US fintech Plaid hires Booking.com executive to head Europe

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Ripsy Bandourian, Europe Manager at Plaid.

Plaid

LONDON — Fintech firm Plaid has hired longtime Booking.com executive Ripsy Bandourian to lead its European operations.

Bandourian joined Plaid last week and works from its Dutch offices in Amsterdam. She will be responsible for leading the San Francisco-based start-up’s expansion into continental Europe. Keith Grose, former international director of Plaid, now focuses solely on managing the UK business.

The Armenian-born businesswoman brings a mix of experience to the world of fintech. She first studied molecular biology at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, before moving to New York to work as a quantitative analyst at Goldman Sachs. After a stint as a consultant at McKinsey, she moved to London to work at Apple’s European division.

Bandourian joined Booking.com in 2014, working for the online travel platform for more than eight years in a variety of product and marketing-focused roles. She was most recently Vice President of Global Lodging Partnerships, overseeing Booking.com’s relationships with hotel partners.

Bandourian told CNBC his reasons for joining Plaid were “personal” as well as professional.

“I’ve lived my life on three different continents,” Bandourian said. “And there’s absolutely no way for me to take my financial history with me. There’s no tools, there’s no way to make it easier. And that’s a case of ‘use.”

Plaid’s technology enables fintech companies such as Venmo and Robinhood to connect to customer bank accounts so users can connect and share their financial data securely. It’s part of a rapidly growing trend known as “open banking.”

The company, which also offers payment tools in select markets, plans an “aggressive” expansion into Europe this year. Its services are currently available in seven European countries, including the UK, Germany and France. Plaid also plans to roll out to other markets soon, including Poland, Belgium and the Nordics.

“The plans are quite aggressive,” Bandourian said. “The investment Plaid is making in Europe is a testament to the opportunity the company sees itself, and the depth and speed at which we are moving.”

Among Plaid’s plans for Europe are increasing its workforce – the company currently employs around 80 people in the region – and hiring individual country managers for France and Germany. Plaid’s clients in Europe include crypto exchange Kraken and dating app Bumble.

The open banking trend has grown in popularity in Europe over the years. This is partly thanks to fintech-friendly regulations introduced in 2018 that require banks to share user data with third parties upon consumer request.

The number of open banking users on the continent reached 12.2 million in 2020, according to data from Statista, a number that is expected to reach 63.8 million by 2024.

Big companies and investors are taking notice. Last month, Apple acquired Credit Kudos, a London-based fintech that uses consumer banking data to perform more informed credit checks. Meanwhile, Visa bought Plaid’s European competitor Tink for more than $2 billion.

Plaid was last privately valued at $13.4 billion after a failed $5.3 billion deal to be taken over by Visa.

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