Acquisition of Delaware’s Digital-First Fair Square Filling Consumer Credit Card Gap for Industry Leader Ally Financial

This is a sponsored blog post by Delaware Prosperity Partnership

Delaware’s status as a hub for financial services dates back to the early 1980s, when state leaders enacted the Financial Center Development Act to welcome out-of-state banks and attract new investments. Today, financial services is the state’s largest traded sector. In Wilmington alone, nearly 170,000 financial services professionals work for venerable institutions like Bank of America, Barclays and Capital One and newer firms like College Ave Student Loans, Marlette Funding and PayPal, among many others. Another 100,000 technology experts are employed in the city’s metropolitan labor market.

With that amount of fintech expertise, it made sense for Rob Habgood and his team – all veterans of the Delaware credit card industry themselves – to launch Fair Square Financial (now part of Ally Financial Inc.) in Wilmington in 2016.

“There’s a very deep talent pool here in Delaware,” said Habgood, head of Ally Credit Card and former CEO of Fair Square. “There is more credit card talent here in Wilmington, Delaware, than any other place on the planet.”

Fair Square was created as a customer-centric, digital-first credit card company and quickly became known for its competitive brand of transparent and low-fee Ollo products.

What sets the Ollo (now Ally) card apart in a state known for credit cards is its digital-first strategy. Customers do everything from applying for a card to making payments and servicing their accounts online and via the mobile app. On the back end, machine learning models and advanced analytics drive decisions from targeted underwriting to customer management and collections, with teams all working hand-in-hand to execute a strategic plan in an open-plan fintech space.

By the time it was acquired by leading full-service digital bank Ally in 2021, the entrepreneurial, stand-alone business was operating in a lean, effective and successful manner with fewer than 100 Wilmington employees serving 693,000 customers around the world. The new Ally Credit Card headquarters remain in Wilmington, and operations there are growing.

“Ally’s strong nationwide brand allows us to go after more aggressive growth and compete effectively across the full spectrum of customers. We’re going to be growing pretty rapidly here and welcoming high-quality people to continue to build our team,” Habgood said.

In 2022, Ally announced it was investing $520,000 to renovate 22,000 square feet of the Wilmington site and adding up to 150 positions – which will increase employment there by up to 200% – through 2025. Supporting the company’s investment in this expansion are a $20,000 Capital Expenditure Grant and a $2.64 million Jobs Performance Grant from the Delaware Strategic Fund.

Hiring is across the board, from marketing and product personnel to data scientists with credit card experience in analytics, risk, compliance, operations and project management. Many of those whom Ally hopes to welcome already live in Delaware or the surrounding area, but more and more talent looking for a great place to live, work and play are discovering Delaware’s advantages.

Habgood, himself, moved to Delaware in 2011. “We enjoy a high quality of life here in Delaware,” he said. “We not only have access to major metro areas, but to beaches and beautiful countryside — and to great schools.”

“Delaware is a great place to live — a great place geographically — I couldn’t speak more highly of it,” he said.