Who needs a BaaS partner, anyway?

Over the last several years, a series of startups have emerged to cut through the complexity of launching financial services by offering technology that sits on top of partner banks’ infrastructure and enables developers to spin up bank accounts, payments and card capabilities through APIs.

These banking-as-a-service (BaaS) startups promise to offer fintech capabilities to other companies without them having to strike deals with partner banks, integrate with the banking core, or hire the technical or compliance personnel necessary to test or launch a new financial product.

As a result, it’s never been faster or easier to launch a fintech app or add a banking component to an existing vertical SaaS business. To get a better understanding of the problem BaaS providers are trying to solve, we spoke with several founders in this space, including Unit CEO Itai Damti, Bond CEO Roy Ng, and Synctera CEO Peter Hazlehurst, among others.

Cutting through the complexity of financial services

In the early days of the fintech market, startups were largely on their own when building or launching a new financial services app. Bringing a new financial product to market typically meant finding a bank partner and signing a long-term contract, creating and implementing compliance policies with that bank, and then finally building out the tech needed to support whatever financial app or service you were looking to offer to end users.

For startups, that meant large upfront investments of time and money just to lay the groundwork for launching a new product long before establishing product-market fit. It also meant a lot of duplicative work not just by startups to build up the necessary infrastructure needed to launch a financial product, but also between banks as they signed up and offered fintech partners access to their banking systems.

“The amount of work and pain that is involved in launching even something simple, even just checking accounts — you need to navigate the partner ecosystem of 30 to 40 banks that don’t always understand your business, then you need to write 15 to 20 compliance policies and operationalize them,” said Unit founder and CEO Itai Damti.

Now a lot of that complexity can be outsourced to BaaS companies that already have the bank relationships, APIs for embedding financial services into their apps and the ability to run compliance programs on behalf of their customers. And venture capitalists have lined up to fund them, including rounds announced by companies like Rize ($11.4 million), Synctera ($33 million) and Unit ($51 million) over just the last three months.

But who benefits from working with a BaaS provider?