New blank-check company from Bancorp founder lays groundwork for a fintech deal

  • A new $750 million special purpose acquisition company is listing on the Nasdaq Wednesday with the eventual goal of buying a global fintech company. 
  • The shell company is being run by Bancorp founder and former CEO, Betsy Cohen, and general partner at BBVA, Ryan Gilbert. 
  • So-called "blank check" companies are on a hot streak this year as more businesses forgo traditional public offerings. Fintech is also having a break-out year as the pandemic accelerates digital banking.

A new shell company set up by a former banking CEO is set to go public this week, with the eventual plan to buy up a fintech company.

The special purpose acquisition company — also known as a SPAC — will list on the Nasdaq Wednesday morning, according to its executives. 

Betsy Cohen, who founded and once ran The Bancorp, will act as chairman with Ryan Gilbert, general partner at Propel Venture Partners, as CEO. The $750 million company, "FTAC Olympus Acquisition," had filed with regulators confidentially in July but did not say when it would debut. 

So-called "blank check" companies are formed for the sole purpose of buying another company, and taking it public typically within two years. SPAC offerings have been on a hot streak this year as the pandemic and wild volatility weighed on the traditional IPO market. So far this year, 51 of these offerings have raised a record $21.5 billion, up 145% from the same period a year ago, according to Goldman Sachs.

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Tontine Holdings raised $4 billion and became the largest SPAC in history. Nikola, DraftKings and Virgin Galactic are among the other high-profile companies to go public through a SPAC. 

But Betsy Cohen and her team were in on the SPAC trend before the mania began this year: Wednesday's announcement will be their fourth fintech-focused shell company. One 2018 SPAC recently announced a merger agreement with payments provider Paya. Another, which went public in January 2017, combined with International Money Express. FinTech Acquisition, which went public in February 2015 combined with CardConnect, which was later acquired by First Data for roughly $750 million.

Cohen's fintech-focused company comes during a boom for digital finance. The virus has accelerated technologies such as contactless payments and online banking. 

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