[Watch on-demand] Learn how Unit helps banks launch and manage digital programs in our recent webinar. Watch here.
Deepening our commitment to banks

March 23, 2024

10 minutes

Building for 2044 and beyond

The way people store, move, and access money in 20 years will be more efficient, more convenient, and more tailored than it is today. We started Unit in 2019 because we believe that high-quality financial infrastructure has a big role to play in supporting this transformation.

It’s exciting to watch that vision become a reality. Today, banks use Unit’s technology to serve enterprises such as Invoice2Go (Bill.com), Roofstock, and Relay. Together, we process more than 10 million API calls per day and serve 1.4 million end-customers. 

These small businesses, independent workers, and consumers are the ones you don’t see in the news every day: freight businesses, restaurants, homeowners, property managers, retirees, and healthcare clinics—to name just a few. But they’re the reason we’re passionate about our work, and nothing will distract us from our mission of serving them better.

It’s an important moment in the history of financial services. It’s full of promise, and it comes with a unique set of challenges. We know that to keep fulfilling our mission in 20 years, we need to build a company and an ecosystem that operates responsibly and sustainably.

In this post, we’ll:

  1. Explain how Unit supports banks and the companies that want to work with them
  2. Share what we’ve learned about the importance of direct bank relationships
  3. Outline how we’re evolving as a company—and deepening our commitment to banks

We believe that financial infrastructure is vitally important, and the decisions we make today will impact how the industry operates in 10, 20, and 40 years. In short, we’re building for the future.  

Unit’s role in the ecosystem

Embedded finance refers to the practice of banks offering financial products to customers via digital channels owned and managed by third-party program partners (i.e., technology companies).

It’s how non-bank companies like Roofstock and Relay are able to make bank accounts, debit and credit cards, payments, and lending products available to their customers inside their apps and websites. 

To enable embedded finance, the bank and the technology company need to be able to communicate digitally. That’s where Unit comes in: we facilitate direct relationships between banks and technology companies by providing technology and managed services. Here’s what that means:

Banks. Unit is a third-party service provider to banks. We provide technology and managed services to banks, similar to a core processor. Unit does not act as principal in connection with these activities and instead serves the bank under the bank’s ultimate control and oversight. 

  • Technology. Unit provides a host of technology services to help banks launch, manage, and oversee digital programs. They include ledgering, application flows, account creation, account management, account closure, card issuance, oversight dashboards, reporting, and data access.
  • Managed Services. As a complement to the technology services, Unit provides banks with related support services, including assisting the bank with customer dispute handling, marketing oversight, reconciliation, and certain other operational responsibilities. These services are provided directly by Unit to the bank under the bank’s oversight. The bank retains ultimate approval and control over all these functions.

Technology Companies. Unit provides technology services to the technology companies that want to partner with banks, including APIs, white-label user interface components, dashboards, fraud detection tools, and technical support.

The importance of direct, ongoing relationships

When banks offer their financial products through third-party channels, banks are expected to have proper oversight over them. This is why we think direct relationships between banks and technology companies should form the foundation for most types of embedded finance.

From the beginning, all banks and their technology company clients using the Unit platform have had direct relationships. Here’s what that means:

  1. Banks and technology companies mutually decide whether to work together. Banks and technology companies engage in a mutual due-diligence process that helps both parties learn about one another and get comfortable with a relationship. 
  1. Banks contract directly with their partners. Once a bank and a technology company have decided to work together, they sign a contract that forms the core of their relationship. All banks and technology companies using the Unit platform have a direct contractual relationship with one another giving the bank control, oversight, and approval over the program. 
  1. Banks are in control. Banks vet and approve the program structure, funds flows, program attributes, and all vendors for each third-party program before launch. Banks must approve all partner marketing and any changes to the program features or limits. They have the authority to freeze and close accounts and take any necessary steps to ensure any identified issues are remediated. Banks use Unit’s oversight tools that give them visibility into things like transactions, account balances, disputes, and KYC/KYB information.

How our platform is evolving

At Unit, one of our company values is “evolution”. As industry best practices emerge and regulatory expectations become clearer, we will continue to adapt and transform those learnings into action and impact for the banks and technology companies that build with us. 

