It's been a while since we've had a traditional bank launch a digital-first unit aimed at small businesses (SMB/SME). Actually, it's only happened one time (in the United States) that I can recall. That was, Azlo which was incubated within BBVA and launched in 2018. And that didn't go so well, they closed up shop less than 3 years later.

So here we go again with the upcoming launch of Zion Bancorp's Zifi brand. They are currently creating a waitlist and experimenting with search engine advertising (that's where I saw it first, ad based on my Google search for “best small business banks” from a Seattle IP address).

Product features:

  • Free business checking: No monthly fees, no transaction fees, no minimum balances
  • Positive Pay (aka Zifi Shield): Allows customers to authorize checks presented for payment (before the money leaves your account)
  • ACH payments: Key business account function in USA (though not sure its target customer knows it by this name)
  • Debit card
  • Invoicing tools
  • Bid management tools
  • Customer management tools

Missing features:

  • No international payments
  • No invoice financing

Quick thoughts:

  • Love the 4 letter name with a matching dot-com URL, though it's sure to get mixed up with Zefi, a YC-backed defi company. Also, wondering how it's pronounced? (rhymes with “jiffy” I presume)
  • Smart, albeit expensive, for a regional bank to create a national digital brand. If the business account takes off, it will be interesting to see what other products are introduced under the Zifi brand
  • Clearly, it is going after the sole proprietor contractor market as one of their 4 products is “bidding” (which I originally thought was a typo for “billing”); e.g. tools for contractors to send digital bids for jobs
  • For the most part, it's done a good job removing industry jargon and cute brand names from the website copy (only error is the “Zifi Shield” which is a meaningless term to any prospective client