Stephane Lintner is Co-Founder & CEO of Jiko, a new take on the money storage and transaction layer in banking, a.k.a. checking accounts and cash management.
Jiko was founded in 2016 with the mission of providing consumers and businesses with direct access to spendable T-Bills, combining all the benefits of checking accounts with the safety and, depending on the economic cycle, yield of treasuries.
Jiko has raised $89m according to Crunchbase, including $40m in October. Jiko offers accounts directly to consumers via an app and to corporates and platforms via API. Jiko owns and operates an OCC-chartered national bank, which it acquired in 2020, and a registered broker-dealer.
In this conversation, Stephane and I discuss Jiko’s concept and ultimate vision, the implications for the existing banking model, Jiko’s successful bank acquisition, the relationship with adjacencies like stablecoins and CBDCs, and more.
Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Stephane Lintner.
T-Bills are the most liquid tradable asset and have the lowest credit risk in the economy. Owning T-Bills has a better risk profile than bank deposits, because you’re interfacing directly with the government. Plus, at least in the current interest rate environment, you’re getting a much higher interest rate than banks pay.
The concept of managing liquidity and payments using T-Bills is pure and simple, but it hasn’t been done before because the technology wasn’t previously available. Now, it’s possible to manage trading, conversion and payments effectively in real-time, in small denominations, making this model possible. Jiko’s business is as much about running a high efficiency trading back office as it is payments and customer accounts.
What are the implications for banks and the economy if deposits are shifted to T-Bills at scale? The US Government would benefit from increased market depth and liquidity for T-Bills, already one of the deepest financial asset markets in the world. Banks would ultimately find themselves paying more for deposits, which would drive up lending rates and/or reduce bank profitability. At scale, the Government would find itself interfacing directly with consumer and business depositors in a model not wholly dissimilar to a CBDC.
Payments is a fundamentally different business than maturity transformation (taking deposits & lending). The latter is what banks have traditionally done. Do they also need to specialize in the former, as they currently do? The advantage of doing so is access to free/cheap transaction account balances and stickier customers. However, the business is not without cost and complexity.
Jiko is one of the only fintechs to have successfully acquired a nationally chartered bank. They started the process in 2016 and completed it in 2020. The bank charter gives them direct access to payments systems and broad regulatory permissions. They continue to maintain the bank’s traditional operations and meet CRA obligations, in addition to using the charter to facilitate the Jiko offering.
It’s crucial to understand that growing deposits meaningfully as a bank charter holder requires new capital, new assets and regulator alignment. Owning a bank focused on balance sheet growth/NIM is not a standard venture scalable business. Jiko threads the needle by leveraging its banking license for payments, generating revenue through transaction banking rather than balance sheet. In time, Jiko may extend its offering to other product lines.
Long-term, Jiko intends to expand to the Eurozone, Japan and other leading global currency markets, eventually creating a unified infrastructure layer for global transaction banking & cash management.
Jiko started as a consumer app in 2016 and eventually realized that building an API-accessible B2B platform for corporates, fintechs and aggregators would allow them to scale much faster.
Jiko’s platform is centralized for efficiency and full control over their operations. The company views itself as being blockchain adjacent, enabling stablecoin issuers and similar to interface with the fiat economy with deep, real-time liquidity. However, Jiko does not intend to decentralize or de-permission its offering.
In effect, Jiko’s model is similar to an interest-bearing CBDC. It will be interesting to see how governments design CBDCs and what eventual overlap there may be.
Stephane Lintner, welcome to Rebank.
Thank you very much for having me.
It's really great to connect with you. I'm fascinated by your work, not only your background and how you've come to your current company, but also the specific problem that you're solving, the new innovative approach that you're bringing to the world. So maybe to kick off, you can introduce yourself and give us the high level about Jiko.
