Griffin, the UK’s first full-stack Banking as a Service platform, has closed an £11 million Series A funding round. Led by MassMutual Ventures, who were joined by existing investors Seedcamp, Notion Capital and EQT Ventures, it brings the total investment in the recently licensed bank to £30 million. As well as providing the capital needed to secure licensed status, Griffin will be using the funding to build on its position as an innovative bank supporting and powering other fintechs.
Griffin’s Chief Technology Officer, Maria Campbell, joined Griffin two years ago after being with Monzo and GoCardless. She adds to the impressive fintech and startup track record of Griffin’s leadership; co-founders, David Jarvis and Allen Rohner, started the company after careers that included CircleCI, AirBnB, and Standard Treasury. Campbell joined TFN to discuss the funding round and Griffin’s unique position within the UK fintech sector.
The power of a platform with the potential of a bank
“The vision for Griffin is to make it easy for anyone to build and launch financial services,” Campbell explained. “Payments are just a fundamental part of life, and we support and enable the shift in payments for consumers, embedding them in financial experiences.”
However, Griffin’s newly acquired status as a licensed bank sets it apart from other services. The licence, the culmination of a rigorous and challenging assessment by regulators, makes it unique. While other fintechs are limited to offering white-label services from existing banks, Griffin can operate as a fully fledged bank, taking deposits, offering interest and operating its own cards and all backed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The combination means it’s able to serve all the needs of its customers.
The funding that Griffin has raised was important in helping them meet the strict liquidity requirements of UK banks. “MassMutual really cares about and understands what we are doing,” said Campbell, “they have provided a lot of support and challenge for us over the process.”
MassMutual’s Managing Partner, Ryan Collins, highlighted the position that Griffin has attained. “Griffin’s licence and BaaS platform represent unique capabilities in the UK market and enable it to become a pillar for the fintech ecosystem,” he said. “Its comprehensive product suite is tailored to serve fintechs, payment services providers and brands looking to embed finance offerings.”
Campbell also noted how MassMutual had added to the diversity of Griffin’s board. “Our board is probably more involved than I think most tech companies, who is on our board really, really matters”
That diversity of thought is reflected through the 65-strong team at Griffin. “We’re about 35% women and marginalised genders, and the board is fairly gender-balanced,” she said. But she also noted some of the other diversity in the company. “The striking thing about Griffin is that our team come from a lot of different backgrounds, and the age diversity is remarkable, from around 23 to 60.”
An API-first approach to building the next generation of fintech startups
Griffin is an API-first bank, offering a developer-friendly platform to clients and is designed to support fintechs and brands that need to embed finance in their products. The funding forms a key part of their development.
The bank is currently at a regulatory stage known as ‘authorisation with restrictions’, and the funding will support their progress to become a fully authorised bank with the Prudential Regulatory Authority and Financial Conduct Authority, the UK’s main financial regulators. “This is the period where we operationalise,” explained Campbell. “We want to finish the build-out of our risk and control framework and some of our technology.” The funding will also be used to support their launch, “we want to launch with customers, enabling them to do things they want to do.”
Although they are looking to expand globally, their focus is very much on the UK market, which offers them some unique opportunities. “It was the perfect market for us to start in,” Campbell told us. “It’s a good testing ground, and the regulatory environment is very open to innovative businesses like ours.” And it’s a market where Griffin has a unique offer, providing a combination of services that its competitors cannot match.
Griffin sees itself not just as part of the next generation of banks, but helping to build the next generation of startups. “If you go to any fintech, the problem you continually see is that setting up a banking relationship is difficult,” says Campbell. The issue, she suggests, is inherent in banks that draw on organisational cultures influenced by hundreds of years of institutional history, when fintech is very much a 21st century sector. “We’re built with that in mind, so we’re able to onboard people the way that a modern software company does. We’re built for the next generation of builders.”