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‘My mandate is to find great partners that can reach millions of consumers’: Green Dot’s Amit Parikh

  • Hailing from Apple and Discover, Amit Parikh recently joined Green Dot to run its banking as a service platform.
  • The executive joins the Tearsheet Podcast to discuss opportunities in platform banking and how to service top brands' financial offerings.
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‘My mandate is to find great partners that can reach millions of consumers’: Green Dot’s Amit Parikh

Today’s guest on the program is Amit Parikh, executive vice president of its banking as a service division. In this role, Parikh leads the organization responsible for delivering end-to-end technology and program management to Green Dot’s banking platform partners, and building financial ecosystems for some of the world’s most prominent consumer and technology companies, like Apple, Uber, and Quickbooks. 

Parikh joins Green Dot from Apple, where he built partnerships and features. He was most recently Head of Wallet Services Partnerships, a role in which he led a team responsible for transit, access and new initiatives; and he served as Chief Operating Officer of Apple Payments Inc.

Just four months into his new role, Amit joins me on the podcast to talk about banking as a service and where he plans to lead Green Dot in the future.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Amit Parikh. I am the executive vice president of banking as a service, or banking platform services, as I think banking as a service is a pretty broad term. I joined Green Dot four months ago. And essentially, I’m responsible for our partnerships, the product, and the platform that we extend out to be able to provide our bank chartered services to partners.

Let me start with why Green Dot and then I’ll go into my background. There were three reasons I joined Green Dot: the organization, the management, and then the personal aspect of it. First, the organization. I was really drawn to the mission, which is seamlessly connecting people to their money. I’ve spent my career helping people get connected to their money. And the focus on LMI, low to moderate income, or underserved, was really interesting to me. As I’ll go into later, my parents immigrated from India to the US, and the stories from my dad are interesting.

Then the assets: the bank, the partnerships, and the retail network with 90,000 locations. So everyone in the US is within a five minute drive from one of our retail network locations. And when I talk about the partnerships: some of the world’s largest and most trusted brands, Apple, Walmart, Intuit, Uber, Amazon, trust us to deploy seamless money management solutions for their customers. By the way, when I was at Apple, I worked with Green Dot. So I knew a lot about the technology and the people and the opportunity.

The second reason was the management team. I had the fortune to sit down with Dan Henry, the CEO of Green Dot during the pandemic, socially distanced outside. His passion for payments, his passion for the low to moderate income segment, just came through when I was talking to him. And then when I saw the team he was putting together…There’s five main business units at Green Dot. And the leaders that he was assembling were all new from when he joined back in March of 2020. It’s just a super impressive roster of people. And they’d all done it. They’ve all done it before. So I was super excited to join that group of people.

And then personally, from my starting at Discover, to being at Apple, to now at Green Dot. I’ve been working on this intersection of payments, access and identity for the last 20 years. And so I thought I could bring some relevant experience to the table. And from a family standpoint, as I mentioned earlier, my dad immigrated here from India with $400 in his pocket. He tells me stories of only having access to cash and living in an attic where you couldn’t stand up, because it was so tough to get into the financial system here and then waiting for student loans to come through. It’s a long story. But, based upon this opportunity, I thought between the organization, the management team and the personal aspect of it, it was very, very compelling.

The path to leading Green Dot’s banking platform

When I was at Apple, we’d always say that you can only connect the dots looking backwards. I’ve spent some time looking backwards. When I was at Discover, I started in technology — technology powers all of this. I started in technology, then I went into Investor Relations during the economic crisis, so understanding how a business truly works. And then after that, I went into payments. When I was in payments, I had the ability to work on some deals internationally. India was building their own domestic network, so they could expand the reach of electronic payments because it’s too expensive for the masses to use electronic payments. When I look at back at my Discover days, it was about expanding access to electronic payments and banking services.

At that time, I moved out to California. I started managing our relationships with Square and Apple and Google. And I was also fortunate enough that my group was responsible for the investments that Discover was making. So we had invested in Marqeta and then SecureKey — so on the payment side and on the identity side. As that journey came to an end, and when I joined Apple, Apple was starting to say, hey, how do we create a great experience on devices starting with payments? And so that’s where I started. I managed the issuers for Apple Pay and also helped build Apple Cash. When we were building Apple Cash, it was, how do we build this product so everyone can have access to an easy way to send and receive money?

And so the thread of Discover to Apple is expanding access to everybody, not just for the high end or the low end, but for everybody. Coming to Green Dot, being able to leverage that experience, and to be able to work with these amazing partners that we have that span small and medium businesses, the gig economy, wealth and investing, and basic money movement, like P2P, like Apple Cash — it is a great opportunity to take that thread and really focus on exceeding our partners’ expectations.

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Goals

I have two main goals for the team: making sure that we’re hiring the right people and training the right culture, and making sure that we’re exceeding our partners’ expectations. If we can do those two macro things, I think we will be very successful, because it’s very early in this banking as a service game.

