German online bank N26's losses widen in 2021 as customer growth slows

A N26 logo is seen in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

FRANKFURT, Oct 11 (Reuters) - German online bank N26, which is being monitored by German financial regulators, on Tuesday reported a wider loss for 2021 and a slowing in customer growth, capping a year of setbacks for one of Europe's most valuable fintechs.

The Berlin-based bank's 2021 loss increased to 172 million euros ($167.10 million), from a 151 million euro loss in 2020. It added one million new customers last year, down from the two million customers that were added in the previous year.

N26, founded in 2013, was valued at more than $9 billion after it completed a $900 million fundraising round in 2021.

"The company is well-positioned to build on the progress made in 2021," it said on Tuesday.

Reuters Graphics

CEO Valentin Stalf told reporters he expected a 30% increase in revenues in 2022 due to higher interest rates, but CFO Jan Kemper declined to say when the bank would break even.

N26 ran into a rough patch in 2021, when in September of that year it was fined by Germany's financial regulator for lapses in money-laundering controls, following on from orders in May.

Weeks later, BaFin ordered N26 to limit the number of customers it takes on to 50,000 a month and appointed a second special representative to monitor the bank.

N26 then said it would close its U.S. operations, affecting 500,000 customers there, and focus on Europe.

The bank said on Tuesday it increased its investments in "strengthening regulator frameworks", which added to higher administrative costs.

Of its 8 million customers, 3.7 million are generating revenue, it said. That compares with 3.1 million at the end of 2020 and is a slowdown in the pace of growth of such clients.

N26's smartphone banking app offers a scalable, low-cost model that has attracted backing from, among others, insurer Allianz, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC, Chinese internet group Tencent, venture capital firm Earlybird and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.

($1 = 1.0293 euros)

Reporting by Tom Sims and Marta Orosz. Editing by Jane Merriman

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Thomson Reuters

Covers German finance with a focus on big banks, insurance companies, regulation and financial crime, previous experience at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in Europe and Asia.