A new bank has launched in Britain that is known on the continent for current accounts that customers can open ‘within eight minutes.’
N26, founded in 2013 by two Austrians, boasts more than 1.5million customers across Europe and is hoping to take a slice of the UK current account market.
It becomes the latest foreign lender to enter Britain’s digital banking space in recent weeks, after Marcus from US-based Goldman Sachs launched a 1.5 per cent savings account.
Banking newbie: N26 is set to launch current accounts in Britain – it currently offers to different options elsewhere in Europe
The Berlin-headquartered mobile bank will initially be available to ‘friends and family’ of N26 staff before rolling out to a UK waiting list that the company says is 50,000-strong.
The full public launch is set for November, although it currently has an early-bird sign-up form on its website.
It will operate under its European banking licence, but could seek a British licence further down the line, depending on the outcome of Brexit.
A spokesman said: ‘We have a German banking licence currently. If there comes a point at which that is not sufficient, we would do everything required of us to ensure we are still authorised to operate in the market.’
The bulk of its UK operations will be managed from continental Europe, where N26 employs around 500 staff – but it has 10 staff who will split their time between London and Berlin.
Its local team is expected to expand as UK services grow. It will be directly competing with relatively new fintechs already established in Britain: Monzo and Starling.
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Valentin Stalf, 32, N26 chief executive and co-founder, said: ‘The UK is one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world.
‘At N26, we have redesigned banking for the digital age and as a result we’re the fastest growing mobile bank in all European markets we operate in.
‘Backed by our state-of-the-art technology stack and an intuitive, user-centric design, today’s launch is the first step towards delivering the best digital banking experience possible for UK customers.’
N26 – backed by investors including Tencent, Allianz X and Earlybird Ventures – is now looking to launch in the US in the first half of 2019. It raised a total of $215million earlier in the year.
It is not clear what the current account offering will be in Britain, but it currently offers two accounts in Europe – a basic, free version, which offers free cash withdrawals in euros and free payments in any currency.
A paid-for version, N26 Black, costs €7.90 per month and also offers these two features alongside free withdrawals worldwide and an Allianz insurance package.
It says services and fees are for everyone who registers with an address in Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The current accounts come with a Mastercard debit card. There are no imminent plans to launch savings accounts.
N26 has been a ‘fintech darling’ in recent years
James Blower, independent expert at website The Savings Guru, said: ‘N26 has been somewhat of a fintech darling for a few years and what they’ve achieved in Europe has been admired by the UK fintech sector.
‘Its launch in the UK follows Monzo and Starling, who have already entered the current account market, with similar customer-centric focus and functionality looking to target a younger demographic and break the monopoly of the big four.
‘Both Monzo and Starling have been successful at acquiring customers with Monzo going over the one million mark last week.
‘While N26 will be looking to target the big four, they may find that Monzo has already stolen that ground and that they are actually in competition for those customers who have already moved to the new fintechs.
‘I don’t see anything sufficiently different in their offering to make them a more compelling choice than Monzo or Starling.
‘It has also recruited very few people in the UK, which could also hinder their success.
‘Other banks entering the market here have found there are cultural differences and recruiting the right people in the local market can have a significant impact on the likelihood of success.’
Why is it called N26?
The N stands for number – it was shortened in the infancy of the bank.
It explains that the number 26 is the number of smaller cubes in a complete Rubik’s Cube.
It says: ‘The cube is complex, but if you know the correct sequence of moves, you can solve it quickly and elegantly.
‘We try to apply the same approach to banking, which has historically been a complex and sometimes frustrating consumer experience that’s been short on innovation.
‘With the right approach and combination of moves, we hope to make banking fundamentally better.’
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