• Chime raised $485 million in a recent round of financing
  • The company’s valuation has skyrocketed nearly 900% in only 18 months
  • Chime will be “IPO-ready” within the next 12 months.

Mobile banking startup Chime is now the most valuable retail consumer fintech in the U.S., with a $14.5 billion worth, surpassing free-trading app Robinhood, which has a valuation of about $11.2 billion.

Based in San Francisco, Chime raised $485 million in a recent round of financing, CNBC reported. The company’s valuation has doubled since December and has skyrocketed nearly 900% in only 18 months.

“We’re more like a consumer software company than a bank,” Chime CEO Chris Britt said. “It’s more a transaction-based, processing-based business model that is highly predicable, highly recurring and highly profitable.”

He added that the firm will be “IPO-ready” within the next 12 months.

Co-founded in 2013 by Britt, Chime provides its customers with no-fee mobile banking accounts, debit cards and ATM access. The company – which typically focuses on Americans earning between $30,000 and $75,000 annually – makes money when customers swipe their debit or credit cards.

Some mobile fintechs have flourished during the pandemic – Britt said Chime’s transaction volume and revenue have more than tripled this year. He also said his company is adding hundreds of thousands of users on a monthly basis, while becoming profitable on the basis of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, during the pandemic.

“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.”

Investment firms that took part in Chime’s latest round of financing included Coatue, Iconiq Capital, Tiger Global, Whale Rock Capital, General Atlantic, Access Technology Ventures, Dragoneer, and DST Global.

“A lot of these [investors] are a combination of late-stage private and public investors,” Britt said. “Having folks who invest in public markets making high-conviction bets in your company is a great signal to future investors that these savvy guys who have great track records are investors in the business.”

Although Chime now has almost $1 billion in cash, CNBC noted, Britt has no interest in acquiring any FDIC-backed institutions.

Britt also said he often receives interest from special purpose acquisition vehicles.

“I probably get calls from two SPACS a week to see if we’re interested in getting into the markets quickly,” he said. “The reality is we have a number of initiatives we want to complete over the next 12 months to put us in a position to be market-ready.”

Consumerism Commentary recently voted Chime as the third best online bank, behind Ally Bank and Simple.

Among other things, Chime was lauded for having no monthly fees, no minimum account balance requirements, no foreign transaction fees, and for its ability to send checks directly from the mobile app.

However, Chime’s disadvantages comprised such things as a lack of lending or credit card products, no paper checks, and no joint accounts.