Banking Giant Truist Acquires FinTech Startup Long Game to Reach Younger Audience

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truist — one of the largest financial institutions in the country — acquired long gamefintech startup of 12 people, which raised over $20 million in venture capital, executives told TechCrunch exclusively.

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As of June 2021, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Truist was the 10th largest bank with $509 billion in assets. It was formed in 2019 as a result of the merger of BB&T and SunTrust banks.

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Long Game, founded in 2015, has developed a gaming mobile financial app designed to help people “save, learn and interact” with their finances. Specifically, the San Francisco-based startup wants to grab the attention of bank customers by using prize savings and random games to motivate smart financial behavior.

Neither company disclosed how much Truist paid for the Long Game or the company’s earnings, stating only that they are “growing year on year.”

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Led by co-founder and CEO Lindsey HoldenLong Game has raised over $20 million in funding from investors such as Vestigo Ventures, Franklin Templeton, Thrive Capital and the Collaborative Fund. TechCrunch spoke about the startup $6.6 million in 2017.

“More than half of Americans have less than $500 in savings, so for a lot of people, if something unexpected happens, it could seriously damage their financial lives,” Holden told TechCrunch. “We wanted to approach this problem in a different way. And we thought a lot about behavioral economics and how people are motivated, and one of the things we came up with was a behavioral economics thing called prize-linked savings.”

Prize savings is the concept of someone putting money into a savings instrument for a chance to win money, she says.

“It literally takes the lottery dynamic of people trying to win big and steers them towards something,” Holden added, “instead of buying a ticket and just throwing cash away, you put it in a savings account.”

Unsurprisingly, Long Game is more geared towards Generation Z and millennials, Holden said, noting that former Zynga employees are full-time employees.

“It’s a real game as we really use game dynamics to improve financial literacy. Long Game uses the best practices of the gaming industry to interact with users,” she said. “There is a trivia aspect and clients are rewarded for learning.”

So far, its main marketing channels have been social media marketing and the use of gaming ad networks.

For Truist, the opportunity to reach a coveted—and elusive—younger audience was appealing.

Vanessa Vreelandthe head of corporate development at Truist Ventures, the bank’s venture arm, told TechCrunch that while the Long Game acquisition was not the bank’s first fintech acquisition, it was arguably its most “significant.”

“This one was one that just had a different feel,” she said. “There was no balance sheet. This was our first fintech acquisition without a balance sheet.” Truist/SunTrust previously acquired an online lender lightstream and Service Financepoint of sale software provider.

As part of this latest acquisition, Long Game’s engineers, designers and executives will join Truist’s innovation team.

“We see ourselves as a giant startup … and as we look to expand our offerings for our retail bank, we have been looking for ways to not only attract customers, but also deepen our relationship with them,” Vreeland said. “…We thought, ‘What better way to really engage with our clientele and bring new customers from the younger generation to Truist than by offering a truly immersive gaming experience for saving and managing personal finances?… The Truist app will be ‘integrated with the Long Play experience”.

The bank plans to “relaunch” the enhanced version of the app “to make it available to more than 15 million households,” she added.

Today, Truist has offices in San Francisco where it serves its wealthy clients. as well as its corporate and investment banking clients,

“But we haven’t yet focused on building technology or innovation teams on the West Coast,” Vreeland told TechCrunch. “We are excited to accommodate a critical mass of people in our San Francisco office and we will continue to complement Lindsey and her team with technology, product and design talent as we continue to build Truist’s capabilities to meet technology needs. Our clients.”

According to Vreeland, Truist learned about The Long Game through several channels. First, Long Game competed in FIS competitions. Financial Technology Accelerator Program. She also got to know the company through personal networks.

For her part, Holden said she was drawn to Truist’s “intense attention” to the client, which she thought was similar to what The Long Game had.

We focus solely on the client’s experience of real financial progress – taking what seems difficult and sometimes emotionally fraught and turning it into something motivating, fun and even magical,” she added. “It’s great to be part of a team that is making our dream come true and investing in it, offering the best consumer financial experience.”

Image credits: Long Game co-founder and CEO Lindsey Holden / Long Game

Meanwhile, the intersection between banks and fintech startups happens more regularly when they either collaborate or compete or, in this case, one is taken over by the other. And many banks have come to the conclusion that, from a financial and logistical point of view, it makes more sense to acquire an established fintech system than to try to build it yourself.

We are a very person-oriented organization. We spent quite a lot of time meeting with our clients. and so we know that our clients want to continue to meet with us in person, but also want to work with us digitally,” Vreeland said. “We want to maintain this balance of engagement across all of the digital channels we use, and as such, we were thrilled to be able to help Long Game do that.”

As a testament to this increased focus on digital, Truist earlier this year closed dozens of physical branches.

Vreeland said she was also drawn to the fact that Long Game has a female CEO.

“We were thrilled to meet the female CEO – it was very important to us as we think about building a portfolio of products and services within Truist that are truly as diverse as the clients and communities we serve,” she added. .

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