London-based bank touts safety of new online safety deposit box

CEO asks London business community spread word of bank's success.

Bitcoin investors and Hollywood celebrities with embarrassing photos take heart – your online privacy can be ensured thanks to made-in-London technology, rooted in the military.

VersaBank, London’s online bank, will by the end of October launch VersaVault, an online safety deposit box where just about anything – including cryptocurrency, photographs and contracts to name a few – can be stored securely, said David Taylor, VersaBank’s chief executive.

“We partnered with people who use technology for military applications. We feel we will be bringing something to the banking industry it has not seen before,” said Taylor.

“It is a breakthrough. You can put (a digital valuable) in your vault and have confidence hackers won’t get into it.”

In January, VersaBank, one of Canada’s chartered banks, announced it was beta-testing the VersaVault technology, and that testing has been a success, added Taylor.

“It went very well, we learned a lot,” he said. “If you want to be certain something will not disappear, such as a contract, or make sure your girlfriend’s picture doesn’t end up be on a billboard,” this technology is for you, he added.

While he declined to reveal the cost of the vault, it won’t be cheap, he suggested.

“You’ll be paying a good fee, but it is the same security that military around the world uses,” he said.

VersaBank hired two security experts from BlackBerry to create the technology.

There are no forecasts for what the product might generate in revenue, but “it may make an enormous amount of money,” Taylor said with a laugh.

“We have a wonderful lending operation, but we also have a lot of wonderful innovative ideas. We are working them quietly,” he added.

Taylor announced the latest development in the bank’s push toward innovation on Wednesday at a London Club luncheon, where he asked a cross-section of London businesspeople to talk up the bank and spread the word about its success.

“There are businesses in London that have had huge success but are working so hard they don’t know how others view them. There comes a point when they want others to know about them,” said Gerry Macartney, general manager London Chamber of Commerce.

“If you ask people if they know about VersaBank they will say ‘I don’t think so.’ They work in a specific cluster and do very well, but they should be celebrated by the community.”

At one point Taylor singled out developer Vito Frijia, chief executive of Southside Group and owner of the London Lightning basketball team, to talk about Versa the next time the Lightning play.

“We are a public company and we have stakeholders that need to know what a bank is doing, depositors need to know how well we are doing, our borrowers all need to know. It is important as a public company and a bank there is an understanding of what our institution is about,” said Taylor.

A quick look at its numbers suggests VersaBank is doing well, indeed. It has more than $1.8 billion in assets. At the end of 2017 it reported fourth quarter core cash earnings of $4.7 million, up 46 per cent over the same quarter the year before.

“The growth in assets has been five to 10 per cent per year, but earnings are exponential – 46 per cent growth rate, I have never heard of that. It is wonderful,” said Taylor.

“We are growing, but the earnings are growing way faster than assets.”

Of those assets, $894 million or 49 per cent is in e-commerce, $479 million or 27 per cent is in commercial banking and $259 million or 14 per cent is in construction loans, with other assets making up the balance.

Frank Foran, former vice-president of Pro Hardware in London, has long been a VersaBank shareholder, and liked what he heard. “If you look at where they are trending now, they have been a lead dog in this area for some time. They are ahead of others, but they are in a niche market. We have to get Bay Street off their fanny and sell it,” he said of shares selling for about $7.

“It will pay off in the future. I’m impressed by what I heard.”

VersaBank was born in 1979 as Pacific and Western Trust and rebranded in 2016. It has 81 full-time employees.
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