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Revolut launches stock trading in limited release

By Romain Dillet

Fintech startup Revolut is launching its stock trading feature today. It’s a Robinhood-like feature that lets you buy and sell shares without any commission. For now, the feature is limited to some Revolut customers with a Metal card.

While Robinhood has completely changed the stock trading retail market in the U.S., buying shares hasn’t changed much in Europe. Revolut wants to make it easier to invest on the stock market.

After topping up your Revolut account, you can buy and hold shares directly from the Revolut app. For now, the feature is limited to 300 U.S.-listed stocks on NASDAQ and NYSE. The company says that it plans to expand to U.K. and European stocks as well as Exchange Traded Funds.

There’s no minimum limit on transactions, which means that you can buy fractional shares for $1 for instance. You can see real-time prices in the Revolut app.

When it comes to fees, Revolut doesn’t charge any fee indeed, but with some caveats. The feature is currently limited to Revolut Metal customers for now. It currently costs £12.99 per month or €13.99 per month to become a Metal customer.

As long as you make less than 100 trades per month, you don’t pay anything other than your monthly subscription. Any trade above that limit costs £1 per trade and an annual custody fee of 0.01%.

Eventually, Revolut will roll out stock trading to other subscription tiers. Revolut Premium will get 8 commission-free trades per month and basic Revolut users will get 3 commission-free trades per month.

Behind the scene, Revolut has partnered with DriveWealth for this feature. This is a nice addition for existing Revolut users. You don’t have to open a separate account with another company and Metal customers in particular get a lot of free trades.

Revolut opens tech hub in Berlin

By Romain Dillet

Fintech startup Revolut is opening a small tech hub in Berlin. There’s already a ton of fintech talent in the city, as it’s the hometown of N26. The company plans to hire 80 people at first for many different tech jobs, from software engineering to data science, product and growth.

And this isn’t just about hiring talent in other cities. Revolut plans to customize its product a bit more for the German market, and more generally Europe.

In many ways, Revolut still feels like a British app. For instance, if you want to change your card PIN code, the company tells you to use an ATM to change it. This is simply not possible in Germany, France and many European markets.

And the team in Berlin will also work on Revolut’s commission-free stock trading feature, a sort of Robinhood competitor for Europe. The company is also working on an app for children, maybe as an alternative to a first bank account.

There are currently 150,000 Revolut users in Germany. The company will have a local marketing and communications team to expand more aggressively in that market.

It’s still hard to create a global fintech app that works all around the world. People manage their money in different ways depending on the country in which they live. And fintech startups are also realizing that, now that they have a solid product offering at home.

Bunq lets you track and settle up group expenses

By Romain Dillet

Fintech startup Bunq is announcing a handful of new features today, such as a way to track group expenses without creating a joint account, a web app and better Siri integration.

If you usually track vacation expenses and group expenses from your phone, chances are you’ve been using two different products — a mobile app like Splitwise to track group expenses with your friends, and a peer-to-peer payment app to settle up balances.

Bunq is essentially bundling together these two features with Slice Groups for owners of the Bunq Travel Card. Given that the Bunq app already lists all your transactions, adding transactions to a group is easier than with your average group payment tracking app.

After adding other people to your Slice Group, each person can add expenses to the group. You get a list of your most recent Bunq transactions and you can add them to a group. You can also add manual transactions in case you paid for something using cash for instance.

This is just a group accounting feature. When you add a transaction to a Slice Group, your money remains in your account. But you can see who has a positive balance and who has a negative balance.

When you settle up a group, people who owe money get a push notification. They can then tap on the notification and send money from their Bunq account to your friends’ Bunq accounts.

This feature will work particularly well for groups of people who all use the Bunq Travel Card. But it doesn’t fundamentally change how you manage your money with groups.

Bunq now has two tiers of users. Free users get a travel card with an account that they can top up. Paid users get a full-fledged bank account with banking information.

Multiple paid users can already create joint accounts with their roommates or partner. You can then associate your Bunq card with a joint account and spend money from that joint account directly.

So if you have a Bunq Travel Card, Slice Groups are for you. If you have a Bunq bank account, joint accounts are for you.

Revolut doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel either as you can only split individual card transactions with other users. It could take a while to settle all transactions after a long vacation. Revolut also lets you create Group Vaults. Those are sub-accounts to put some money aside and invite other people to contribute. But only the admin can withdraw and spend money from those vaults.

N26 has promised Shared Spaces so that you can create sub-accounts and share them with other people. But the feature isn’t live yet.

Lydia’s take on group expenses works more like Bunq’s joint accounts. You can create sub-accounts and share those accounts with other people. Everyone can then top up that account and attach a payment method, such as a payment card or a virtual card in Apple Pay or Google Pay. You can also move expenses from one sub-account to another. When you’re back from vacation, you can associate your card with your personal Lydia account again.

