Brex, other fintechs stand by troubled banks


Brex moved $200 million of its corporate funds from big banks to Silicon Valley Bank Thursday, signaling confidence and loyalty to what last Friday became the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history.

Following the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s seizure of control at the bank on March 10 — a day rife with uncertainty for customers of SVB, which catered to tech startups — it decided to backstop uninsured deposits and then opened “a bridge bank,” where new and existing depositors will have full access to their funds.

The bank run, fueled by Twitter and Silicon Valley group chats, had drained $42 billion from the bank in a single day on Thursday, leading to fears of a startup “mass extinction” and market contagion.

While some depositors have moved their funds since gaining access to their SVB accounts Monday, others, bolstered by the FDIC’s deposit guarantee, have opted to stay. And others that participated in the bank run, like Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, have opted to put their funds back into the bank. 

“Silicon Valley Bank understands the unique needs and nuances of the startup community and has played an important role in driving innovation for the last 40 years,” said Brex Co-Founder and Co-CEO Henrique Dubugras. “With the unlimited FDIC insurance backstop and the criticality of the Bank to the technology ecosystem, we believe it’s safe and wise to deposit part of our funds to SVB as part of a diversification strategy.”

A Brex spokesperson did not confirm if that $200 million was a new deposit or a re-deposit, but Dubugras’ loyalty to SVB is a reflection of the depth of their relationship. SVB provided Brex’s first credit facility in the company’s early days – so without SVB, there may have been no Brex, and the same can be said for other tech companies, too.

“We believe it would be hard for any other bank to support startups and the technology industry better than SVB,” Dubugras said.

Beyond its own deposits, Brex has expanded its relationship with SVB by offering its spend management tools to SVB customers; and Brex customers can transfer their own funds to SVB through Brex’s dashboard.

San Francisco-based insurtech Venteur also opted to lean into its loyalty to SVB, and CEO and founder Stacy Edgar said she felt “pretty good about the bank at the moment.”

SVB’s personal touch, she explained, is both hard to overlook and hard to abandon.

“Since Monday, we’re hearing from Silicon Valley Bank multiple times a day. They’ve always been very high touch. … There’s a human there that you always interface with and who’s coaching you, guiding you, and it’s more than a bank account in that regard for a lot of startups. It’s a mentorship relationship,” Edgar said. “And that’s still there.”

UNest, a San Francisco-based fintech focused on investing for children, did opt to withdraw its funds at SVB, but ended up shifting them to First Republic Bank, which also had a shaky week last week. Nonetheless, UNest is not planning to bail on First Republic.

Nearly a dozen of the nation’s biggest banks boosted First Republic with a $30 billion cash injection Thursday in an effort to stabilize its balance sheet after share prices plunged in the wake of other bank failures.

Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo each funneled $5 billion in uninsured deposits to the bank, while Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley deposited $2.5 billion each. BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, State Street, Truist and U.S. Bank each provided $1 billion to prop up the $212 billion-asset lender.

The multibank support for First Republic came just one week after UNest moved a large portion of its funds from SVB to First Republic, which it had a pre-existing relationship with.

Now, UNest Chief Operating Officer Mike Doniger said the fintech is in the process of “creating multiple options” for itself “given lessons learned from late last week and early this week, just so we have some contingencies.”

But First Republic is “a great bank,” he said. “With new news tomorrow, things may change, but we haven’t bailed on First Republic yet,” he said.


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