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Monday, June 30, 2014, 6:25 am

Banking: Santa Rosa financial-technology startup eyes growth

Also: Montise expands in North America; Mechanics Bank names chief credit officer

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    Eric Gneckow, Business Journal Staff ReporterSanta Rosa-based financial technology startup CUneXus (cunexusonline.com, 877-509-2089) is seeing more than 100 financial institutions enter its customer pipeline since a high-profile tradeshow presentation in April, riding a wave of interest in a proprietary Web and mobile-based platform offering new and streamlined ways for those institutions to market and fund consumer loans electronically.

    CUNexusUnveiled to the broader public during April’s FinovateSpring industry conference in San Jose, the cplXpress platform seeks to addresses what co-founder and president David Buerger said is an ongoing conundrum for financial institutions — as banks and credit unions race to implement feature-rich Web and mobile technology, those expensive-to-develop tools are rarely a gateway to new revenue.

    By allowing institutions to underwrite a variety of loan products in one fell swoop — and giving customers a one-stop resource for quantifying and executing those options through a mobile phone or other device on an ongoing basis — the cplXpress platform stands to fill a missing link in the latest wave of financial technology services, he said.

    “There’s a big debate in the industry — how do we derive revenue from mobile banking? A mobile loan application is not a good experience,” Mr. Buerger said. “Every time someone deposits a check with their phone it is one less … opportunity to cross-sell. We make options available in mobile banking, and accessible with just a few taps.”

    Having launched quietly to a small group of clients in 2013, CUneXus made a high-profile public debut as one of a handful of selected video demo presenters at April’s Finovate, an annual financial technology conference with around 1,300 attendees.

    The demo showcased how the premise of “comprehensive prescreened lending” could integrate with the location-aware mobile platform, automatically delivering a list of auto financing options to a user who walks into a car dealership. The program also integrated auto purchase data that allowed that user to scan a vehicle identification number for deeper information on price, tax and monthly payment.

    The hypothetical example could be broadly applied to other areas where an institution might want to market to its customers, like a shopping mall during the busy holiday retail season or a home improvement store, Mr. Buerger said.

    “Not only are you hitting that consumer at the right moment, you are offering something that is preapproved,” he said.

    The event set off what Mr. Buerger called the “post-Finovate era” for CUneXus, a company born from a history in developing a similar prescreened lending approach in-house at Santa Rosa-based Redwood Credit Union. Mr. Buerger and others involved in the company completed the platform in early 2013.

    It was in December 2013 that CUneXus announced that it would deploy its cplXpress platform at Fresno-based Educational Employees Credit Union, integrated as part of a broader online banking platform from Redwood City-based Digital Insight. The announcement was seen as a significant milestone for CUneXus, one that could potentially clear the way for enabling cplXpress for over 11 million customers whose bank or credit union utilizes the Digital Insight platform.  

    The cplXpress program is designed to integrate into other mobile banking platforms, but could have applications in insurance and other business lines as well, Mr. Buerger said. Cost of the program is scaled for size of institution.

    CUneXus has 11 employees, including a seven-person development team. The company has so far operated through capital from a small circle of investors, and is eying its next phase of growth, he said.

    “In the face of the pipeline in front of us, it is clear that we will need another round of funding,” he said.

    ***

    London-based Montise, Plc, (London Stock Exchange: MONI) said it will expand the Montise Create mobile platform in North America, including an agreement to develop a mobile credit card servicing platform for U.S. Bank.

    It is the latest benchmark for Montise’s expansion into the United States, and follows the $173 million acquisition of San Rafael-based Clairmail in 2012. The acquisition of the 240-employee Clairmail gave Montise a physical footprint in the U.S.

    Montise currently provides mobile commerce services for more than 350 financial services companies, according to the announcement.

    ***

    Walnut Creek-based Mechanics Bank, which has a sizable presence in the Napa Valley, appointed Larry Cretan as executive vice president and chief credit officer.

    Mr. Cretan has over three decades of experience in banking, having served as an industry consultant and in senior positions for Pacific Capital Bank, Greater Bay Bank and Wells Fargo.

    ***

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