- Plaid is building a portal where consumers can see all their financial data connections.
- Users can see what kind of data is shared, and turn connections on and off.
- Plaid’s consumer privacy group is one of the fastest growing teams at the company.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Data aggregator Plaid has become a massive part of the fintech ecosystem, building a network of more than 5,000 apps and 11,000 banks since its founding in 2013.
The startup, valued at $13.4 billion, provides fintechs like Coinbase, Robinhood, and Venmo with the financial data they need to run.
But despite serving as the crucial link between consumers’ banks and financial apps, it’s largely remained a behind-the-scenes player.
It’s now looking to change that.
The startup is launching Plaid Portal, a data control center for consumers. Users get a view of all the Plaid-powered data connections between apps and banks. They can see what kind of data apps are accessing, and turn those links on and off.
The launch comes as consumers and regulators are increasingly focused on data security. Apple recently gave iPhone users the ability to stop apps from tracking their activity. And the CFPB is currently weighing new rules around consumers’ access to financial data.
“We want the portal to be the privacy center for all of fintech,” Plaid’s CTO Jean-Denis Greze told Insider.
The portal is in beta, with a full go-live targeted for the fourth quarter of this year.
Plaid saw massive growth in 2020, a year it started with a $5.3 billion acquisition deal from Visa. The deal was called off in January this year following an antitrust lawsuit from the DOJ, which alleged Visa was attempting to squash a competitor.
Consumer privacy is one of Plaid’s fastest-growing teams
Plaid’s consumer privacy team is one of the fastest growing teams at the company. The group oversees both the portal and Plaid’s Link screen, where consumers connect their banks to apps.
It’s led by Edward Esslemont, a product manager who led privacy at Facebook and Twitter. Plaid also hired Zach Meredith to lead design and Jennifer Wu, who worked at Snapchat before joining Plaid in 2018, to head up engineering.
The team will double overall headcount and triple the number of product managers by the end of the year. It’s also hiring designers, marketers, and engineers, looking for candidates with experience in consumer-facing products and privacy issues, Greze said.
“It is hard to overstate how much we are prioritizing this,” John Pitts, head of policy at Plaid, said in reference to growing the consumer privacy team.
Digital finance and consumers’ expectations are changing fast, Pitts said. It’s no longer simply about linking bank accounts to Venmo via Plaid.
Consumers manage their finances across multiple apps in nuanced ways, which requires multi-directional data sharing. It’s not just fintechs accessing bank data. Information needs to flow both ways.
Plaid wants to be the one to link all those banks and apps together for consumers to manage.
“We need a really big, robust team,” Pitts said, “and we need this to be a best-in-class product leading the way not just for Plaid, but for the entire industry.”
But it’s a tall task to link the thousands of fintechs and banks in one place.
Players like US Bank and Wells Fargo have their own portals. Plaid hopes to link into the banks’ dashboards so consumers see the same information on the portal and on their banks’ websites. It already has this set up with US Bank.
Eventually, all banks will likely offer some data management tool, Pitts said. For smaller banks that may not have the resources to build it themselves, Plaid plans to allow them to host its portal on their own websites, Pitts said.
“Getting the entire ecosystem to be consumer-forward, I think, is actually the biggest challenge,” Greze said.