Unlike single-bank integrations, we designed Unit to provide that redundancy from day one. Today, six banks are managing programs via the Unit platform, and we are continuing to serve new banks. In the coming weeks, we’ll be announcing additional bank customers.

We’re in the process of winding down relationships with three of our early bank customers: Choice Bank, Piermont Bank, and Blue Ridge Bank. They were important partners as we began our journey, and we appreciate the opportunity to have worked with them. Together, Piermont and Choice accounted for around 3% of total end-customer deposits for programs managed by banks using the Unit platform.

For us, these last few years have provided a valuable opportunity to examine how we operate and identify opportunities to improve. Here are the things we are changing:

1. Designing for banks as key customers

As a company, we are big proponents of the “jobs-to-be-done” framework. We get precise about the needs of our customers, and aspire to improve at meeting those needs. Although banks have always been important to us, we realized late last year we had not yet clearly named the jobs-to-be-done for them. This didn’t mean of course that we weren’t working hard for banks, but naming their priorities will help us be more crisp in our execution.

In 2024, we officially defined three jobs-to-be-done for banks to guide our work and hold ourselves accountable:

  • Risk management. Banks must ensure that their digital strategy, as well as individual programs, fall within the bank’s own risk appetite and satisfy key stakeholders, including its regulators. 
  • Profitability. Banks must ensure that digital programs are financially attractive for them. This job is true for both revenue (top line) and profitability (bottom line).
  • Reliability. Banks must trust the reliability of Unit’s team, systems, and processes. 

In February, to complement this focus on bank jobs-to-be-done, Unit promoted Vinny Rezavker to Director of Bank Partnerships. Vinny has over 10 years of experience across AML and sanctions, data privacy, and regulatory compliance at multiple large financial institutions. In this new role, Vinny will be responsible for monitoring and promoting the success of our bank customers.

2. Doubling down on direct relationships

As discussed above, Unit has always facilitated direct relationships between banks and the companies they work with to build digital programs. 

We have learned that additional communication and alignment between banks and their partners are becoming increasingly more important. The primary reason is clearer regulatory expectations and best practices around third-party programs. More engagement also improves business outcomes: ensuring smooth program launches, timely approval of new features, better experiences for end-customers, and more opportunities for the relationship to grow. 

To support this, we’ve reorganized certain operational teams, revised processes throughout the lifecycle of bank-client relationships, and are evolving our software to facilitate direct, auditable collaboration.

3. Investing more in our bank oversight product

The Unit platform is a single operating system for a bank’s direct programs. It ensures consistency and gives the bank real-time visibility into all data and activity, by program and on an aggregate basis.

We realized over the last year that this approach puts us in a unique position to assist them with the complex task of oversight. As our bank customers approached us with more requests to strengthen their oversight across programs, we realized how acute the need is for better oversight tools in the industry, and how much value we give them by leaning into this area.

We’re energized by this work. In 2023, we established a stand-alone product and engineering team dedicated to bank oversight, and in 2024 we are accelerating our investment in this area. 

Just this year we have upgraded our audit logs, decision workflows, and KYC and account controls, to name just a few. New oversight platform projects are reviewed and prioritized by a cross-functional team of our risk, product, and engineering leadership. We have an exciting roadmap ahead for our bank oversight product, and we are looking forward to sharing more soon. 

The road ahead

The financial services industry is going to look a lot different in the next twenty years. We have the opportunity to extend financial services to businesses and consumers who couldn’t access them before. We can help people get paid faster, offer them better financing, and help them take control of their finances—using apps and websites they already trust.

To serve our mission in 20+ years, we need to make sure that our ecosystem operates responsibly and sustainably. We are deepening our commitment to banks: designing around them as key customers, doubling down on direct bank-client relationships, and investing more in bank oversight technology. All of this will ensure that banks properly oversee the technology companies they choose to partner with, and that they are in control of these relationships.

Looking ahead, we’re planning to share additional learnings and best practices. You can find them in our Banking Matters series.

Last updated

March 23, 2024

Bring financial features to life and start building — today