Analysis Featured

Anatomy of a modern post-IPO bank

In June 2016 ChimpChange was publicly listed on Australia Stock Exchange and raised $15 million AUS$ which is roughly $11.5-$12 million USD.

High transactional cost, minimum monthly balance, overdraft fees, fees for sending a wire to wire payments and lack of technology are the pain points for millions of bank clients.

ChimpChange understands the issues and that is why it launched a non-branch mobile-only banking service. It is a virtual bank that is primarily based on an app, however, will perform most of the things a regular checking account will do.

Ever since it launched its product in 2015, it has enjoyed humongous success. Within a few months, it managed to create 80,000 new accounts and till date, the number has reached 100,000+ and counting.

The growth rate was so fast that it had to deliberately slow it down as it did not have enough resources to sustain the growth. Initial estimation for 2016 was 3,000 customers per month but it ended up getting 3,000 customers per day, beating all expectations. So in order to sustain the growth, it raised more money and tried to understand what customer likes and what they want, so that it can enhance customer’s experience.

The market

Approximately, 7.7 % of American households were unbanked according to a National survey by FDIC. This translates into over 9.6 million households which are not being served by traditional banks. As a result, several unbanked and underbanked customers turned to prepaid cards and other instruments to serve their money needs.

With the millennial generation checking out of the brick and mortar banking experience due to exorbitant charges for services and a general perception that Wall Street is evil, a huge opportunity has emerged for Silicon Valley to provide a tech-enabled solution to millions of unbanked/underbanked residents of America.


To tap this opportunity, Los Angeles-based ChimpChange was launched in 2011. But to ensure an awesome product, a lot of beta testing was done in the earlier years and the actual product was launched in 2015. Ash Shilkin, (founder and CEO) was CFO of CO2 Australia Limited, a company providing environmental solutions.

The only reason it was listed in Australian Stock Exchange and not US Stock Exchange was it is easier and less expensive for small companies to list in Australia. If the company is able to generate enough volume, it might list on US Stock Exchange as well and look at the possiblity of dual listing. In the beginning of this year, it was able to raise $3.5- $4 million USD through various small rounds of fundraising.


The main advantage of using ChimpChange is the ease of opening an account which merely takes few minute, no matter where ever someone is or whatever he or she is doing. It will conduct full KYC (Know Your Customer) checks as needed by the U.S. Patriot Act. Information collected is sent to three companies entrusted by its partnering bank to run ID checks. Once DOB and SSN matches, next level of security is OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control) checks, to make sure the client is not involved in any kind of illegal activities.

Once the clients pass the primary ‘gate’ of biometric authentication, they are then asked series of personal questions which can only be answered by the account holder; once the client passes through the full KYC process, an account will be opened.

The account will be issued with an account number, routing number, and a debit MasterCard. Customer will be able to directly deposit their pay into the account, can also link one of their other alternative bank accounts (like Chase or Citi account), or can load money into the account at any 7Eleven, Wal-Mart, CVS, Kmart, Walgreens or RiteAid.

One can send cash to anyone within the U.S. by merely using their cell phones, it does not matter whether the recipient is a ChimpChange member or not. Another cool feature is one can send photos and videos along with the money. The customer is able to take cash out of the account by using their debit MasterCard anyplace in the world where MasterCard is accepted, or can have a free ATM withdrawal at any MoneyPass ATM.

The startup also offers cheque deposit facility by just taking the cheque’s picture; a customer can wait for it to clear for free which usually takes 10 days or they can pay the fees and it can be transferred to their account right there and then. As the start-up is targeting millennials and under-banked population it has kept minimal fees, 2% for Government and Payroll cheques, and 5% for Personal cheques and to get money in real time, customer can use check cash in location such as seven eleven and pay 5% to 15% in fees depending upon the amount.
Customers can log in to their account on company’s website; it is a very user-friendly website which provides all the essential information customers needs to know about their accounts like account balance, transaction history or they can download the app which is available for free on the web stores and has a very simple log in process.

Only things customer need is their mobile phone number or password or touch ID. For now, it does not offer saving account and if it is able to sustain the growth and generate enough volume in coming months, it could start lending in P2P market. It also used to have a referral program, for every reference made by an existing customer they get $5.


ChimpChange has partnered with the Central Bank of Kansas City and all the client money is stored with them. Even though it is not a bank but still it has to comply with all the rules and regulations of a bank and it gets underlying banking services from its partnering bank. Even established banks like to partner start-ups because they cannot create industry leading technology or are not able to get market traction in order to be successful. Another reason is banks in the US do not enjoy a good reputation among the general population. Occupy Wall Street was an attestation to the fact.

It has partnered with a B2B company called Surkus, and it provided ChimpChange with 5,000 established customers for on-boarding. It primarily uses various social media avenues like Facebook to promote its product online.

The Future

With the number of unsatisfied bank customers increasing on a daily basis and people’s hesitancy to use banks for their daily banking needs, demand for ChimpChange products is bound to increase manifold in coming years. Now with more money pumped in to develop new products and strengthen the service platform, contrary to its name ChimpChange is on its way to capturing some serious market share.


George Popescu
George Popescu

About the author

George Popescu

Serial entrepreneur.

George sold and exited his most successful company, Boston Technologies (BT) group, in 2014. BT was a technology, market maker, high-frequency trading and inter-broker broker-dealer in the FX Spot, precious metals and CFDs space company. George was the Founder and CEO and he boot-strapped from $0 to a $20+ million in revenue without any equity investment. BT has been #1 fastest growing company in Boston in 2011 according to the Boston Business Journal and the only company being in top 10 fastest in 2012-13 as it was #5 in 2012. BT has been on the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing companies in the US for 4 years in a row ( #143, #373, #897 and #1270). After the company sale in July 2014 until February 2015 George was Head-of-Strategy for Currency Mountain ( ), a USD 100 million+ holding company focused on retail and medium institutional currencies, precious metals, stocks, fixed income and commodities businesses.

• Over the last 10 years, George founded 10 companies in online lending, craft beer brewery, exotic sports car rental space, hedge funds, peer-reviewed scientific journal ( Journal of Cellular and Molecular medicine…) and more. George advised 30+ early stage start-ups in different fields. George was also a mentor at MIT’s Venture Mentoring Services and Techstar Fintech in NY.

• Previously George obtained 3 Master's Degrees: a Master's of Science from MIT working on 3D printing, a Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Supelec, France and a Master's in Nanosciences from Paris XI University. Previously he worked as a visiting scientist at MIT in Bio-engineering for 2 years. George had 3 undergrad majors: Maths, Physics and Chemistry. His scientific career led to about 10 publications and patents.

• On the business side, Boston Business Journal has named me in the top 40 under 40 in 2012 in recognition of his business achievements.

• George is originally from Romania and grew up in Paris, France.

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