Truist launches a venture capital unit

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Truist Financial has launched a venture capital division and is leading the latest funding round for the global payments network Veem, its first investment.

The Charlotte, N.C., company says that Truist Ventures, announced Wednesday, will fund startups in fintech and related categories. It can offer early-stage companies the capital they need to grow combined with access to experts within the bank. When it comes to funding, Truist Ventures will be “stage agnostic,” willing to either lead rounds or support companies through different phases of fundraising.

“Our objective is to help Truist deliver the right mix of human touch and innovative technology,” Dontá Wilson, chief digital and client experience officer at the $504 billion-asset Truist, said in an interview. “We are the link between Truist and the broader entrepreneur community within and beyond the financial services industry.”

Vanessa Vreeland, who has more than 20 years of private equity, venture capital and banking experience, will lead Truist Ventures. Before joining the Truist predecessor SunTrust in 2018, Vreeland ran fintech investment at Fifth Third.

Vanessa Vreeland, head of Truist Ventures
“A lot of the focus will be searching for companies with diverse entrepreneurs and management teams,” said Vanessa Vreeland, who was chosen to lead Truist Ventures.

“We’re looking for innovative solutions, novel technology and fantastic management teams,” Vreeland said.

She notes that her team’s investment choices may not always fall neatly into the category of fintech. Some may lean more toward “adjacent tech,” or technologies that can improve fintech solutions — say, integrating biometrics into ATM use.

The new division promises to work closely with the companies it invests in to help them grow.

With Veem, for example, Truist Ventures connected CEO Marwan Forzley and his management team to executives within the bank’s wholesale payments division for insights into their clients.

The venture capital arm is also committed to diversity.

“A lot of the focus will be searching for companies with diverse entrepreneurs and management teams,” Vreeland said. “We’re not saying we’ll have a specified pool for diverse companies, but it’ll be part of our focus and we would like to see up to 60% of our pipeline full of diverse entrepreneurs.”

It’s also a competitive advantage, Wilson said.

“The more diversity that you’re investing in from a company perspective, the better you’re going to understand the solutions that are tailored to the different pockets of diversity that we serve,” he said.

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