(Reuters) - Chime has held preliminary talks with investment banks about launching a stock market flotation, which could value the financial services startup at more than $30 billion, as soon as the end of 2021, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Since launching in 2012, Chime has emerged as one of the fastest growing financial technology platforms in the United States. It briefly overtook online brokerage Robinhood Markets last year as the most valuable U.S. fintech “unicorn”.
San Francisco-based Chime’s chief executive, Chris Britt, said in September that it wanted to be ready for an initial public offering (IPO) in the next 12 months.
Preparations have now begun in an effort to capitalize on a boom which has seen more people banking online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sources said on Tuesday.
Chime, which was valued at $14.5 billion in a private fundraising round in September, has raised over $1.5 billion in capital, and has more than $1 billion of cash at its disposal.
Britt said in an interview this month that it does not need to raise additional capital soon. He declined to comment on any IPO plans, but said Chime was evaluating all options.
“When we get closer to make the decision to actually go public, we will evaluate all of the potential paths to do so, including direct listings, traditional (IPOs), and SPACs.”
A special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) is a blank-check firm which seeks to merge with a privately-owned entity in a deal type that has become very common in the last year.
Britt added that Chime has “every intention of being a large, independent public company”, but has not set a timeline.
A Chime spokeswoman declined to comment on talks with banks.
Founded by former Visa executive Britt and Comcast Corp alumnus Ryan King, Chime makes money by earning a fee from payment processors such as Visa every time a customer uses a Chime debit card. It has also launched a credit card.
It provides financial services through partnerships with brick-and-mortar banks, primarily through a Chime-branded checking account with no fees and a ‘Spot Me’ feature that allows customers to go overdrawn without penalty.
Chime has partnerships with banks such as The Bancorp Bank and Stride Bank, through which it routes deposits to customer accounts, and Britt said it has benefited from increased consumer confidence in using digital platforms during the pandemic.
While declining to disclose the number of Chime users, the company spokeswoman said the average person spent 33% more last year through Chime than in 2019.
“People don’t really want to touch ATMs anymore. People don’t want to handle cash as much as they used to. And people are getting more and more comfortable with paying for things through apps, managing their accounts through apps,” Britt said.
Chime has also drawn customers by offering Americans early access to their stimulus checks, part of what Britt called an “obsession” to support customers in a difficult time.
Over the last three stimulus cycles, Chime has routed over $6 billion of stimulus funds, including $3.5 billion to more than 1 million customers in the latest cycle, the spokeswoman said.
Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bengaluru and David French in New York; Editing by Alexander Smith
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