they can take their financial information and plug it into another app that they’re using, it makes the entire process easier for them. 

Plaid: Can you tell us what it was like to implement data connectivity solutions and why you chose Plaid to help you provide that data access? 

Bill: Sure! We started with Plaid Link so we could connect accounts to do an ACH transfer. Our customer population needs to be able to get money on and off of their account as soon as possible. It can be challenging to do that seamlessly and quickly to meet their needs. That was the initial use case that drew us to Plaid. With Plaid’s Data Connectivity solutions, we were able to open up a whole new world for our customers by leveraging a new set of APIs beyond just that simple use case. 

Plaid: How has your experience been working with Plaid to implement these new data connectivity solutions? 

Bill: We've been live for a few months now and we’ve had over one million links occur with this data connectivity integration. So we've seen some pretty good traction. Our customers are stitching together their financial lifestyle in a really easy way. Our customers are doing P2P transfers, building their credit, and applying for loans. They are on this journey to a healthier financial lifestyle. We see that in a number of different ways, including the apps that they're connecting to.

Plaid: In what ways has this solution helped you deliver more value to your customers?

Bill: Many of our customers are underbanked. They live paycheck to paycheck and in the past, they’ve used payday loans or check cashing services which have high fees and can be predatory. With GO2bank and our data connectivity integration, our customers can pull this all together in an affordable ecosystem, with low or no monthly fees (if they use direct deposit), an FDIC insured checking account, and a savings account. They can also integrate into other apps to access services that help them unlock small dollar loans, build credit, or move money to a family member. 

Plaid: Looking ahead, what new open banking features is your team tackling now? 

Bill: It's really about making financial services accessible to a population that hasn't had that in the past. But it’s also about giving them a sense of ownership over their financial data and their information. If I want to connect an app to Go2bank, I can do that. It’s still a bit early since we just launched a few months ago but we expect to double down in this area of accessibility. 

Plaid: For the innovators in the audience who are building and scaling new products, what advice would you give them? 

Bill: Stay focused on what your customers are telling you. Financial technology is a constantly evolving ecosystem of new technologies and new potential partnerships. We want to make sure we’re still solving for our customers’ needs and staying focused on design thinking. It can be quite humbling if you think you have a really cool new product or feature and you present it to customers and they tell you it’s not going to work. You need that feedback.