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ClickSwitch Holdings Inc., a Minneapolis fintech firm, more than doubled its staff during 2019, its founder said, and has started to attract some of the nation's biggest banks to use its technology.

The closely held company now has more than 60 employees and a new office in the North Loop that is already getting tight, just a few months after leaving its previous space near Target Center downtown.

"We're just hammering down on growth and hiring," Cale Johnston, the company's founder and chief executive, said in an interview last week.

The company created a system that banks can use on their websites and apps to quickly sign up and transfer customers who have direct deposits and bill paying automated at other banks. It began to grow quickly after taking its first outside investment in the summer of 2018.

For now, Johnston said the company is well capitalized and routinely turning down offers from investors. "We've tried to stay smart and not outraise ourselves," he said.

ClickSwitch initially concentrated on selling its technology to small and midsize banks, often as an add-on to direct-deposit technology sold by large payroll-processing firms. But over the past year, the company built its direct marketing force. Last fall, the company hired Eric Edwards as chief revenue officer. Edwards was formerly an executive at Finastra, one of the largest fintech firms in the world, and Fiserv Inc., the Milwaukee-based provider of digital tools for banks.

Last month, ClickSwitch made its technology available for integration with Finastra's products. It has also forged direct contracts with three of the nation's top 25 banks and is in talks with others, the two executives said without discussing specifics.

"We're trying to do a push for the Tier 1 financial institutions," Johnston said, using industry classification that refers to funding sources. "We continue to serve the midmarket banks and credit unions as well as the challenger banks."

"Challenger banks" represent a relatively new segment of the banking world, chiefly well-capitalized startup firms that deliver services online and through mobile apps. Some long-established firms have created challenger banks, as Goldman Sachs with its Marcus unit. Others have bought rising players, as Intuit did with Credit Karma in a $7.1 billion deal last week and Visa did with Plaid in a $5.3 billion deal in January.

Johnston said ClickSwitch technology is used by a handful of challenger banks, but they have become high-volume customers because they attract so many new depositors. Some of the newer firms use special offers — such as providing payroll funds a day or two early, or making small loans in a blink — to attract customers.

"It's a market where banks need to catch up with some of the innovations," he said.

A year ago, ClickSwitch relied more heavily on human interaction to double-check and confirm some of the account changes it helped facilitate. But that process is more automated now, Johnston said.

"There's no more man in the middle," he said. "Our transaction volume grew 350 percent last year and you can no longer rely on manual processes when you're growing at that rate."

Evan Ramstad • 612-673-4241