Digital Businesses Just Need Safe, Cost-Effective Banking Transactions

Elevate your digital enterprise with secure and efficient banking transactions. Explore how safe and affordable financial operations drive success for digital businesses.
Uldis TeraudkalnsAugust 9, 202316 min

Among all the banking service and over-charging stories you hear about, there is an even bigger concern. Will you ever see your money again? 

Conventional banks not only seem to have challenges serving digital businesses well, while charging them top dollar, but continuing bank failures show that they are also putting their deposits at risk.

Come to think of it, why do we even need the things we call “banks” today? This is a call to get back to the basics – banks with a cost-effective transactional business model that removes the need to put clients’ funds at risk by chasing high returns, and keeps those funds in the safest place possible – central banks – should the worst happen.

Bank failures are more common than you imagine

You may think that your bank deposits are safe because they are insured by government-backed  deposit schemes. But the recent spate of bank failures shows that banks are not inherently safe, and that deposit guarantee schemes have their limits. Even when deposits are guaranteed, it can take months to get your money. 

In March 2023, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), the 16th largest commercial bank in the US and the preferred bank for nearly half of all US venture-backed technology and life science companies, collapsed in the US banking system’s third-largest failure. About 89% of the bank’s $172 billion in deposit liabilities exceeded the maximum insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp) and would have been wiped out without exceptional authority from the US Treasury to guarantee all deposits.

In the same month, Signature Bank, a regional bank based in New York with $63 billion in assets, also failed after being hit by a wave of withdrawals and lawsuits related to its involvement in several fraud and money laundering scandals. The FDIC was likewise forced to guarantee all deposits at Signature Bank. But do these latest exceptional measures to protect deposits only serve to encourage yet more reckless behaviour by banks in the future? 

This is far from theoretical. There are many cases around the world where depositors have lost some or all of their money due to bank failures. In fact, more than 550 US banks shut down from 2001 to 2023, according to the (FDIC). And as inflation reemerges as a feature of global economies, the risk of future bank failures is considerable.

Banks are not efficient

You may think that your bank offers you a range of useful services. But do you really need all of them? And do you know how much they cost you?

The reality is that banks’ costs are escalating as regulatory requirements increase. Anti-money laundering (AML), know your customer (KYC) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) precautions impose costs that have to be passed on to customers. Banks are not known for their operational efficiencies to offset these costs. They have legacy systems, complex structures and high overheads that make them slow and expensive. These additional costs not only strain businesses’ already-tight budgets but also hinder their ability to grow and thrive. 

In search of additional profits to cover these costs, banks offer an increasing range of peripheral add-ons that further increase their costs and make their business models unwieldy. They can also be tempted into business areas where margins and risks are higher, such as derivatives, cryptocurrencies and subprime mortgages. These activities expose them to market fluctuations, credit defaults and regulatory fines.

Even where banks are not taking on higher risks, things can still go very wrong, as SVB demonstrates. SVB was holding a lot of safe, interest-bearing US treasuries. But, as the Federal Reserve increased interest rates, the market price of those treasuries dropped so much that SVB was no longer able to cover all withdrawal requests if it were forced to sell them in the event that all its depositors demanded their money. 

The result is that the traditional banking model is neither safe nor efficient. The base services are priced low but topped up with high “optional” fees for services that digital businesses may not need or want. And, to cover loss-making base services, the model puts depositors’ money at risk, regardless of whether banks adopt high- or low-risk strategies to generate income.

What digital businesses need

So what is the alternative? What digital businesses need is a stripped-back form of banking where the institution is licensed and protected by its home central bank but where its focus is simply transactional: enabling businesses to receive and make payments. Let’s call it a transactional bank.

This is already possible in certain jurisdictions. In Lithuania, where Nexpay is located, the central bank has been progressive in providing central bank infrastructure access to new banks and EMIs (Electronic Money Institutions). Because Lithuania is a member of the Eurozone, the funds held with the central bank are ultimately held by the ECB, which is about as secure as it gets. 

Businesses still need to be selective, of course. A neobank with ECB protection can still be bloated with unnecessary products and costs. But there are now solutions out there offering protection and low-cost payment solutions across Europe and beyond, using innovative technology and streamlined processes. Such operators do not offer any other services that would increase costs or risks. They simply enable their customers to move money safely and efficiently, avoiding exposure to risky activities and invoking the peace of mind that comes from knowing that deposits are backed by the ECB. 

It is high time we considered a new banking model that prioritises safety, cost-effectiveness, and simplicity, enabling digital businesses to thrive without unnecessary frills and risks. This is a call for a stripped-back form of banking where the institution is licensed and protected by a credible central bank, ensuring the ultimate guarantee of deposits. By shedding all the unnecessary bells and whistles that conventional banks have accumulated, transactional banks can deliver a cost-effective, secure service tailored specifically to the digital economy.
Uldis Teraudkalns , CEO of Nexpay

Uldis Tēraudkalns is the CEO of Nexpay, a Lithuanian fintech startup providing banking infrastructure for digital businesses. Uldis counts more than a decade of experience working in finance as well as managing venture investment, as a result of which he has served on the boards of different companies. Uldis holds a Master’s degree in Finance from the Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden and is one of the hosts of The Pursuit of Scrappiness, a leading business and startup podcast in the Baltics.

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