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

Colin Walsh of Varo

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Colin Walsh of Varo

Jo Ann Barefoot

I’ve been looking for a chance to do a podcast with today’s guest for months. Colin Walsh is the founder and CEO of Varo, an online tool that aims to make it easy and affordable for consumers to manage their financial lives. Colin and I first met at last year’s fintech conference hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and I’ve enjoyed, ever since, watching the rapid growth of his startup.

Varo was still in development when we talked and is now in private beta, with plans to launch next year. I find them especially interesting in many ways, including that they raised $27 million this year; that the founders are very experienced banking executives; and that they are creating an ambitious product to meet multiple consumer needs at once. Maybe my favorite thing is that they are creating the Varo Bot, a chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to actually take the initiative to help customers manage daily money tasks easily and well. The move toward fintech solutions that are proactive instead of reactive is a real breakthrough, because it attacks one of the biggest obstacles to consumer financial health -- people not really understanding how best to manage their money, or just not thinking about that question before, rather than after, they spend or borrow. Varo is solving for that.

Colin has two and a half decades of leadership experience with global brands in Europe and the US, including as an EVP at American Express, Managing Director at Lloyds Banking Group, and an EVP at Wells Fargo.

In this episode Colin explains his motivation in undertaking a fintech startup after years at big companies. He talks about why Varo’s initial focus is simple, transparent mobile tools for millennials. He talks about the power of starting from a clean slate, with no legacy of what he calls “bad revenues,” and no challenges caused by having data “trapped in silos,” which is a major problem for banks. He also has thought-provoking advice for both banks and regulators.

Here are some links:

I know you’ll enjoy hearing his insights.

And more for our listeners:

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Meanwhile, be sure to come back next time, when my guest will be the CEO of Ripple, Chris Larsen.