Sure, with pleasure. I'm Stephane Lintner, the CEO, one of the founders. Been working on Jiko for about six years now. Before that, I had a 10-year stint at Goldman Sachs. I was a managing director there in the equities' division. Touched pretty much every product on the equities floor and I came to Goldman with a PhD in Applied Mathematics, so basically zero knowledge of finance, mostly a lot of math and computer science. It took me a little while to understand why Goldman hired people like me back in those days of heavy derivatives trading, but it became apparent pretty quickly. So that's my background, science, and then Wall Street for about 10 years, and then the desire to create something really efficient that changes a little bit the economic output around banking, and that led to the formation of Jiko and years later, we bought a bank, and here we are.
Wow. All right. What's the elevator pitch on Jiko to get the audience up to speed?
The elevator pitch is to think about where your cash, when you're a corporate or a person, and ask yourself where your cash is. You have it at the bank, and if you're sophisticated, in a money market fund, but really realizing that all of these are a lot of instruments. At the end there's repos in, there's all sorts of things going on that you may or may not be aware of. And ultimately, everything relies on US short-term government debt. There's this beautiful, amazing product call a treasury bill. If you're in finance, you know what that is. If you're in a big bank, you particularly know that that's what your liquidity depends on. And what we're doing at Jiko is just removing all these layers and giving you direct access to that instrument, that beautiful underpinning of liquidity, of stability. It's a short-term government-issued debt.
You face your own government, it's issued by the treasury. You probably have heard of treasury notes, you may have bought an I Bond. So what if you could now have an account that's directly invested in treasury bills, super short term, you face the government, the same government that backs the banks, and saves you with FDIC, just face it directly and spend against it? Swipe a card, pay your bills, or if you're corporate, wire against this. 100% liquid, direct access to treasury bills, no middle man, cheaper. And in the current environment, I mean I keep the best for last, these instruments right now are yielding about 5%.
I don't know how much each of you are making, to those listening, on your bank account, but I know it's not 5%. Here you get that risk-free rate with very little counterparty risk, it's basically the government, the ability to spend. And so it's a very powerful partner financial product for your day-to-day cash management, whether you're corporate or retail. And we're distributing through APIs mostly. You can get it directly, but you can also get it in your favorite platforms. And that's the pitch. Just look for Jiko, try to find it, put your cash in there, and move on with your life. Not here to be in your face too much.
So there's so much there and so much to unpack. The temptation is to dive right in, which we will soon, but maybe before, to continue setting the context, this, as you describe it, sounds so intuitive, yet here we are, however many hundred years from the creation of the US Central Bank, however many more hundreds of years post whatever European institutions for banking finance existed prior to that. Why has this never existed before?
That is a very good question. We've asked ourselves that question many times, pinching ourselves at the beginning to say, "Well, if we go this route, what did we miss?" Because this is, to your point, it's quite the opposite of every financial product. Everything's always complicated, and this one's actually removing all the layers and simplifying. The answer is it's a little bit of a timing issue. It would've been very difficult to pull off years ago when technology wasn't as much mature as it was now. You do need the ability to trade lots of tiny T-bills all day long. It's been done in the stock market, in the fixed income space a little less, so there's that.
There's also this appetite to say, "Well, we're going to be lower margins than normal banks, so let's not be greedy short-term. Let's be long-term greedy and have a tech mindset, a growth mindset." That's very counterintuitive in banking. Banking normally is all about taking money, lending it out, financing. It's a very important function by the way, we need banks to do that. But if you do that, you're not really used to think about scale and how to power millions of accounts at speed like a tech company.
So, until you start thinking growth within banking, what we're doing won't make sense, it's not high margin enough. And then you also need to have enough background to understand three things, A, technology, B, banking, and within that, trading because for these securities to be available to you at small scale, you need trading infrastructure, you need to know how trading operations work. So being exposed to those three things together is pretty rare we think. So we're lucky that our team has had that exposure and was able to pull it off. So I hope that answers, it still doesn't answer why others haven't done it before, but we think it's a convergence of timing and technological progress and also the markets evolving.
