Challenger bank Fortú raises $5M, lands in Miami with sights set on Hispanic market

By Riley Kaminer

Digital bank Fortú has raised $5 million in a seed round led by Peter Thiel-backed New York VC Valar Ventures.

Fortú, which was founded last year, also announced Miami as its corporate headquarters. The challenger bank just launched its flagship product: a digital bank account focused on Latino and Hispanic U.S. residents. 

This is a market with a major opportunity for growth. The FDIC reports that around 8.4 million households in the US – 6.5% of the population – are unbanked. Hispanic households are 5 times as likely to be unbanked as White households.

That’s where Fortú steps in. They provide customers with a free, FDIC-insured checking account that skips many of the predatory fees you’d typically find at a legacy bank.

The startup is offering up to two day early direct deposit availability, as well as a fully bilingual banking app. They also make it easy to send money abroad through a secure integration with industry-standard online financial firm Wise (formerly known as Transferwise).

This $5 million seed round included participation from a veritable who's-who of the FinTech scene: Jake Gibson; co-founder of Nerdwallet; Francesco Simoneschi, CEO and co-founder of TrueLayer; Joyce Kim, Executive Director and founder of the Stellar Foundation; and Andrew Endicott, COO and co-founder of Petal.

In a statement, CEO Charles Yim said that the startup chose Miami because it is “the highest profile American city with a Latino majority and home to the most exciting emerging technology hub.”

Yim said that the Fortú team is “clearly the best place to build a digital bank serving Latinos” and “proud to call Miami home.”

The startup has been welcomed with open arms. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez expressed his excitement about Fortú’s arrival in the Magic city. He said in a statement that the startup understands "the value and opportunities that come with cultural and economic diversity,” adding, “there isn't a city in this country better positioned for that than Miami.”

Fortú isn’t the first challenger bank to put down roots in Miami. Refresh Miami reported earlier this month that Novo is also in the process of shifting some of their workforce to Miami, thanks to a mix of the city’s increasingly prominent tech scene and the perennial presence of bulge bracket investment banks.

Riley Kaminer