Dutch neobank bunq eyes UK expansion, 3 years after Brexit ousting

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Dutch challenger bank bunq has reported its first full year of profit, a welcome cash cushion as the company plans its UK relaunch.

Bunq, which is Europe’s second largest neobank, said it made €53.1mn in net profit in 2023, a dramatic jump from the €16.5mn loss it incurred the year previous.

Riding this momentum, bunq has now submitted its application for an E-Money Institution (EMI) licence in the UK, three years since Brexit invalidated the one it had. 

“The UK is home to the second-highest number of digital nomads globally, so naturally, we want to be there,” said bunq founder and CEO Ali Niknam. “We want to truly make their life easy. That’s why we’re excited to reintroduce bunq to the Brits and enable them to bank like a local all across Europe.”

Bunq stopped offering new accounts in the UK at the end of 2020. However, it still has UK users acquired before Brexit. 

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The Amsterdam-based firm has been planning a UK comeback for at least a few months already. It incorporated a new British subsidiary in late November, with a registered office in Regent Street in London’s central shopping district.

The bank foresees a large market to tap into, including an estimated 2.8 million British digital nomads. “As a bridge between Europe and the rest of the world, the UK is at the forefront of European fintech and a hugely important market for bunq. As a true tech company, it only makes sense for us to pursue this market,” said Niknam. 

However, bunq will be attempting to elbow its way onto an already highly competitive market. Monzo, Starling, and Revolut – which is currently seeking a UK banking licence – have all boomed in recent years. As Europe’s biggest neobank, Revolut alone registers more than 30 million users, 6.8 million of which reside in Britain. 

Niknam, born in Canada to Iranian parents and raised in the Netherlands, founded bunq in 2012. Two years later, the fintech startup became the first bank to get a European banking licence in 35 years. It reached unicorn status in 2021. 

Neobanks are often called challenger banks because they force legacy banks to up their tech game, particularly when it comes to user experience and online banking. 

In the push to keep innovating, bunq recently launched Finn — a generative AI chatbot that helps users plan their finances, make better budgets, and easily find transactions.

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