Truist Financial Corp. has taken its next step toward supporting the budding financial technology sector by creating a venture capital division, Truist Ventures.
Truist said Wednesday its goal is "focusing on strategic partnerships and investments in innovative companies within and beyond traditional fintech" for the benefit of Truist customers.
Dontá Wilson, Truist's chief digital and chief experience officer, said creating the venture capital division "positions us at the forefront in shaping the future of finance.
“There are many innovative entrepreneurs creating amazing technologies with the potential to transform how people interact with their finances."
The first disclosed initiative involves leading a $31 million capital-raise effort for global payments network Veem of San Francisco, which serves small- and medium-sized businesses.
Also participating in the capital raise were financial-service industry participants from Australia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan and the Middle East. Previous investors in Veem include GV, formerly known as Google Ventures, and Goldman Sachs.
With more than 225,000 customers sending and receiving money in more than 100 countries, Veem said its proprietary technology "combines the best of traditional systems with the flexibility and speed that blockchain technology and digital wallets can provide."
Veem said the funding will assist with developing "a robust channel partner program ... to help strengthen and expand their product suite and capabilities."
Truist has named Vanessa Vreeland as head of Truist Ventures. Vreeland has more than 20 years of private equity, venture capital and banking experience.
"As the venture capital division of the sixth largest bank in the U.S., we have the scale to provide the capital early-stage companies need to grow," Vreeland said.
"Yet, we’re nimble enough to deliver meaningful access to the deep domain expertise from our extensive network of teams across technology, investment banking, capital markets and innovation."
Truist said the new division will focus on companies "that have the potential to help redefine financial services and improve financial outcomes for Truist clients."
The bank's interest in fintech developments predates the creation of Truist from BB&T Corp's $33.5 billion purchase of SunTrust Banks Inc. that was completed Dec. 6.
In January 2018, BB&T said it planned to spend up to $50 million to expand its presence in digital fintech as part of a cost-cutting initiative.
Kelly King, BB&T's chairman and chief executive and now in those roles with Truist, said in October 2017 the bank was interested in acquiring a financial technology company to help accelerate its digital operations. Its main effort to date has been the U by BB&T digital platform.
Chris Marinac, managing principal with FIG Partners, said in January 2018 that the bank has emerged as an industry leader with digital banking. That represents a 180-degree turn from when BB&T was known for taking a toe-dipping approach to new technology and strategies.
“BB&T has become more nimble because it has realized how much costs it can take out of its system through digital,” Marinac said. “It is laser-focused on this effort, not waiting around for other banks to try it first.”
In September 2018, BB&T provided $5 million to Enigma, a data-software company headquartered in New York City, as its first financial-technology investment.
Enigma already was providing enhancements to BB&T’s anti-money laundering controls. The bank said the investment is expected to spur innovation and cost-savings in other areas of the company.
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