Fintech firm Savana raises $45 million, will hire 100 people in Chester County

CEO Michael Sanchez has raised $45 million from Toronto-based fintech investor Georgian and banking tech giant Fiserv to develop Savana, his Malvern-based company that develops software to make banking faster and more convenient for staff and customers.

With the new funds, the company plans to hire 100 people in Chester County next year, bringing employment to 300, Sanchez said.

“We’re doing for bank customers what Amazon Prime does for shoppers: building a seamless network that always works,” he said. “We call it a digital delivery platform,” with application programming interfaces (APIs) open to users, so banks can assemble their products directly on the system.

“Old legacy software systems are a problem for banks; fintech startups are biting their heels,” robbing customers with faster loan decisions and easier approvals, Sanchez said. The banking industry is complex – government security checklists and processes, multiple software vendors, specialized systems for credit cards, investments, mortgages.

Savana’s goal is to “keep it behind the scenes,” he said. “Just click.”

Its customers include TD Bank, one of the East Coast’s leading lenders, and Live Oak Bank, the North Carolina-based company that overtook Wells Fargo last year to become the lead lender under the main program. government small business administration. .

Arkadi Kuhlmann sits on the board of Savana. In 1996, he launched the bank ING Direct, which today is called Capital One 360. Instead of relying on the usual patchwork of banking applications based on different types of loans, deposits and investments, “Sanchez built us a unique operating system, which we integrated with nine different countries,” Kuhlmann recalls.

Sanchez and his brother, Frank, “knew that you could only stack so many apps on top of old apps, like wallpaper on top of wallpaper, before you had to remove all software and create a new kernel” , Kuhlmann said. “They saw what the digital architecture of banks would look like and figured out how to move banks to a new core without blowing them up.”

At 64, Michael Sanchez has already spent more than 40 years bringing banks online: He and Frank, now 65, spent 33 of those years building their first company, Sanchez Computer Associates, which eventually employed 600 people in its offices in Great Valley.

This company developed “basic” software that linked accounts on the IBM mainframes that powered many of the country’s banks; its software platform sent automatic transaction reports nationwide at the end of each working day. They took the company public in 1996 and sold it to Fidelity National Financial eight years later for $179 million.

The brothers stayed at Fidelity as senior executives through the mid-2000s, then branched out: Michael focused on Savana, and Frank helped Kuhlmann start Silicon Valley-based Zenbanx and sell it at SoFi in 2017.

The brothers also launched Finxact, which moved Sanchez’s streamlining mission to the cloud from remote servers, to offer instant transaction updates. They sold that company to payments giant Fiserv in 2019. Florida-based Frank is now vice president of Fiserv.

The brothers grew up on the Upper Main Line because their father worked in a data center for the King of Prussia when the AT&T telephone monopoly charged “long distance” users by the mile. This neighborhood was where the main east coast telephone lines intersected with those heading west, reducing costs for heavy users.

There’s a new generation in the business: One of Michael Sanchez’s children “is one of our most important software developers at Savana,” he said. Another works for a King of Prussia group of companies, and a third is a sheep farmer: “She saw me living this stressful life, and she’s doing something very different,” he smiles.

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