Get access to Protocol
Derek White, Galileo's new CEO, is stepping into his new role at a really busy time for the banking-tech provider — and for fintech.
He will be taking over from Clay Wilkes, Galileo's revered founder who has led the company for 21 years. Galileo's parent company SoFi, which bought the company last year, just went public. SoFi also just bought a bank, seen as a bold expansion move.
And things are heating up on the competitive front, too: Marqeta, considered Galileo's chief rival, is expected to go public this week.
But White is used to big changes and disruptions. He's been in the industry long enough to witness the birth of internet banking and has followed closely the major tech disruptions in financial services.
In an interview with Protocol shortly after Galileo announced his new role, White discussed how he got the job offer and how he plans to lead the digital banking tech pioneer.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
How did the idea of leading Galileo first come up?
It first came up when Clay called. I've known Clay for a number of years. Clay and I met on stage the first time at an event, and we just kind of hit it off. Clay was looking at the future of his company. I'd obviously known of Galileo for a very long time as the leader in the fintech space for banking-as-a-service. Clay reached out and said, "Look, I'm looking for someone to take over Galileo." That's how it started.
When was this?
About two months ago or so.
Why did you take the job and how do you see your new role?
I'll give you the full macro view down to the decision to join Galileo. The financial services industry is 25% of the global technology revenue pool, $700 billion-plus. Given the disruption that's happening, every established institution is looking to reinvent or rebuild themselves. And you have the disruptors, the neobanks that are out there.
I've had the privilege of working in three waves of innovation. The first was internet banking. July 6, 1996, was when the first interstitial banner went live on the internet, allowing people to apply for financial services on the internet. I was there the day that happened with First USA many years ago. We did something like 60,000 accounts on the first day, and we realized the internet was real and then built what many considered to be the first internet bank, Wingspan. Then [I was] active in mobile banking, and now open banking is the next big trend.
Galileo is unquestionably the leader in the space of open banking, banking-as-a-service, embedded finance, invisible payments. The momentum of Galileo is phenomenal right now. The path for the future of Galileo is incredibly encouraging. That's ultimately the path that led me to the decision.
What part of the job do you think would be most challenging, and perhaps even gave you pause?
I don't know if anything gave me pause because of the excitement. It's very clear the industry is heading in this direction. ... If anybody is starting a neobank, they know about Galileo. The underlying technology is there. The trends are there, and the opportunity to scale it is there. That's why I joined. I've operated in very large-scale multinational organizations, and to me this is a dream opportunity: to have brilliant technology and to be able to scale it into additional verticals, additional product lines and globally.
What are some of the key experiences from your position at Google Cloud that you think will be critical in your new role?
It's ultimately about how humans interact with technology and money. Many people talk about the move to the cloud from Cloud 1.0 to 2.0. We're kind of in wave three of cloud transformation. And that cloud transformation is not just about the technology transformation of what I refer to as below the glass, or what the customer doesn't see behind the screen. It's more about the transformation of how that technology transforms business and transforms experiences for users, and how that can be done at scale globally.
Traditional banks have had to adapt to the disruption caused by fintech in different ways. They are partnering with fintech startups, developing their own capabilities or acquiring companies. How do you view that dynamic as you take on this new role?
I will be very active in all three parts, I would imagine. I can't speak exactly to what our future M&A strategy would be. But in building any organization, one needs to be able to look at what are our core capabilities that we will own and that we will build ourselves, where do we want to partner and increasingly where do we want to potentially add businesses. I just look at the inspiration of how Clay and [SoFi CEO] Anthony [Noto] came together to bring Galileo into the SoFi family, and that acquisition has translated into incredible synergies.
There's a raging debate between traditional banks and fintechs on customer access to their data. Is that something that you are thinking about a lot?
Absolutely. I spent a good 14 years of my career outside of the United States, and a good part of that in Europe. Europe is very much a leader in looking at end-user and customer data. Ultimately, we're moving to a point where the end user, the end consumer will have ownership of their own data and control over what data is available for companies to be able to use to define value propositions. One of our core tenets is enabling the movement of data and money through APIs, and those APIs can be written in such a way that allows the individual, and ultimately the end consumer, to have greater control over how data moves.
A few months ago, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said banks should be afraid of fintech, and that they face a serious threat from fintech. How would you react to that?
I can very much understand it. I worked in two internet banks, two domestic U.S. banks and two global institutions. In my previous role, I worked with hundreds of banks around the world; with chairmans, CEOs, boards, business leaders, technology leaders, understanding the complexities of their business. One of the big one of the biggest challenges banks and financial institutions have that Jamie was referencing is legacy. How do they transform legacy infrastructure, a legacy technology to a point that matches up with what customer and end-user demand is?
Simple examples of that are how customers, increasingly, are interacting on mobile devices, rather than walking into a physical branch. Consumers expect to be able to do everything within two or three taps on their mobile device. One of the biggest things that Jamie was referencing is just the threat to moving legacy infrastructure, the legacy thinking of bankers that have been working in financial institutions for many years and who know how to run financial institutions in the old model, but not necessarily the model of the future.
Your main competitor Marqeta is about to go public. What are your thoughts on the competitive landscape in this space?
Fintech has been a term for a decade or so. I've been very active in this space for a decade. The fact that there's competition in this space is validation that there's massive opportunity. The fact that the public markets are embracing companies becoming public like SoFi with Galileo as part of that family of solutions and capabilities, and that there are other businesses that are going public, is just validation of the trend that I mentioned earlier. It's about the shift to internet banking and mobile banking and now open banking.
Galileo is primarily positioned to be the leader in open banking. Yes, there will be others that are competitors in the space. That only helps open up the opportunity. The size of the prize here is massive.
Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Signal at (510)731-8429.