In addition to Slice Groups, Bunq is also launching a web interface to access your bank account. It works a bit like WhatsApp’s web app. You scan a QR code with your phone and you can then control the mobile app from a desktop web browser.

Bunq should also work better with Siri. You can now send money using your voice or change card settings. Finally, the startup has also made improvements to its business accounts with a few new features. For instance, you can now automatically put money aside to pay back VAT later down the road.

bunq update 11

Monzo, the UK challenger bank with over 2 million users, expands to the US

By Steve O'Hear

Monzo, the U.K. challenger bank with more than two million customers and a unicorn valuation to go with it, has formally announced its U.S. expansion.

The tentative move — which TechCrunch exclusively reported was underway five months ago — will see a U.S. Monzo app and connected Mastercard debit card made available via in-person signups at events to be held soon. The rollout will initially consist of a few thousand cards, supported by a waitlist in preparation for a wider launch.

In a call, Monzo co-founder and CEO Tom Blomfield told me he thinks the key to cracking North America is to create a fully localised version of Monzo based on carefully listening to U.S. users in order to find market fit. There are obvious and less obvious cultural and technical differences in the way Brits and Americans save, spend and manage their finances, and this will require significant product divergence.

In other words, Monzo isn’t presuming that specific features of the U.K. offering, which is currently seeing 200,000 people sign up each month, will automatically resonate with customers across the pond. To equally succeed in the U.S., it will be about the details, and in a sense the company will need to act like a startup within what is now a scale-up if it is to repeat much of the Monzo playbook.

In the U.K., Monzo currently has an NPS score of 80, which Blomfield says is unusually high for a bank. He also tells me 60% of U.K. signups remain long-term active, transacting at once per week. However, as a counterpoint, the percentage of Monzo users that pay their salary into the Monzo account sits at between about 27% and 30% of active users, suggesting that a significant number of Monzo customers aren’t yet using it as their main account. Monzo’s definition of salaried is anyone who deposits at least £1,000 per month by bank transfer.

Returning back to America, Monzo says it will develop the U.S. version into a “fully-featured digital account” that can be accessed on your smartphone and will have the ability to extend into various “Monzo and third-party financial services.”

Initially, the challenger bank is partnering with an established U.S. bank, but is also working on applying for its own U.S. bank license. As in the U.K., the plan is to build and own as much of its technology stack as possible, which Blomfield says will be needed to give Monzo the agility to serve U.S. customers successfully.

To achieve this, Monzo will open an office in Los Angeles, Calif., chosen “because it isn’t San Francisco,” says Blomfield. He says he was mindful of putting Monzo within the Silicon Valley bubble where rents are not only ridiculously high but product groupthink could be detrimental.

Meanwhile, Monzo joins a growing list of London-based B2C fintechs hoping to conquer America. Earlier today, money management app Emma announced that it had launched in the U.S. via a partnership with Plaid. Another example is banking chatbot and app Cleo, which quietly entered the U.S. nine months ago.

Added to this, Blomfield has always talked openly about his ambition to bring Monzo to the U.S. Over the years the challenger bank has attracted an array of U.S. investors. They include General Catalyst, Thrive Capital, Goodwater Capital, Stripe, Michael Moritz and Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. Most recently, TechCrunch reported that Y Combinator is also set to join the company’s cap table.

N26 shares some metrics

By Romain Dillet

Fintech startup N26 just issued an update on its main metrics. The bank now has 3.5 million customers across 24 European markets. The company is about to expand to new countries, such as the U.S. and Brazil but it sounds like the company is not ready just yet.

In addition to the Eurozone, N26 is currently available in the U.K., Denmark, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

If you look at past milestones, N26 announced reaching 2 million customers back in November 2018, 2.5 million customers in February 2019. So growth is still accelerating when it comes to user registrations.

Monzo currently has 1.7 million customers while Revolut has attracted 5 million customers.

But even more important than the number of users, N26 currently handles a volume of €2 billion per month — it represents 400 transactions per minute.

There are now 1,300 people working for the company in Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna, New York and Sao Paulo. Metrics are nice but this is soft news. I hope the company will have more announcements soon about product and country launches.

Revolut adds Apple Pay support in 16 markets

By Natasha Lomas

Fintech startup Revolut has expanded its support for Apple Pay, confirming that from today the payment option is available for users in 16 European markets.

The list of supported markets is: UK, France, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.

Press reports last month suggested the UK challenger bank had inked Apple Pay agreements in markets including the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland.

It’s not clear what took Revolut so long to join the Apple Pay party.

Customers in the supported markets can add their Revolut card to Apple Pay via the Revolut app or via Apple’s Wallet app. Those without a plastic card can add a virtual card to Apple Wallet via the Revolut app and are able to start spending immediately, without having to wait for the physical card to arrive in the post.