At the highest level, if I think about what a bank does and how it's structured, you have a charter from whatever your national regulator is, state regulator potentially, to basically run a fractional reserve financial institution. You take deposits, which generally are backed by an explicit government guarantee up to a certain amount. You're required to keep capital on your balance sheet, which is equal to a certain percentage of your liabilities. And then you basically go out and originate assets, higher yielding assets in the form of usually loans and sometimes holdings and debt securities, which ideally yield more than your deposits and you earn net interest margin on the difference between what your assets yield and your liabilities cost and you earn fee revenue from various fees that you charge to your customers. And you would say the economic value of a bank in the economy is that there's this money multiplier effect and you can leverage people's savings to finance new investment, and that's the function that banks play.
Here in the model, traditionally you may have thought of a T-bill or a US government bond as a security for investment purposes, a way to save your money for a longer period of time to earn higher interest. It's a way of the government, of course, financing its activities. There is a financing component in the sense that it's the government then spending to drive the nation forward, but there's no specific lending component to businesses, to consumers, mortgages, various other things.
How do you think about the Jiko model in its entirety vis-a-vis the bank model? I mean I'm sure there are banks that would think of you as a competitor. You're attacking their cheapest source of deposits, consumer deposits in many cases, which fuel the flywheel for a lot of traditional banking. But at the same time, you cannot argue with the fact that by offering consumers and businesses higher interest rates for literally the same credit risk, because ultimately you have the government backstopping both bank deposits and T-bills, you cannot argue that you're not doing a service to the economy more broadly. How do you think about some of those components in the context of Jiko's business model?
Yeah, it's a very, very good question and it's a beautiful one because it goes back to asking what the roles of banks are, what money is, where it came from historically. You have to remember that historically banks were built as lenders. Banks were in the business of helping you save. They were paying your rates and you'd walk into Main Street, look at the five banks, look at the rates, say, "I've got this extra cash that I don't need for a while. I'll park with this bank and it's locked in some kind of CD and then I'm fueling mortgages and I'll get a return for it. I'm not the fool because the banker's doing his job and he's risking his life sitting on top of the vault in case the bandits come and try to rob the bank." And all of that.
And the role of the lender has evolved over time. Banks, of course, are still lenders in 90% of their businesses, but they were historically forced into the payments business, which is lucrative. But having to manage this liquidity and movements across, and if you look at 2008 or what just happened in Crypto which is an amplification of what happens when you've got too much leverage, there are these moments where it goes too far and suddenly you don't know which one is trustworthy, there's liquidity issues. And then you've got average people, governments, businesses suddenly not knowing if their cash is there.
And so what Jiko is doing in some sense is creating a layer that everyone should sit on that is complementary to what the banks are doing. And we're working with some banks that are starting to embed our product and helping their customers get access to us. We're the cash storage layer that's at the risk-free rate. That's the baseline that every economics book talks to you about. It's transactional, by not having leverage we're always up. So if other things go wrong, we're still here, so you can still transact, but not everyone's cash should be in T-bills [inaudible 00:09:37] is not enough of them on scale. It's a luxury problem for us, but still, cash needs to be deployed. So what you're creating is a world where at some point there needs to be CDs and other instruments that should be high yielding on the risk-free rate, there's got to be a premium for leaving money at the lender that will now do his or her job to go deploy that cash and fund the community.
Those two things are independent and maybe abstract the complexity of payments, KYC, AML, all these other stuff that banks have to do for transactions, processing wires, ACH, all these antiquated setups, try to abstract that and have one common layer that many can run on, keep the lenders focused on what they're good at, which is deciding whether you're credit worthy or how much to make you pay in interest for buying a card that you may or may not need or a business [inaudible 00:10:25] credit line. That's very skillset that lenders are good at. That's a little different from processing payments and tracing them and keeping them fluid.
So, long answer, but I hope a useful one to show that what we're doing is complementary, it fits within what banks do, we're not here to compete with banks. We're rather here to be a solution that many of them can sit on, become more efficient, and by extension, do that for anyone who needs to store cash for the customers.
And so the liquidity to fund the loans in this future state model that you described comes from the CDs and other kind of bank deposit products?
