German mobile bank N26 to launch in Britain, U.S. in 2018, CEO says

The logo of the Fintech N26 (Number26), seen in the N26 office in Berlin, Germany, August 19, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin-based digital bank N26 expects to offer its services in Britain and the United States by the end of the year, its founder and chief executive told Reuters.

N26, which counts Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel among its backers, is competing with traditional branch-based retail banks by offering a suite of mobile banking services that customers can use from their smartphones.

Since its launch in 2015, N26, with a German banking license that gives it access to the entire European Union, has expanded into 17 European countries including Austria, France, Spain and Italy.

“We will enter the British market this year and expect the market there to be of similar importance to us as France,” Chief Executive Officer Valentin Stalf said in an interview.

N26 will partner with a bank in the United States because its license isn’t valid there, Stalf said. “The plan is to bring our product to the market at the end of the year,” Stalf said.

Stalf said N26 opted against operating in China because the market for mobile payments there is already advanced, but he sees good opportunities in the United States.

“In the U.S., products and technology are old, and not oriented to digital customers, and the prices that banks charge are relatively high,” he said.

N26 employs a team of 10 in New York and has budgeted 5-10 million euros ($6-12 million) for the project.

In March, N26 said it raised $160 million in a funding round co-led by China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd and Allianz Group’s digital investment unit. The funding round brought the total funds raised by the company to $215 million, the most in Germany’s fintech sector.

Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik; Writing by Tom Sims; Editing by Keith Weir