Luvleen Sidhu, 34
Co-founder and CEO, BankMobile
In the crowded field of financial startups, Luvleen Sidhu has stood out far from the pack since she launched BankMobile, a financial institution used by 1.1 million college students in the U.S.
Last year her five-year-old startup become the backbone for T-Mobile’s banking app. BankMobile generated $85 million in revenue in 2019 and became profitable in the second half of the year. It holds $540 million in deposits.
Few Silicon Valley–backed banking startups have broken through like this.
Sidhu doesn’t come from Silicon Valley, but from Reading, Pa. That’s where her father ran the local bank and, eventually, many others. Her parents wanted her to become a doctor; they were disappointed when she chose finance.
Lehman Brothers went bankrupt the first day she worked there, a sign mighty institutions perhaps weren’t as solid as they seemed. After cutting her teeth in investment management, she urged her father to back her idea to start a bank that wins over customers at a young age and grows up with them.
BankMobile has succeeded in part because its fees are often much lower than those of most established banks. Sidhu promotes her brand on digital channels such as Instagram and at Ted-like talks, media approaches that tend to mystify the banking world.
Maybe one day her digital-native bank will be bought by a larger financial institution, as is the customary order of things.
But it feels more likely that one day she’ll be the one buying out her rivals. — Aaron Elstein
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