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Case Study: Ivella

How Unit helped Ivella launch an expense-sharing app for couples

What Bridge built with Unit:
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Ivella saw an opportunity to transform how couples share expenses.


With Unit, Ivella makes a seamless banking experience available to its users, including bank accounts, custom debit cards, and split card transactions.

Better finances for couples

Ivella is a fintech company that helps couples manage their finances. Their first product is called the Split Account; it’s a way for couples to automatically split their expenses. Co-Founder and CEO Kahlil Lalji says he got the idea from his own relationship.

“My girlfriend and I were Venmoing each other multiple times per day,” recalls Lalji. “We needed a way to split expenses without the commitment of opening a joint account.” 

Ivella targets 20- and 30-somethings who’ve been with their partners for one to three years. Often, these couples are splitting 20-30 transactions per month using peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo and Cash. With Ivella, they simply set a ratio that determines how much each partner will contribute towards expenses, and every Ivella card transaction is automatically divided along those lines. For example, one partner might choose to cover 75% of all expenses, while the other picks up the remaining 25%. 

Couples can also go into their accounts and instantly, retroactively change the split ratio of an existing transaction. In the near future,  they’ll be able to set different rules for different categories—for example, going 50-50 on rent but 60-40 on restaurants.

What Ivella built with Unit

  • Fee-free checking accounts to easily split expenses
  • Custom-designed debit cards (virtual and physical)
  • Fee-free deposits and withdrawals at over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs
  • Fee-free transfers between partner accounts

“The fastest in terms of product development”

Ivella partners with Unit to power their banking features. In other words, Unit provides banking infrastructure and streamlines compliance so that Ivella can focus on other priorities: things like developing necessary payment logic and building a best-in-class user interface.

"Working with Unit has been terrific. Of everyone in the space, they’re moving the fastest in terms of product development.” - Kahlil Lalji, CEO of Ivella

Unit wasn’t Ivella’s first banking-as-a-service provider. They had previously partnered with another vendor in the space—but decided to part ways because of delays involving their technical and compliance teams.

“With our previous vendor, we were throttled everywhere,” recalls Lalji. “Approvals that should have taken hours ended up taking weeks. I remember thinking, ‘This is not sustainable.’”

After switching to Unit, Ivella launched banking with just two engineers, in two and a half months.

Seamlessly split transactions

When someone swipes a debit card, how does Ivella instantly split the transaction between two different bank accounts? It’s not an easy problem to solve, as evidenced by the fact that so many couples rely heavily on Venmo and Cash App.

For end-customers, the problem with reconciling accounts on Venmo or Cash is twofold:

  1. It requires manual inputs from both payer and payee
  2. It takes 1-3 days to settle up after (for example) splitting a restaurant bill

Ivella solves both problems by taking advantage of real-time authorizations and automated book payments (internal transfers between separate Ivella bank accounts). 

To illustrate, let’s say that a couple dines at a restaurant, and one partner swipes their debit card on a $100 bill. Ivella intercepts the authorization and performs a balance check on both partner accounts. Once they’ve determined that both parties can support their half of the bill, Ivella splits the payment and sends an approval message back to the card network.

What enables Ivella’s real-time transaction splitting is Unit’s ability to programmatically authorize card purchases. Because Unit built its own ledger, clients can automatically tag individual transactions (like the $100 restaurant bill) and develop custom logic for processing different transaction types (like rent and dining). 

"To make our product work, we have to be able to receive and act on transactions as they occur, with very little latency. Unit gives us the visibility and flexibility we need.”  - Kahlil Lalji, CEO of Ivella

“They always deliver.”

Early uptake of Ivella’s banking app has been promising. Their average debit-card transaction size is about two standard deviations higher than the national average, which suggests they’re attracting high-net-worth customers.

Looking ahead, Ivella’s product roadmap includes things like joint bank accounts, joint credit products, and joint investment accounts. In building that roadmap, Lalji says that the feedback and communication loop with Unit’s team has been paramount.

“From a technical perspective, we’ve asked a lot of Unit—but they always deliver. They’ve been very receptive to incorporating our feedback, even adding API endpoints at our request. You just don’t see that from other providers.”  - Kahlil Lalji, CEO of Ivella

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Ivella is a financial technology company and not a bank. Banking services provided by Blue Ridge Bank N.A.; Member FDIC. The Ivella Visa® Debit Card is issued by Blue Ridge Bank N.A. pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

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