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Silicon Valley’s Hottest Money Apps Depend on Old-School Banks

Fintechs use conventional lenders for the mechanics of moving cash.
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Illustration: Charlotte Pollet for Bloomberg Businessweek

The Current ads plastered across the insides of New York City subway cars declare: “We’re not a bank.” Yes, the company offers bank accounts with debit cards. But it’s a financial technology company, and it doesn’t actually hold its customers’ money. Current’s business is essentially about building an appealing virtual storefront and menu of services. Users of its colorful app can personalize their profiles like they do on social media, including choosing a cover photo and profile picture. Current’s emails to customers may include emojis in the subject line.

You have to go to Park Avenue to understand where your money really is—there’s a chance Metropolitan Bank Holding Corp. has it. Its offices in Midtown Manhattan resemble any other traditional bank: white marble walls, dual computer monitors, bankers wearing vests emblazoned with the bank’s ticker. Metropolitan is one of two federally insured banks Current is actively working with.