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Jo Ann Barefoot explores how to create fair and inclusive consumer financial services through innovative ideas for industry and regulators

Green Dot CEO Steve Streit and Professor Dog on no-bite Banking

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Green Dot CEO Steve Streit and Professor Dog on no-bite Banking

Jo Ann Barefoot

Professor Dog provides inspiration for Greendot Bank's effort to create financial products that serve and safeguard consumers' financial lives.

Professor Dog provides inspiration for Greendot Bank's effort to create financial products that serve and safeguard consumers' financial lives.

Once known as Streiter the Heater, Steve Streit is now often called the Prepaid Card King. He is the founder and CEO of Pasadena-based Green Dot Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary bank, Green Dot Bank, described as a “pro-consumer financial technology innovator with a mission to reinvent personal banking for the masses.”

In this episode of Barefoot Innovation, I spoke with Steve about the former disc jockey’s pioneering foray into the re-loadable prepaid debit card industry and how his “highly curious mind” keeps him at the forefront of financial services innovation. As someone who created radio stations with names like Easy 105 and Country 103 (many of which still thrive in today’s fragmented broadcast market), Steve is known for bringing simplicity to his platforms, which now include the Green Dot prepaid card and its award-winning GoBank mobile checking account. Speaking of financial products, Steve believes: “If you have to have an owner’s manual, you messed up.” It is easy to see how he translated his connection with radio listeners into serving bank customers with an affordable product and cutting-edge technology that did not require opening a bank account.

Conceived in 1999 as iGEN, a company offering teenagers a pre-loaded debit card so that they could make purchases online, the company was re-branded as Green Dot when Steve realized that his product was primarily used by under-banked adults. Effectively tapping into a 73 million person “niche” market, Green Dot has since built a large-scale "branch-less bank" distribution network of more than 100,000 U.S. locations at retailers, neighborhood financial service center locations, and tax preparation offices,as well as an online presence in leading app stores and through providers of online tax preparation. Its MoneyCard partnership with Walmart was recently renewed for five years.

In 2011, under Steve’s leadership, Green Dot became a bank-holding company with the purchase of Bonneville Bank in Provo, Utah.  The subsequent acquisition of mobile geo-location start-up Loopt led to the development of GoBank, the first bank account designed from scratch to be opened and used on a mobile device. This past Tuesday, Green Dot announced the official opening of Green Dot Shanghai a high-tech facility that will bolster its “follow the sun” strategy to deliver high-scale, high-quality, and efficient technology services around the clock.

Steve has won numerous awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2005 award for Southern California, as well as its National award winner in the Financial Services category in 2011.  He has been honored with the Prepaid Industry Leadership Award in 2008 and recognized as the 2011 recipient of the Technology Leadership Award from Los Angeles County Technology Week. 

The father of seven grown children, Steve also works to improve the lives of children in need. In 2009 he founded Patti’s Way, a charitable foundation providing grants to single mothers and their children. Steve also volunteers in mentoring LA County Foster children and supports the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Police Athletic League (PAL).

Not one to be left out, Steve’s schnauzer, Professor Dog, was on hand as I interviewed him by phone at his California home. Listen to this week’s episode to find out how Professor Dog became an inspiration for Green Dot Bank in our lively discussion on how innovators and banks can best create products that serve and safeguard financial consumers’ lives.

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