LendingClub, a pioneer in marketplace lending in the first wave of fintech startups, has agreed to buy the online-only Radius Bank for a cash and stock transaction valued at $185 million in the first acquisition of a mainstream bank by a fintech company.

San Francisco-based Lending Club, which went public in 2014, matches borrowers with investors willing to fund their loans. Merging with Radius, a $1.4 billion-asset, Boston-based community bank, gives it a fast track to becoming a regulated deposit-taking company – allowing it to diversify its consumer banking services and ultimately its revenue stream. 

There have been glimmers of action on this type of fintech-bank merger. In 2011 the prepaid debit card firm Green Dot, then valued at $1.3 billion, acquired the $37 million-asset Bonneville Bank in Utah. The buy did a lot for Green Dot's growth as it began to operate with more efficiency and innovation and to collect fees directly and introduce new products without waiting for the green light from its bank partner.

For many fintech startups, the road to obtaining a banking license has been a long and difficult process as they navigate the complexity of 50 separate state banking regulations. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency had created a special purpose bank charter for fintech startups that allowed them to offer lending and payments products without providing FDIC insurance, or having to comply with 50 different chartering regimes; in October a New York judge ruled the OCC didn't have the authority to do that.

Square and SoFi have both withdrawn applications for a banking license to the FDIC, though Square has resubmitted its application. Last week, Varo Money received the first FDIC approval for a bank charter. 

Jelena McWilliams, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, told Cheddar in October that fintech companies present "healthy competition" to community banks.

"To the extent that community banks are able to innovate on their own and develop both technologies internally and partner up with some of these fintechs, I do believe that there can be a symbiotic relationship between the fintechs and the banks," McWilliams said.

"Community banks generally don't have the scale of larger banks to compete effectively in the marketplace or as effectively as the larger banks," she added. "If they can utilize the delivery channels and the products and services and agility of a fintech to reach their audience and consumers, I think they can have a prosperous relationship coexisting together."

The acquisition is expected to close in 12 to 15 months. CNBC first reported the deal Tuesday afternoon.

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