Azlo, which calls itself the first digital banking platform for business, is a fee-free business bank that is part of BBVA. It aims at freelancers and professional service people, small businesses and e-commerce firms, said Cameron Peake, co-founder and CEO. “Our focus is on digital first businesses.”
Cameron Peake, Co-Founder and CEO of Azlo
Courtesy of Azlo
Good thing, because Azlo is (almost) all digital. It has no branches and while its sole banking product is a checking account, it has no checks — all transactions are digital — from opening an account to making payments and depositing checks. Users can use its bill pay service to mail a check to pretty much anyone in the U.S. at no charge. Or “You can send payments directly to your payee’s bank account with their bank account and routing number,” it explains in its web site. Customers can get cash, also with no fees, through the 55,000 Allpoint ATM network.
Azlo accounts include unlimited ACH transactions, with no fees, to help small business owners pay and get paid quickly. It is also in beta with real-time payments through Visa Direct rails.
Banks are missing the needs of small businesses, said Peake. They may have digital apps for consumers, and services for large corporations, but they lack the modern digital user experience for digital-first entrepreneurs and sole practitioners.
“We allow them to integrate those apps with their bank account. Our hypothesis is that your true cash position is the measure of the health of your business. The more we can bring insight around the true cash position, the more value we bring to our customers.”
Azlo includes an invoicing app which one reviewer on Apple’s App store praised: “With their invoice feature I can bill companies for my work; I now get paid in half the time it was taking before I had this awesome bank. All around an excellent solution for those of us in the ‘gig economy” or otherwise self employed.” Azlo has a 4+ rating on the App store and a generally positive review on Business.org, which warns that the all-digital bank might not be for everybody.
Peake said a lot of the bank’s tech customers are very early stage — pre-revenue, so the absence of fees is very attractive to them as they get started. “We don’t have brick and mortar expenses so we are happy to acquire early stage customers and grow with them.” The bank also is developing communities of users, both online and through events. Its customers are hungry for content about how to grow a business, how to do e-commerce, the importance of design or some simply seek to overcome the isolation of working from home and are eager to connect with someone.
“Facebook (where Azlo has a closed user group) has been a really robust area for our entrepreneurs to exchange information and give us direct feedback. Some of the intangible aspects of what we promote have been really important; they show we aren’t just transactional, we really are invested in these companies as companies and we want them to succeed.”
Peake said that in the year and a half since it launched, Azlo has focused on the basics of a business checking account. The back end, with its accounting and regulatory compliance, is handled by BBVA which uses the Accenture Alnova modern core banking platform, so Azlo has been able to work on the user experience tailored for small digital-first users. Azlo has some basic visualization tools but expects to add more and tools like categorization to help customers develop business intelligence, Peake added.