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German Digital Bank N26 Launches in UK

The Berlin-based digital bank launched in UK on Thursday with its sights set on an eventual opening in the US in the first quarter of 2019

The information was conveyed by its Chief Executive, Valentin Stalf to Reuters.

He further elaborated that the bank will offer a suite of mobile banking services and bring on a handful of customers at first in October, before eventually opening accounts for some of its 50,000-strong waiting list in November.

Since launching in 2015, N26 has grown to have 1.5 million customers across eighteen markets in Europe, including its home base of Germany. It also counts Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and Silicon Valley mogul Peter Thiel among its backers.

The bank has pressed ahead with its launch in Britain despite the uncertainty created by

N26 is pressing ahead with its launch in UK despite uncertainty created by its looming exit from the European Union.

“Independent of Brexit the UK market was always a no-brainer for us, we have a vision of being a global finance brand and so the UK and U.S. are the natural next steps,” Stalf stated. N26 will use its German banking license to operate in Britain via a ‘passporting’ arrangement that according to Stalf, will be allowed to continue post-Brexit. Though the details of how that work are unclear.

“We have a branch here in Britain, we are licensed and its clear it will be valid in the short term via a grace period but we may need to do something more in say three years’ time,” Stalf stated.

“No one in the regulator seems to know, which is quite striking only six months away from Brexit.” He added.

N26 will competing in Britain against traditional branch-based banks such as Lloyds Banking Group and RBS, along with a host of digital-only challengers like Monzo, Starling and Tandem bank which offer customers a slick app-based service.

The newer banks face the  challenge on how to persuade customers to switch to them as a main bank, rather than using the digital bank as a gimmick while keeping their salary and savings with traditional banks viewed as slower but safer.

Tom Blomfeld, Monzo Chief Executive stated in July that only one in five of its users deposit their salary, indicating that the challenge new banks face to persuade users to adopt them as their main provider.

This breed of upstart digital lenders have much lower cost bases than branch-based lenders and have yet to demonstrate consistent profitability—as their rapid rate of customer acquisition outpaces their ability to get fees from them.

Stalf said N26 aims to be profitable in the second quarter of next year, with revenues coming from fees from products such as overdrafts and subscription revenues from its premier black and metal credit cards.

-GBO Correspondent

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