Online-Only Bank “Simple” Shuts Down With No Equivalent Replacement in Sight

A simple credit card on a vanity.
Simple

Simple started out … well, simply. In the early days, it was an invite-only, online-only bank with integrated money management tools. Imagine if your Bank App came with Mint built right into the interface. That was essentially Simple, and it grew quickly. Was being the keyword because customers are getting emails that parent bank BBVA USA will shut down Simple and transition users over to its services. And it won’t be the same.

The emails are going out to users right now, and it states that BBVA chose to shut down Simple for “strategic reasons.” The bank bought Simple in 2014. Here’s the text of the email:

We have an update for you about your banking relationship with Simple, a subsidiary of BBVA USA.

BBVA USA has made the strategic decision to close Simple. There is no immediate impact to your accounts at Simple and nothing you need to do at this time. Since your deposits are already housed at BBVA USA, they will remain in FDIC insured accounts there, up to the applicable limits. In the future, your Simple account will become exclusively serviced by BBVA USA, but until then you can continue to access your account and your money through the Simple app or online at simple.com. You will receive additional information in the near future about the transition of your account servicing to BBVA USA.

We want to assure you that we are committed to making this transition as smooth as possible for you, and that we will provide ongoing transparent and open communication, so you know what to expect each step of the way.

Our customer services agents will not be able to address questions about this announcement at this time. We will contact you proactively as we have more details. Please only contact customer support for your regular banking needs.

Thank you for being a Simple customer, it’s been an honor to serve you.

But while it’s true that deposits will retain FDIC insured accounts, the changeover will require eventually moving to the BBCA app, and portals. And that’s a shame, because Simple was more than just an Online-only bank account. It came with the ability to set goals, like saving for vacation, retirement, specific bills, and the like. If you’ve ever used the “envelope system,” think of that, but in a digital format.

Few banks, if any, have those types of tools built directly into banking apps. Instead, you typically need a second app, like Mint or Personal Capital. According to Android Police, the decision to shut down is partially due to BBVA’s impending merger with PNC. In a statement to Android Police, BBVA explained:

BBVA USA continually evaluates strategic priorities and resources, including existing and potential partnerships with outside organizations. We have taken the opportunity of the pending merger with PNC to reassess our goals for BBVA USA, so that we’re focused on the things that make the most sense for the company’s future whether on a standalone basis or a potentially combined basis with PNC. As a result, today we’re accelerating some changes and stopping work on others, including the closing of Simple. These reviews are part of our normal processes, and have resulted in other ventures being closed in the past year or so based on performance and the economic environment, including Covault (2020) and Denizen (2019).

Simple customers already have a dual relationship with BBVA USA and Simple. We will be migrating these customers to the award-winning BBVA USA mobile app. Those same customers will become PNC customers upon the close of acquisition, which is subject to customary closing conditions. As part of BBVA USA, Simple customers will have access to a much broader suite of products and services, alongside the bank’s award-winning mobile app, which includes BBVA Financial Tools.

That tracks because BBVA USA didn’t stop with announcing Simple’s shutdown. Another of its acquired online-only banks, Azlo, is now sending out a similar email to customers:

It is with regret that I share this news today: Our parent bank, BBVA US, has made the strategic decision to close Azlo. Transparency is incredibly important to me and the Azlo team, which is why we are sharing the news early. There will be no immediate changes to your account or to your service.

As founders and entrepreneurs ourselves, we know that there can be unexpected bumps on the entrepreneurial journey. We’re sorry that we won’t be alongside you—our inspiring community of entrepreneurs—as you grow and flourish.

We want to reiterate that Azlo’s service, and your account, is not going away today, and we will continue to support you during this period of transition. We understand that you will have questions for us. Please stay tuned for updates and news.

With admiration,
Cameron Peake, Founder and CEO
The Azlo Team

As 2021 progresses and the fallout from the global pandemic settles, it won’t be surprising to see more small businesses and services shut down or get acquired by larger companies. It may be something to keep in mind before buying into a small independent service without a clear vision to profit.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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