Yeah. Yeah. There's actually a need for that. And if you see that in a commercial deposit space for businesses, if you're a large corporation, banks do give you a rate that's higher, and because it's uninsured anyways, they're giving you a rate that's above T-bills, like a CD or term deposit for commercial is usually above, they compensate you for the risk. Now you're making money on your excess cash and that's great, but it's a controlled risk that you understand where you said, "Okay, I'll consciously lend to this bank because I like what they're doing and I want to get their returns." It's an investment.
So you mentioned that you acquired a bank at one point. Can you talk to us briefly about what that process was like and I guess more importantly, the rationale behind it for your business?
Yes. So we just talked about banks and what we're doing is what banks don't do, which is take money, sweep it out. We're not lending on purpose. We get the question all the time, "Then why did you buy a bank?" It's, as you pointed out, really difficult, most people don't do it, because banks are for historical reasons, the primary institutions that process payments. If you want to issue a card, if you want to be plugged into the Fed wires, into ACH, you need to be a bank. I mean you look at PayPal in early 2000s, all the issues around money transmitter license, the IP almost botched because of that. If you want to be able to move money between accounts and call that a payment, a bank license is the best thing to have.
And so we decided from the beginning, we didn't want to sit on another bank and hope that the bank would do everything right for us. We wanted to be fully integrated, our own technology deployment would set up the payments through Jiko would be blazing fast, efficient, and this ability to sweep into treasury bills automated super fast and scalable. So we had to buy a bank for that so that we'd be in full control and put our technology in there.
It took about four years to clear. We cleared the OCC and the Federal Reserve in 2020. We first approached them in 2016. It's not your standard growth-fast Fintech path. You have to be very patient to show the regulators what you're going to do. You have to do what you said you were going to do, roughly. So you have to be pretty confident that your plan is not going to be just pivoting every month. You have to be funded for it because it takes time. We were lucky that we found great investors that backed us early on for it. And then you just have to play by the book, but if you do that, then you're in great shape.
So the banking license, to summarize, was primarily driven by the desire to have direct integrations to payment systems?
Yes. And the right to do payments. So when you think of it, there's a lot of cutoffs still in the financial system. What's interesting about Crypto, they kind of tried to get away from this, these things trade 24/7, but the Fiat standard, markets are still 9:00 to 4:00 . If you have something like a major airline purchasing airplanes from a aerospace manufacturer and the deal settles on a Sunday because that's when inspections finish, they can't close the deal until market's open because you have to wait for wire cutoffs and that's risky for both parties. You've got hundreds of millions at stake, sometimes more. Wouldn't be nice if you could just close a deal right there and then?
But that's too much cash that would have to be sitting and suddenly moving from one bank to another. You have friction in the system everywhere because of these pain points. If you have a platform like ours that has no [inaudible 00:14:17] constraint and can store elastically a fair amount of cash in the form of T-bills on behalf of customers and then cross these customers and book that as a payment, that's where the bank license comes in. Now you've got something interesting.
It sounds, based on my experience of the way banking regulators think, firstly I think they have a conception in their mind of what a bank looks like and what a bank does and bringing a different concept which does different things and is looking to leverage a banking license for one thing that's of economic benefit to the specific company, which may or may not align with the broader concept of a bank, can be a harder starting point with regulators to justify why banking license is needed and ultimately to get the support and approval to obtain one.
And then going along with that, I think of the deposits and lending, the liabilities and assets and balance sheet management component to be pretty core to the construct of what regulators think of as a bank. There's a community investment act, right? And needing to make certain numbers of loans to certain demographics of people or businesses. I feel like there's an expectation that banks are lending, and that's part of what a banking license allows you to do, but it's also one of your responsibilities for having one. Did you have that sort of experience with regulators? Or they totally got your goals and were quick to align with them?
I obviously can't speak on behalf of our regulators because that's not my job, but first of all, the bank itself is still involved in community lending. It has its operations in Minnesota and has tellers and bank operations and limbs. We haven't grown that, but it is performing its duty under the company investment act. The new deposits that we're bringing in are swept away on behalf of our customers. Our customers, if they sign up for a Jiko account, it's because they want to own T-bills. They're exposed, it's an investment. T-bills have market to market risk and can move. So we're really facilitating investments into T-bills and over time allowing for payments.
