N26, a Berlin startup that offers financial services directly to consumers, said Thursday it's received a German banking license that will let it offer a fuller range of products across Europe.
The company, whose mobile app lets European consumers maintain an account, transfer money and pay by MasterCard from their smartphones, said in a statement it's now licensed as a bank by the European Central Bank and Germany's BaFin financial supervisory authority. The startup, which changed its name from Number26, said the license will let it offer savings, investment, credit and insurance products from partners.
The approval for the three-year-old company provides another regulatory stamp of approval for fintech startups, which seek to undercut and outmaneuver bigger banks by offering consumers financial services directly from their smartphones and tablets. Such companies have lured younger customers with speedy credit approvals, and slick, modern user interfaces for their apps.
N26 said it plans to offer new services, including the ability for consumers to split expenses like restaurant bills directly from their phones, and that it plans to generate more revenue from credit card transactions and commissions from partners.
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The Berlin startup counts the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel among its investors, and in June landed a $40 million investment round led by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing's Horizon Ventures. The U.K.'s TransferWise Ltd., which offers a digital service for money wiring, also counts Thiel and billionaire Richard Branson as investors. And so-called robo-advisor Betterment LLC secured $100 million in funding this year, led by Sweden's Investment AB Kinnevik.
In light of research that billions of dollars of revenue could be at risk for established banks, stalwarts including Deutsche Bank AG and Bank of America Corp. are starting to offer free or low-cost software for managing portfolios and other tasks.
For N26, the banking license also validates a burgeoning Berlin startup scene that's attracted money and talent but has yet to produce a crop of significant exits for investors.