Chime is now worth $14.5 billion, surging past Robinhood as the most valuable U.S. consumer fintech

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Chime, the start-up that delivers banking services through mobile phones, has closed a fundraising that values the company at $14.5 billion, CNBC has learned exclusively.

That lofty figure makes Chime the most valuable American fintech start-up serving retail consumers. Robinhood, the popular free-trading app, raised money last month at an $11.2 billion valuation. The moves show that even as investors punish the shares of established U.S. banks — the KBW Bank Index has lost a third of its value this year — they are willing to lavish money on pre-IPO fintech companies that increasingly look like segment winners.

In this latest round, a Series F that raised $485 million, Chime more than doubled its valuation from December and is worth almost 900% more than just 18 months ago, when it hit a $1.5 billion valuation. Chime is ranked No. 25 on the 2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 list.The development places Chime among a group of tech-centric companies, both publicly traded and private, that have experienced torrid growth during the coronavirus pandemic. Chime, the biggest of a new breed of start-up known as challenger banks, has more than tripled its transaction volume and revenue this year, according to CEO Chris Britt.

“Nobody wants to go into bank branches, nobody wants to touch cash anymore, and people are increasingly comfortable living their lives through their phones,” Britt said. “We have a website, but people don’t really use it. We’re a mobile app, and that’s how we deliver our services.”

The company crossed over into being profitable on an EBITDA basis during the pandemic, Britt said. Chime is adding hundreds of thousands of accounts a month, he said, but declined to say how many total users it has.

Chime will become “IPO-ready” within the next 12 months, Britt said, although it isn’t locked into going public in that time frame.

Pre-IPO companies are increasingly garnering attention from big investors who are seeking stakes away from frothy public markets, and JPMorgan Chase recently set up a trading team for shares in giants including Robinhood, Airbnb and SpaceX.

The company’s investors reflect that stage of Chime’s development, and now include hedge funds that take stakes in both private and public companies, Britt said. Investment firms that participated in its latest round include Coatue, Iconiq, Tiger Global, Whale Rock Capital, General Atlantic, Access Technology Ventures, Dragoneer and DST Global… Details here.

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