We were very careful from the beginning as we approached our regulators to also make it clear that over time, nothing says the bank cannot and will not engage in lending, but you don't start with that. We may offer CDs or help others broker CDs through the platforms down the road, but the one thing that the OCC was very clear on in 2016 is they were looking for responsible innovation, emphasis on responsible.
How do you show that you're responsible? Well, you don't try to do everything at the same time. You don't pretend that you're going to grow a loan book at crazy scale because if you go viral and now you have billions that you didn't have yesterday, not only do you have to raise capital, you have to do stuff with that, AI or not. It's not so easy to suddenly build lending operations. You have to manage the liquidity. You can't stick it all in risky mortgages. You can't stick it all in T-bills either because now it's your balance sheet, that's unfair to your depositors. You got to do things with this. So building lending operations, knowing who you are lending to, what your targets are, and how you manage the book, that's where 90% of the sweat comes for banks and that's really difficult.
And so you don't start with that. We wanted to make sure we were also building our own technology stack, that takes years and has to be done correctly. We're the ledger from a cybersecurity standpoint, that's really where the regulators were excited to see us try that, not dependent on the old cores, build it ourselves. That was new. We all agreed that the best thing was to get this product off the ground, delivered, systemically safe with clean technology, scale, treasury bills. And then over time grow the business. So the approach was one where from the beginning, we tried to position this as having locked a lot of the risks, controlling them such that we could grow and establish ourselves with the trust of our regulators.
What's it been like? How long have you guys had a product in the market? What has your focus been consumer versus businesses? And what have you learned so far?
When we first thought about this, rates were pretty low. Fintech was not as hot as it became, so we really hoped to launch consumer product. We did launch it. We never spent a fortune in marketing on it nor invested in a large mobile team to make the experience awesome because our focus was really keeping everything safe, trading T-bills, keeping the securities on the stack and the licenses, all of that. It's really where all our focus went. So the product was stable and performing from day one, we quickly realized, especially after we cleared a bank, that what we'd built was of use way beyond just trying to convince individuals to open accounts with us.
We had Fintechs started to reach out and ask for our APIs, large corporate treasury platforms, and we realized, hold on, the vision that we always had of being that platform is just accelerating. We don't need to launch a retail product at scale ourselves. We still have it. Anyone's welcome of your listeners to download the app, try it. The retail product is actually free right now. You get T-bills, a debit card, and it's the highest yielding checking account on the quote that you can have on the market. It's there, it's growing, we're not advertising it because we don't need to. Through APIs we're distributing.
So this realization that we'd built something really different that had so much scale that so many others would need, that hit us after the bank license. And then we went all in into productionizing the APIs, exposing them, and then selectively deciding who we give those APIs access to. Because again, being regulated, if we have rogue counterparts who don't understand the regulations and bring us a lot of clients that are not trained correctly, that could just, it's the rabbit hole of banking as a service, you have to do that right. So we've learned how to do that. We've learned how to be disciplined. And last year, of course with high rates coming, we've suddenly seen so much traction on the business product that we decided to launch what we call Jiko Money Storage, really the corporate product for businesses to store as much cash as they want with us.
How interested are you in everything that's going on in the world of Stablecoin? So you've mentioned Crypto a few times, clearly you're up to speed on that world. How much of this in your mind is leveraging traditional capital markets and banking stack and just plugging it into the right underlying asset versus building a Stablecoin?
There's really two parts to your question. There's the Crypto in general and then Stablecoin. So Crypto, as a field, is fascinating. I mean what's been built there and their freedom and the pure tech and the protocols that have been built, finance has needed that forever. I mean that's why we also started Jiko was to clean up what I saw before mainframes, cobalt, batches. I mean, come on, we're in 2020, so Crypto's just created this global open source APIs and standards. They're just amazing with everything in it, it's a jungle, but there's really amazing things in there.
