Dutch neobank Bunq latest fintech to bank on Irish customersVish Gainon May 4, 2022 at 11:27 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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With Ulster Bank and KBC Bank, two of Ireland’s pillar banks, set to leave the Irish market this year, more than a million people are going to be looking for alternatives to store their money. And sweeping in to fill this void are a host of European neobanks, hoping to change the way Irish people do their banking forever.

Dutch fintech Bunq is one such neobank that has announced its entry into the Irish market today (4 May), with an all-new Irish IBAN-enabled service that will allow residents to do much more than just make payments easily.

While Bunq has been available to Irish users for a while now, the IBANs issued were based in the Netherlands – meaning that some facilities, such as receiving salaries and setting up direct debits, were not always possible.

Now, Bunq customers in Ireland will be able to provide Irish IBANs to their employers and receive salaries through the neobank – a first in Ireland. Available through the app, the service will greatly enhance a customer’s control over their finances, including ease of making payments.

Gerlad Gruber, COO of Bunq, said that he was very excited that the fintech alternative to banking was being brought to Ireland, with Bunq “spearheading” the development.

“By offering an extensive range of financial products and services, Irish people can now finally experience the true value of fintech as an alternative to traditional banking,” Gruber said.

Ireland and neobanks

Ireland is no stranger to neobanks. Revolut, the UK-based fintech that has more than 1m subscribers in Ireland, counts the country as one of its most active markets. Other European banks, such as Berlin-based N26, have also been sinking their teeth into the Irish market in recent years.

This has led to fears among Ireland’s traditional banks that neobanks could cut into their market share and entice younger users who may be drawn more to digital-first services rather than reputation or security.

Early last year, four of Ireland’s pillar banks – AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and KBC Ireland – began teaming up on a new digital payment system to take on fintech challengers such as Revolut and N26. The joint venture was eventually named Synch Payments.

In December, however, Synch Payments faced a stumbling block when the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of Ireland launched an in-depth investigation to see if it “could lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the State”.

This came just a month after the Irish Times reported that Synch Payments raised €5m in funding with substantial shares bought up by AIB and Bank of Ireland, on top of an initial capital raise of €5.9m that was reported earlier that year.

Bunq is now hoping to take on Revolut and N26 as the neobanks eye customers of Ulster and KBC Ireland. But while it is not as well-known as the latter two, Bunq has an edge as the first in Ireland to provide local IBANs.

It was founded in 2012 by Dutch-Canadian entrepreneur Ali Niknam and is headquartered in Amsterdam. Last July, it secured the largest Series A round for a European fintech company, bringing its valuation to unicorn status at €1.6bn.

As part of the deal, Bunq snapped up Irish company Capitalflow Group from Pollen Street Capital for €141m.

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