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T8 Webware becomes Banno, hints at future products

Banno, which grew staffing by 29 percent in 2011, recently added a Des Moines office, anticipating the addition of more than 20 employees over the next three years, a press release stated.

T8 Webware unveiled today its new name, Banno, and its broader focus on building personal finance apps.

“The Banno story is really our kind of change the world story,” Wade Arnold, CEO of the 4 year old Cedar Falls-based company, said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s somewhat of a coming out party for something we’ve been passionate about.”

The name came from Arnold’s son. After the recession hit, Arnold and his wife struggled to track their expenses and manage their finances in real-time. During a heated conversation, their son suggested they ask Banno, his imaginary friend.

The idea sparked Arnold’s imagination, according to a press release. “What if I could create a real Banno? What if Banno was readily available to provide answers to all my financial questions?”

“Internally, for over two and a half years, we’ve had a Banno team working on our core financial services and products,” Arnold said. While that team started as one person – Arnold himself – it grew to encapsulate the entire company’s mission. 

T8 is known for creating custom-branded mobile applications and websites for banks, and Banno will take that a step further, including a September update to its Grip app, a financial decision support tool it debuted in 2011. Additional products, currently in beta testing, will be introduced over the next six months.

The new mobius logo (above) represents the complete flow of information between the bank, consumer and merchant, Arnold said. Banno aims to create that complete financial picture in real-time. For example, if a user is standing in a checkout line, an app of Banno’s could advise that user which card to swipe, or if a user is about to purchase a big-ticket item, an app could break down the monthly payments.

The ability to influence decisions before a purchase is made distinguishes Banno and Grip (right) from other financial tracking services, like Mint, Arnold said. With Banno, a user doesn’t log into their account at the end of the month to see if they made budget.

“Giving those insights beforehand is really interesting,” Arnold said.

Banks pay a per-user fee for Banno’s products. Arnold said the alerts and services are mutually beneficial: your bank doesn’t want you to accidentally overdraft, either.

“A consumer who is in tune with their finances is the best customer for a bank,” he said.

The company currently works with around 320 financial institutions, including Iowa companies like Bank Iowa and Heartland Financial. It hopes a couple of new partnerships, which the team declined to discuss, can double that number in the next two years.

Its main competitors are established companies like Intuit and Fidelity Information Services. Arnold said to compete from Cedar Falls, they simply have to provide a better product. 

All of his 61 staff members are in Iowa, and the team’s next major expansion is in Des Moines, recently opening an office on “Silicon Sixth”.

The team plans to add at least 25 staff members in that new office, with assistance from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Arnold said they were attracted to the city by the pool of experienced, but still young and ambitious talent, and they already have around 30 people in mind.

Each one of them hears the story of Banno during the interview process, followed by a single question: 

“How can you help change the world?”


Credits: Screenshot from banno.com. Photo of Wade Arnold courtesy of Banno. Screenshot from grabgrip.com.

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