At the same time, because it's money, the regulatory piece and the leverage has crept in very quickly. So regulations are now clamping because of all the issues and leverage has crept in kind of destroying the initial value. If you think of a Bitcoin, the whole point is I own my asset and there's a leverage. Now we're seeing what happened last year. So it's been fascinating.
I think in general there's a need for Crypto, actually we think we have a role to play for Crypto over time. Think about a deliberated institution that can't blow up, that can store Fiat in the form of T-bills for exchanges and others. That's actually the construct as opposed to all these companies storing their cash, which then gets relent to Crypto with massive concentration risks, that's what we've seen happen recently and that's not healthy for anyone. So we can help there and we're talking to some players and we're talking to our regulators, but it's not an active area for us either in the sense that we've just have a lot of demand, we're just happy to help if we can for the right players.
Stablecoins are interesting. The fact that they exist highlights, again, the fact that the finance world is fragmented. You don't have a global currency, everything is local, you still have to get across borders and Stablecoin was a beautiful attempt to try to create a digital dollar because right now there is no digital dollar. So I'm watching this with lots of interest personally. We are looking at potentially helping some of these efforts, storing their cash or with reserves. Again, in the current environment, there's a lot of scrutiny, so you probably want some of the dust to settle and then new, cleaner, beautiful efforts will emerge out of the ashes. So we're watching it, but it's all shown as there's really need for global standard, global players that are designed for global scale without too much leverage and can just operate at scale. And we hope that we have a role to play in general along those lines.
Are tokenization and decentralization at all relevant in your thinking about your business or are those out of scope?
So, I mean when we started looking initially at building our own stack, of course the question emerged, should we use a blockchain? We did the math in terms of cost or control, it made no sense. If we're going to be the institution that you trust, you, the business, you, the person with knowing how much you own and really being the repository for that, we're running on the cloud with Kubernetes clusters. We're backed in number of regions, we could fall back from one to the other in milliseconds. So we're super distributed in that sense and resilient and built on modern cloud infrastructure like a Google.
So we're distributed like that. We're not decentralized, distributed in the blockchain sense because that's also not our role. We're compatible with it. In blockchain world, you still need something and that's important because that's where our name comes from, you still need some things to know that you are, well I'm Stephane and I am me and map me to my assets. My assets can be on some distributed ledgers or they can be sitting as a T-bill at the Federal Reserve. That actually doesn't really matter how that part is handled. What matters is that when I log in and I say I'm me, something maps me to my asset, whether it's by having a database with my keys or just, "Hey, point me, my virtual me, my Jiko to my T-bills where Jiko stores them."
So that's what we really have to do as a financial institution is map you to your assets. And for that you don't really need a blockchain infrastructure, you really need good KYC, good KYB, and privacy, preserving anonymous databases and stuff like this. So we're playing at the edge using what we need, not overdoing it because we're trying to keep our costs down and stay very efficient and really in control of what we do. We owe it to our customers.
What does Jiko mean?
It means self in Japanese. It's your inner self. When we were incorporating, we had very little time to find a name and in computer science, you have to self reference this concept and me and my money, me and my data, me and my core, if you will, maybe ideally it'd be nice if I have my own infrastructure that never touches yours. So if yours is compromised, mine is not, I could still transact. That's where this came from, this desire to create a stack like this. And when we were Googling translations of self in various languages, Japanese gave us Jiko. If you have Japanese listeners, we are aware that it has other meanings and so maybe if we ever launch in Japan, we may have to rename. It also means accident, but for all intents and purpose, it's all about you and your inner self, virtual in the cloud, managing your money.
Have you been involved in the broader dialogue about CBDCs? I imagine that there's a lot of conceptual overlap. What's the difference between treasury bills as a payment method and a CBCD?
