BNP Paribas has agreed to acquire a 95% stake in the holding company of the startup digital bank Compte-Nickel, the French banking giant announced Tuesday.

Compte-Nickel, owned by Financière des Paiements Électroniques, offers real-time payments and has opened more than 540,000 accounts over the past three years, according to a press release from BNP Paribas. A new account with Compte-Nickel is opened in France every 30 seconds.

BNP Paribas signage.
Bloomberg News

While Compte-Nickel is a digital account, its business model relies on the help of a network of tobacconist shops to originate the relationships. People pay 20 euros to sign up for the service inside the shops. Clerks verify the person’s identity. The new customer gets a debit card, an international bank account number and online access within minutes.

As part of the deal, the companies extended the exclusive partnership between Compte-Nickel and the Confédération des Buralistes de France, an organization that represents 25,000 retailers in France.

Compte-Nickel will be operated independently, Thierry Laborde, group deputy chief operating officer for BNP Paribas, said in the release. However, BNP said that under its guidance, it has set a goal of a having 2 million customers for the digital bank by 2020.

“We will be making every effort to help Compte-Nickel improve the customer experience and foster its growth, while remaining true to its concept,” Laborde said in the release.

Bryan Yurcan

Bryan Yurcan

Bryan Yurcan is a senior writer with American Banker, with a focus on financial technology.