BankTech

Seattle Bank CEO: Partnering with Google will be a ‘game changer’

The integration builds upon the bank's open API architecture and a cloud-based platform

As traditional banks look to boost their digital offerings – especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – executives have had to explore a variety of options.

In the case of Seattle Bank, the opportunity to collaborate with tech giant Google to offer its new banking account services seemed like the ideal way to offer its customers a way to bank digitally.

Seattle Bank is one of the first institutions to collaborate with Google to offer Plex Accounts via the Google Pay app. 

Google made headlines earlier this week when it revealed an updated version of its app as well as Plex’s integration into that app. Google is providing the new banking services via a partnership with Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Banks and credit unions can choose to offer Plex, which includes checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees, overdraft charges or minimum balance requirements, according to Caesar Sengupta, general manager & VP of payments at Google.

Plex Accounts is being built on top of Seattle Bank’s existing banking infrastructure and the accounts will be insured under FDIC limits. Plex Accounts will be available in 2021, although the bank could not specify what month it would be available. Customers who choose to will have the option to use Google Pay to manage their accounts. It also offers a host of other features such as spending insights and financial search.

The collaboration with Google  is going to be a “game changer,” said CEO John Blizzard in an interview with FinLedger. He believes it will offer the “best user experience in the industry” while allowing Seattle Bank to go after a new segment of business.

Seattle Bank is locally owned and provides private banking, specialty mortgage, commercial banking and family office services. The $730-million asset bank has an open API architecture and a cloud-based platform (powered by Finastra) – something it claims only a small number of community banks nationwide can boast. 

The collaboration with Google Pay will build upon the bank’s technology strategy, which included a change in core providers earlier this year. 

“We get to leverage this technology strategy of our open API cloud base core that enables us to do this kind of collaboration really quickly and cheaply,” Blizzard said. 

Additionally, Blizzard said being able to provide this kind of mobile banking capabilities is especially challenging in the banking industry.

“In banking, it’s really hard to drive this kind of user experience, because most banks don’t control their technology,” he said. “So it’s key about who you partner with or who you collaborate with.”

Blizzard is also interested in the potential that Plex Accounts has to improve access to banking services for those in underserved markets. In particular, he’s eager to explore ways the community bank can work with local partners to reach consumers that need access to high quality financial services.  

Going forward, Blizzard said that the bank’s focus isn’t on being all things to all people, but rather “it’s about driving value. Where we can find an opportunity to do that for customers, and in different segments of the market — that will drive our success, not the other way around.”

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