A Brief History of Varo
Varo Bank, NA. – Founded in 2020 as America’s first all-digital bank, Varo relaunched itself after a lackluster 1st year start during Covid (2020) with a groundbreaking new 2021 campaign – “A bank for all of us”- as part of its first multi-million dollar, integrated brand launch across TV, radio & internet specifically in the USA initially with TV spots February 7, 2021, during the Super Bowl, in select markets.
Varo’s stated mission: financial opportunity and inclusion for all. Their “A bank for all of us” campaign “reimagines” money and puts modern Americans front & center, by highlighting the ethnic diversity inherent in the modern USA & features a range of American faces’ colors & shapes. Varo supports the renewed push for Harriet Tubman as the new face of the $20 bill, to showcase people, cultures & communities long underrepresented in finances.”
Varo Bank is designed for the millions of Americans left behind by traditional banks, combining the affordability and accessibility of a fintech app with the strength and breadth of services of a bank. Varo challenges long-held norms in the banking industry by removing barriers to entry, including offering bank accounts with no credit check, no monthly fees & no minimum balance fees. Varo doesn’t charge punitive fees, like overdraft fees, & instead offers free and low cost cash advances to qualifying direct deposit customers, to help their money work harder for them. The ongoing impact of the 2020-2021 pandemic & quaratines makes Varo’s mission even more relevant. The most financially vulnerable, and people of color specifically, are enduring the brunt of the most negative impacts. An internal study of Varo’s customer base showed that 77% of customers had dipped into their emergency savings in the last 5 months of 2020 to cover surprise expenses or to manage loss of income due to economic fallout from the COVID crisis.
Colin Walsh, Founder and CEO says, “Varo is unique among all national banks and FinTecs combined – we are inclusive, accessible, & designed around the way our customers live, empowering people with the products & support they need to create healthy financial habits and be in control of their finances. Varo Bank offers customers premium bank accounts that have no minimum balance requirement or monthly account fee, high-interest savings accounts, & tech-first features to help people save & manage their money effortlessly.”
Varo’s visual and verbal provocations of long-held financial conventions, openly questioning the status quo, and asking questions that are hyper-relevant in our culture. Questions and answers that lift American consumers into greater positions of empowerment. As the 2021 campaign evolved, Varo highlighted its own customers & their personal stories as a way of raising visibility and building awareness of the vast majority of Americans that have been left behind or underserved by the traditional banking industry. Russell Westbrook, NBA veteran, has been their spokesperson since early 2022.
My 2 Year Experiment
It’s been an overall positive experience, and overall I’d rate Varo 4 out of 5 stars.
Let’s dispense with the negatives first:
1) Two-step verification whereby a numerical code is texted to my mobile number or my Google Voice number has been spotty and rare at best and prone to consistent failure with error messages. I have to phone them on a device that I’m not using to access their URL, which relates to and segues into complaint numbers 2, 3 and 4.
2) The app consistently fails, also it lacks the better functionality and stability of the www.varomoney.com website. The website is spotty too.
3) No 24/7 live human phone support: it takes up to and most often over 15 minutes of being on hold to get a live support representative to help.
4) Varo Telephone Customer Support is yet another buggy, frustrating, and consistently time-wasting voicemail system. Often it hangs up on me, after any number of what it inaccurately deems my “repeated failed attempts” to get a live human on the phone.
5) It’s been 2 years and ALL these issues have not been fixed as of the time of publishing, and yes I clear my cache regularly & have a high-quality business mobile phone and business laptop with fully updated OS.
1) Their live customer support personnel are consistent: very polite, apologetic, helpful, and efficient.
2) Though the hours of live support aren’t 24/7 I’ve learned to live with the plentiful good & adjust accordingly.
3) They recently started loaning me $20 for a week at a time, soon it will be $50, then $100 and this is helping me build a better relationship with them, leading to number 4.
4) Soon I will apply for their new Credit Builder Credit Card, Varo Believe. It’s much better for building and improving my credit than the standard debit cards backed by a deposit, which I’ve had and have used to good effect with two other vendors.
5) Varo are by design a friend and ally of the little guys and gals taken advantage of, ignored by or shut out by the traditional banks.
6) Varo are a shining example that being good, being honest and being altruistic can lead to great success in business. Other FinTec start-ups ought to take notice!
7) Open a Varo Online Bank account here: varomoney.com/Brett364