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European neobank Bunq aims to obtain UK license for expansion in 2022, with a valuation of $1.8 billion



Dutch digital bank Bunq, founded by Ali Niknam, is aiming to obtain a banking license from U.K. financial regulators to reenter the U.K. market. The firm initially launched in the U.K. in 2019 but had to exit in late 2020 due to Brexit, which prevented EU-based financial institutions from operating in the country without a U.K. license. Bunq currently holds a banking license with the Dutch central bank and is seeking to secure an electronic money institution license from the Financial Conduct Authority in the U.K.

One of the main challenges for Bunq in reentering the U.K. market is competition from rival European fintech companies such as Revolut, which has been working to obtain a U.K. banking license for years. A banking license allows firms to offer loans, which sets them apart from those with e-money licenses. Monzo and Starling, both U.K.-based consumer fintech platforms, already hold banking licenses in the country. Despite the challenges, Bunq is hopeful that the U.K. regulator will approve their application and allow them to tap into the potential market of 2.8 million British digital nomads.

Founded in 2012 in Amsterdam, Bunq has grown to become one of Europe’s largest neobanks, with 12.5 million users and 8 billion euros in deposits. The company reported its first full year of profitability in 2023, with a net profit of 53.1 million euros. Bunq has also set its sights on expansion in the United States, having filed for a U.S. federal bank charter in April 2023. The firm’s focus on digital nomads and its distinctive rainbow-colored cards have helped it stand out in the competitive fintech industry.

Ali Niknam, Bunq’s CEO and founder, expressed optimism about the company’s prospects in the U.K. market, noting that the U.K. regulator has been responsive and dialogue is ongoing. While the timeline for obtaining a banking license is uncertain, Niknam believes that things are moving in the right direction. Securing a U.K. license would not only allow Bunq to reestablish its presence in the country but also enable it to offer a wider range of financial services to customers, including loans.

The potential approval of a banking license in the U.K. would be a significant milestone for Bunq, as it would mark the company’s reentry into a key European market post-Brexit. With its focus on digital nomads and commitment to customer-centric services, Bunq is poised to make a splash in the competitive U.K. fintech landscape. As the firm continues to expand its reach and offerings, securing a U.K. banking license could pave the way for further growth and success in the fast-evolving digital banking sector.

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