Our mandate is to make sure that we can essentially marry financial services to the consumer’s daily journey. And that’s something I learned a lot about at Apple: thinking about the customer experience. And, you know, from a Green Dot standpoint, we have a direct business. We launched GO2bank in January. But we also have a large partner business. And so if we’re going to marry financial services to the consumer’s daily journey, and there’s a lot of literature that talks about the majority of Americans want to develop a healthier relationship between money and happiness, if we’re going to do that, we want as broad of exposure as possible to leveraging our partnerships.

So my mandate is to find these great partners that can reach millions of consumers for us to help them seamlessly connect people to their money and do it in a safe manner. Helping create that great digital experience. Digging a little bit deeper into it, I talked about the right people and the culture. The other key area that we’re focused on is operational excellence. I’ve laid out five main areas that I believe are going to help us, not just this year, but over the long term. The first one is the right people and culture. Second is operational excellence. Third is being developer friendly. Fourth, is continuing to delivering new features and programs. And the fifth is sign and renew agreements.

Positioning Green Dot

One of the things I’ve learned across my journey here is that if we focus on what we can do right with our assets, that’s the most important thing. And we’ll be successful, because you can fall into looking at what’s up with your competitors, and then you become very competitive focused versus consumer and partner focused.

One of our biggest advantages is our 20 years of experience, starting as a prepaid company and very early on doing enterprise deal — the first one was with Walmart. And then we did an enterprise deal with Intuit. And then with Uber, and then with Apple. And so, just an example, in the last year, we just launched Amazon Flex, Kabbage, and Intuit QuickBooks. And so when we go out in the market, when we talk about the fact that we have the charter, we have the platform, and we have deep experience in working with large enterprise partnerships. At the end of the day, if there’s regulatory risk coming, or new people who are getting banks, we have 10 years of experience having a bank.

We have deep expertise to provide that safety and soundness. At the end, we want to allow for our partners to create more features faster and not worry about the banking side. And so we want to provide speed and agility to that and remove a lot of the regulatory things that actually can be done in the background. And that’s where we’re really good. When we go out in the market, it’s really talking about, it’s an all in one shop. We provide the bank. We provide the platform. We provide the expertise.

Banking as a service

If you think about the beauty of Uber a few years ago, they just made payments seamless and so easy. I think that’s a very simple way to think about where the future is going to go. And so the reason why I think it’s still early is I look at three main trends. First is the war on cash: getting rid of cash and digitizing it. The second, and we’re still early in that, is cloud computing. Being able to develop products much faster and being able to scale them much easier — what’s interesting is cloud computing is only 5% of [total IT spend]. So there’s still a lot of innovation that’s going to happen in cloud computing. And then, with the pandemic, e-commerce grew. The president of Shopify made a comment, saying the future of e-commerce is still in front of us. If this is a baseball game, we’re still at the hotel. We haven’t left for the stadium. And so I get super excited when I think about how early we are in digitizing cash and cloud computing.

I have a 14 year old and a five year old. And when my 14 year old realizes that you used to have to type in your credit card numbers into a random website, I think she’s just gonna roll her eyes at me. When she’s 19 years old — five years from now — I think it’s going to be a very different world. We have these world class partners. We can continue to simplify in our own shop and continue to add products and allow our partners to innovate in the user experience, while we do what we do best, which is the regulated side of money movement and account opening.

Short term plans

We have a bunch of new launches that we did in the last six months. One of our goals is getting those partnerships to exit velocity. We launched Amazon Flex, Kabbage, QuickBooks, and Apple Family. Those are four really large initiatives. You’ll see TV advertising for some of these products and there’s a lot of partner marketing going on. And so when you learn something new, you’re always working out the kinks, and saying, Oh, wait, we didn’t understand that, or we shouldn’t have done that. And so, for the next six months, for the end of the year, it’s really this focus on our current features we’ve deployed and making sure that we’re preparing for these to really take off.

I brought in a bunch of new people on the team. That’s been great, because we’ve really upgraded talent within our department. And so, for the end of this year, we’re really focused on execution, and to continue to innovate on those features that we just launched with. Once we see that growth, we’ll continue to add more and more, but we need to be focused on the basics here, on making sure we’re doing the best that we can for these partners, as we and our partners have invested a lot in these major launches.

Supporting partner growth

Every one of the partnerships is different. We’re hiring seasoned people within my team to essentially give white glove service to these partners. It could be that we’re looking at the data and saying, hey, someone was trying to do remote deposit capture, and we need to improve the reading, increase the approval rates. How do we dig into that, and really figure that out? For each of these partners, we are spending. We’re spending daily, and saying, hey, how do we improve this? And so for all four of these partners, it’s very different.

We’ve brought in very specific partnership managers and product folks who are dedicated to these partners. There’s a long list of things that we’re doing for each of them, but they’re all very different. At the end of the day, we’re building them into our platform. And so when we build something for Amazon Flex, we can also leverage that for Uber as an example, because that’s the way we’ve segmented it. Those are our gig economy partners. And when we build something for SMB, we’re able to then extend that to one of our other partners in SMB. We’re really getting into the details and working through the edge cases and any bugs that we find post launch.

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