The neobanking wave is sweeping all countries and continents, from the EMEA to South America. The term coined in 2017 means a new type of financial institution offering state-of-the-art, quick and flexible services directly available via a smartphone or messengers. The growth of neobanks peaked during the global anti-COVID quarantine.
For instance, the number of new customers at Kakaobank (Korea) increased by 17.5% and continues to grow, while the Italian startup illimitably achieved its profitability in 2020.
Most neobanks raised multimillion investments last year. ZA Bank (Hong Kong) secured $193 million; PayTM (India) got $700 million just from 3 investors.
Here are some of the innovative benefits offered by neobanks:
- Easy and quick account opening online, in contrast with traditional banks
- International payments and transfers: debit cards can be used abroad charge-free and at the current exchange rate
- Simplified funds tracking and account aggregation
- Loans at lower rates and interest than those proposed by traditional institutions
In my opinion, guided by global research, top neobanks as of December 2020 are:
- Chime (USA) — a mobile-only bank without hidden fees for debit Visa cards and with accounts for expenses and savings, currently valued at $14.5 billion. According to in-house data, Chime will be ready for IPO within a year.
- Varo (USA) as of 2020 ranks third among major neobanks in the US, right behind Chime and Simple. It is the first neobank to receive the national bank charter (an independent license).
- Dave (USA), a startup valued at $1 billion, made it to the elite Unicorn Club. It is committed to helping with urgent financial issues: stretch it out till payday without paying extra bank charges, get interest-free loans, find temporary jobs and improve the credit rating.
- Monzo (UK) is one of Europe’s first IT startups and one of the few holding a bank license which is only available under the legislation in the United Kingdom and Australia.
- Revolut (UK) ranks second in terms of capitalization at the end of 2020: $5.5 billion. One of the most resonant Fintech projects in the world.
- N26 (Germany): a total of 1 billion euro in client funds. British neobanks apart, this is a major European project which announced in 2020 its intentions to expand to South America.
- SoFi (USA), calling itself a “next-generation financial company”, has adopted an unconventional lending and asset management approach. Their product StockBits, for example, enables customers to buy and sell fractional shares of 50 popular companies at a mere $1.
- Robinhood (USA) offers a mobile application to trade in stocks, ETF, options, ADR and cryptocurrencies charge-free. In September 2020 the startup raised $660 million during Series G funding and was consequently appraised at $11.7 billion.
- Klarna (Sweden) with $650 million of investments became the most expensive startup in Europe in 2020. This is an installment shopping service cooperating with global brands like Adidas and H&M. The partner network includes 130,000 stores.
- Nuвank (Brazil). Its customers have access to unlimited interbank fee-free transfers and to deposits in securities that can be redeemed or used at any time. In June 2020 Nubank announced its alliance with WhatsApp, integrating payments into the application.
According to experts, neobanks will gain 60 million clients in North America and Europe by January 2021, exceeding 145 million by 2024. So it is confident to predict further implementation of Fintech solutions into the ecosystems of traditional banks intending to retain customers and upgrade existing platforms.
And entities like Varo and Nubank are a good example of ambitions pursued by the financial market’s neo-players — to earn their place in the sun, a full-fledged one and not as a startup or something with the “neo” prefix.