Reserve Trust, a Denver-based financial services provider, has raised $30.5 million in a Series A round led by QED Investors.
FinTech Collective, Ardent Venture Partners, Flywire CEO Mike Massaro and Quovo founder and CEO Lowell Putnam also participated in the financing, which included $17.9 million in secondary shares. It brings the startup’s total raised since its 2016 inception to $35.5 million.
Reserve Trust describes itself as “the first fintech trust company with a Federal Reserve master account.” What does that mean exactly? Basically, a federal reserve master account allows Reserve Trust to move dollars on behalf of its customers directly, via wire and ACH payment rails, without an intermediate or partner bank.
Historically, only banks were able to access these payment rails directly, which left both domestic and international fintechs “with limited partner options, poor technology and slow implementations when it came to embedding high-value B2B payments,” says COO Dave Cahill. Reserve Trust touts that its technology and services give companies all over the world the ability to “seamlessly move money via the first cloud-based payment system connected directly to the Federal Reserve” since it is not limited by legacy banking systems.
In conjunction with the fundraise, Reserve Trust is also announcing that Dave Wright has been named CEO and Cahill joined as COO. The pair worked together previously at SolidFire, a flash storage startup that Wright founded and sold to NetApp for $870 million in 2016.
Reserve Trust works with businesses that seek to embed domestic and cross-border B2B payment by offering them the ability to store funds in custody accounts that are backed by its Federal Reserve master account.
The history of the company relates back to the global financial crisis. After the crisis, banks in the U.S. went through a process called derisking, which meant they shed businesses that on a risk return basis weren’t as strong as other businesses. One of those included the handling of U.S. dollar payments, particularly in emerging countries.
“One of the consequences of this is that it became significantly more difficult and expensive for businesses and smaller economies to trade and move U.S. dollars around the world,” Wright told TechCrunch. “And the founders of Reserve Trust saw this opportunity to build a new type of financial institution that was focused on helping to provide U.S. dollar payment services, especially to emerging fintechs in markets around the world, and helping to reconnect those economies to global trade.”
But rather than start a bank, the founders (Dennis Gingold, Justin Guilder) navigated a previously unexplored part of regulatory waters to create a state-chartered trust company with a Federal Reserve master account.
“That’s something that had never really been done before,” Wright added. “Pretty much every other trust company has to work through banks for all their payment services. Reserve Trust is the first that has actually managed to get a Federal Reserve master account and can process payments directly with the Federal Reserve.”
The complex process took about three years, and in 2018, the company got a Federal Reserve master account and started providing U.S. dollar custody and payment services for fintechs all over the world. Reserve Trust began to see strong demand from payment and fintech companies that were struggling to develop strong partner bank relationships, even though fundamentally there wasn’t any reason the banks couldn’t work with them.
“They found working with banks to be a slow process, one that didn’t involve a lot of technology expertise on the side of the banks, and it was really inhibiting their ability to develop their technology,” Wright said. And that was even here in the U.S. Today, more than half of its business is from domestic fintechs, although Reserve Trust still has a strong international presence as well.
The new funds will mainly go toward helping the company scale to handle what Wright describes as “a fairly overwhelming amount of demand” and toward building out the team, the technology and the services it needs to address the payment needs of larger, faster growing fintechs around the world.
“Most of our customers today are small and midsize fintechs, but now we’re seeing demand for much larger fintechs that have much higher payment volumes and are involved in embedded banking and B2B payments,” Wright said. “They are looking for a stronger banking partner than what they’ve been able to find among the role of traditional banks.” Customers include Unlimint and VertoFX, among others.
QED Investors partner Amias Gerety and FinTech Collective principal Matt Levinson are bullish both on Reserve Trust’s history and its potential.
The pair point to payments giant Stripe as an example of how far Reserve Trust can go.
“Stripe has significant market share doing merchant acquiring and processing e-commerce payments for the consumer,” Levinson said. “B2B payments is significantly bigger in terms of volume, so we’re talking about well over $20 trillion of addressable payment flow. But there’s no real technology company that’s brought the modern payments platform to market without being beholden to legacy banks. And that’s why we’re so excited about this business.”
Reserve Trust, he added, is giving businesses a way to facilitate B2B payments that “are smarter, faster and cheaper.”
“Despite all the excitement around digital payments and infrastructure, there is still no fintech that can offer direct integration with the U.S. payment system,” he said. “With Reserve Trust, we are creating foundational infrastructure to hold and move payments globally and at scale.”