One earns 5%, the other doesn't. So let's start with that. We've always looked at it saying, "Well if at some point the Fed was to create digital notes that are not interest bearing, I mean that's going to have a use for payments, but if rates are at 5%, people are still going to be chasing yields." So you're going to need T-bills or tokenized versions of that to get your yield. It makes no sense financially responsibly to just hoard a bunch of coins, because that's really what those would be, a coin. Given its all digital and the security level's the same, why not just own T-bills? If you think of what we would do at Jiko, we park your cash, immediately transform it into T-bills, you're earning, and if you want to pay someone, we transform that transiently into dollars, you're selling us your T-bills, so now you have dollars, for a short period to transact. And the other side then rebuild a position in T-bill.
So the dollar, the currency is really just a unit of conversion that allows me to know that this is worth X versus that, but you don't really need to have the dollars, just the unit, immediately convert back into yield and let the government, through its constituent, decides what the risk-free rate should be based on the economy and all this other stuff. Remove one variable, which is the money supply kind of disappears in this. This is getting a little technical.
No, it's super useful. So basically if it's two Jiko users transacting, there's a conversion into cash and back out of cash. And if someone's sending a payment to a non-Jiko account, then it's basically conversion to cash and then it's sent via ACH or whatever the-
Or debit card. If I swipe my debit card, I just bought something at Starbucks, I didn't pay with T-bills, I sold my T-bills in real time and got dollars and that's what went to Starbucks.
Which leads us to the fascinating for me a question of how did you build this? If you have 5% of everything you just described built, it's probably not hugely valuable. So you kind of had to build a lot or a meaningful amount in a pretty new and complex space before probably really going to market or starting to generate much in terms of traction or revenue. How did you think about what your MVP looked like and just being thoughtful about your roadmap from initial build to where you are today?
Part of it is being optimistic. I don't think any of us anticipated how long it would take. I'd be lying to you if I said we didn't think we could pull it off faster. We still think we've done it really fast compared to what it would take to rebuild the entire stack bottoms up and be a card processor. I mean we're a certified Visa and Discover processor, we do everything ourselves, it's all through our stack. So it took some time.
Initially, the initial product was the self-contained consumer app, which we got together relatively quickly and it started to get traction. Around 2019, rates were going back, the Fed was starting to hike. We were going to 3%, we were starting to see influx, people were downloading the app. We were right there. It was starting to work, that was the plan. Then COVID came, rates went back to zero, and everything changed for everyone. And that's when we realized APIs had value. So we've been adding to the platform. We didn't build everything in one shot. Now we have a really rich set where we have the APIs, business accounts, retail accounts. It's a very interesting moment for us, I have to say.
Look, I'm just super impressed with everything that you've built so far and not only the vision from the very beginning, your ability over the course of, as you say, a mere six years to achieve everything that you've accomplished. You kind of laid out the long-term vision earlier, being this infrastructure layer, which is managing liquidity and transactions. How would you describe your progress toward that long-term vision now? What's next for you and how you think about the next few years?
Yeah, I mean the next few years are going to be pretty simple, is embed everywhere we can and just get as many embedded accounts that way through corporate retail, through partners that we share revenues with to grow the platform's footprint. The more T-bills we trade, the cheaper it gets for everyone, and self-fulfilling, the stable we become, the more features we can add, the more profitable we become. So right now it's very razor focused on growing the current money storage product and enhancing some transaction capabilities, looking for the fastest, best deals to embed.
So we're turning down a lot of deals that are not strategic at the right level yet, but we hope, at some point, to be able to service them all by having do-it-yourself AWS-style capabilities, that's coming, we're just not there yet. And then there'll be global expansions. If we do this right, we're not going to add muni bonds and stocks, we're going to add Euros and Yen and all in the form of short-term government securities, obviously. So short-term French bonds and short-term Japanese bonds to generate the risk-free rate locally in those currencies, get the right licenses. That's our goal. So, expand what we've built, bring it to other regions, become this layer that everyone can globally sit on for most major currencies.
Amazing. Stephane, thank you again for your time. Congrats on everything you've built so far. I'm very excited to see where you and Jiko go from here. Very, very exciting.
Oh, thank you. Still lots to go, but appreciate the support. Thanks for your time.
Stephane Lintner, thank you very much for joining us today.