Commenting in statement, Arthur Johanet, product owner for card payments at Revolut, said: “Revolut’s ultimate goal is to give our customers a useful tool to manage every aspect of their financial lives, and the ability to make payments quickly, conveniently and securely is vital to achieving this. Our customers have been requesting Apple Pay for a long time, so we are delighted to kick off our rollout, starting with our customers in 16 markets. This is a very positive step forward in enabling our customers to use their money in the way that they want to.”

Bunq launches travel card to make foreign exchange fees disappear

By Romain Dillet

Fintech startup Bunq provides full-fledged bank accounts. But if you’re happy with your existing bank, the company is launching a new free tier so that you can cut down on banking fees.

The Bunq Travel Card is a Mastercard without any foreign exchange fee. The company uses the standard Mastercard exchange rate but doesn’t add any markup fee — N26 also uses Mastercard’s exchange rate. Most traditional banks charge you 2 or 3 percent for foreign transactions.

When you get a card, you can then top up your account in the Bunq app. You can also send and request money with other Bunq users. But it isn’t a full bank account.

While there is no fee on foreign transaction, you still have to pay €0.99 per ATM withdrawal. It also costs €9.99 to order a card, but there’s no monthly fee.

The company insists on one thing in particular. The Travel Card is a credit card. Revolut has been issuing prepaid cards for years, and it can create some issues. For instance, some hotels, rental car companies or gas stations don’t accept prepaid cards.

It isn’t a normal credit card as you can’t spend money you don’t have. You have to top up your Bunq account before using the card and overdrafts are disabled. In other words, if you don’t have enough money on your account, the transaction gets rejected.

The Bunq app lets you freeze and unfreeze your travel card. You can receive a notification every time a transaction is processed and you can set your own limits.

This new offering should boost signups for Bunq. And it could be a good way to attract premium subscribers. If you have bigger needs beyond a travel card, you’ll have to subscribe to a premium account for €7.99 per month.

Revolut launches Group Vaults as an alternative to joint accounts

By Romain Dillet

Fintech startup Revolut is making vaults collaborative. You can now create a vault with someone else and use it like a normal vault.

Originally, vaults were an alternative to savings accounts without any interest rate. You could create vault in any currency (including supported cryptocurrencies) and set some money aside. You can round up your expenses and add change to a vault, program regular transfers to your vault or add money whenever you feel like it.

If vaults are like a Word document, group vaults are like a collaborative document in Google Docs. Multiple persons can now interact with a group vault just like a normal vault.

This will be useful for couples who want a sort of joint account without opening a bank account, parents giving some money to their children, roommates creating a common pot to pay for group expenses, friends going on vacation, etc.

Revolut users have created 1 million normal vaults so far. They currently hold the equivalent of $95 million (£75 million).

In other news, Revolut mentioned a new app for younger customers —Revolut Youth. It's not available yet but the company is working on it.

There are now 4.9 million registered users on Revolut. Every day, 12,000 people sign up. Every month, Revolut processes $5.5 billion in transaction volume.

N26 faces banking regulator order about fraudulent transactions

By Romain Dillet

Fintech startup N26 received an order from BaFin, the German banking regulator. According to the regulator, N26 hasn’t been doing enough when it comes to money laundering and terrorist financing. The company has a specific period of time to implement changes and rectify its internal processes.

“Today, BaFin published an order for N26 Bank GmbH. An order is an instruction from them to improve processes within a certain time frame. The order requires us to optimize existing processes to prevent money laundering and increase N26 staffing levels,” the company says in a blog post.

A few articles have highlighted a handful of cases of fraud in recent weeks. Customers tried to use N26 for money-laundering purposes. It took some time before N26 reacted and closed those accounts.

It’s not that surprising given that literally every bank suffers from this issue. For instance, all the big French banks (BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and Crédit Mutuel) have been fined in the past for the same reason.

Banking regulators don’t review suspicious transactions directly. They make sure that banks have the right processes and teams to catch the vast majority of suspicious transactions.

As N26 has more than 2.5 million users, it’s been hard to scale its workforce appropriately. In other words, it has been short-staffed. In recent months, the company has been hiring customer support and anti-money laundering teams like crazy, by hiring more people directly and signing deals with subcontractors.

BaFin asks N26 to catch up with its backlog of flagged transactions. The company plans to be done by the end of next week. BaFin also wants to see written descriptions of processes and workflows. Finally, the regulator says that N26 should recheck the identity of some customers and redo the KYC process (“know your customer”). N26 says that it plans to implement BaFin’s requirements before the deadline.

Creating a startup is hard, but creating a bank with startup-like growth is even harder. Banking regulation is tough, and it’s a good thing for N26 customers that BaFin is keeping an eye out. Let’s hope that today’s order is just a bump in the road.