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Arlington fintech CEO says future is bright for his recently acquired startup

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Arlington-based fintech company Rize Money was started seven years ago with a simple goal: to help consumers navigate the opaque world of financial services.

Although CEO Justin Howell steered the company from serving people to fintech and technology companies in 2021, the underlying point of simplifying transactions stayed the same.

“Our goal was to break down the barriers between various financial siloes and enable financial user experiences that were simple and intuitive,” he tells ARLnow.

One service it offers is an “embedded payments platform,” which companies can use to provide customers with a seamless experience paying for a service, like an Uber ride, without leaving its application to make the payment.

But Howell had goals beyond what Rize could achieve on its own as a startup, though it raised several million dollars in early financing rounds.

Justin Howell Headshot - High Rez
Rize Money CEO Justin Howell (courtesy Rize)

The biggest opportunities we see in the market require a level of scale that is very difficult to achieve on a standalone basis as a startup,” he said.

Enter Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank, which acquired the startup as part of its goal to capitalize on emerging technology in the banking sector. The Washington Business Journal first reported the move.

“While there will certainly be changes moving from a stand-alone venture-backed startup to one of the largest banks in the U.S., working with the Embedded Payments team will enable us to remain tech-first; only now we’ll be more equipped than ever to have a lasting impact on the sector,” he said.

Howell is optimistic about joining forces with a banking institution that is staying on top of market trends by acquiring fintech companies.

“Fifth Third brings the scale, Rize Money, Inc. brings the technology, and by joining forces, we’re able to meet the needs of the best clients,” he said.

He said his goal is to make embedded finance a “mainstream reality” and that Tom Bianco — general manager of embedded payments at Fifth Third Bank — and his team are the perfect partners for reaching this goal.

Through the acquisition, Howell intends to add to his team of staff.

“We will rearrange the structure of our team as we integrate with the Embedded Payments team, but our team will only grow,” he said.

Howell says Rize will have succeeded when it is “attracting the largest clients and growing the high-margin revenue base.”

“Joining Fifth Third means we’ll have 100% alignment among the tech
platform and the bank as we conquer the space,” he said.

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