Nobody expected this Spanish banking acquisition.
Simple, the online bank devoted to offering a more humane alternative to traditional banking, announced today that it’s being acquired by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Spain’s second-largest bank.
The $117 million all-cash deal puts Simple in a unique role at BBVA: It will continue to operate independently, alongside BBVA’s other U.S. operations. Simple founder and CEO Joshua Reich remains in his role, and Simple also keeps its board of directors with independent representation.
Simple’s main goal has always been to get rid of the headaches of traditional banking. The company replaces your current bank, and it offers apps that help you easily keep track of your spending habits. Best of all, Simple doesn’t charge any fees.
Why go with BBVA? In an interview this morning, Reich noted, “they have a long history of partnering with banks around the world. They’re huge in Latin America and a number of regions.” And perhaps most important, BBVA has historically kept its partners independent.
Reich also made it clear that Simple didn’t seek out an acquisition because of growth pains. The company’s user numbers great 300 percent last year, and it now has more than 100,000 customers. Simple also says it processed $1.7 billion worth of transactions in 2013 (it reached its first billion dollars in transactions in its first year online). If anything, Reich said, Simple made the deal because it’s doing very well.
One area Simple hasn’t been able to touch yet is something BBVA could be a huge help with: international growth. Reich said there’s been plenty of demand for Simple from consumers all over the world, but the company simply “didn’t have the expertise” to deal with the headache of global banking regulations. BBVA currently does business in 40 countries, so it wouldn’t be that difficult to help Simple out.
BBVA will also put in a “significant amount of capital” to help Simple grow its platform — though Reich wouldn’t disclose exactly how much that will be.
The Portland, Ore.-based Simple has raised more than $15 million from IA Ventures, Shasta Ventures, First Round Capital, and others.
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