Bunq has become one of Europe’s leading challenger banks without raising a single cent.
Now its considering expansion, but Ali Niknam, bunq’s CEO, must overcome Brexit and the coronavirus crisis.
Ali Niknam was an avid programmer since childhood and studied computer science at the Delft University of Technology. He has launched the web-hosting startup TransIP in 2003 when he was only 21 years old.
With his money from TransIP Niknam was able to launch bunq. Since 2012 bunq was able to go live across 30 countries and has processed over €433m in user deposits. This was done so without a cent of venture capital funding, something almost none of its competitors have managed.
Niknam suggests that venture capital funding might be bunq’s next step. But first, bunq must deal with the fallout of the coronavirus and decide whether or not Brexit will become the end of the presence in the UK.
The transition from IT to banking wasn’t a bit easy for Niknam.
“I went from a completely unregulated sector to a heavily over-regulated sector,” Niknam says. Ensuring bunq complied with both Dutch and international regulations was the “most complex part of [running] a bank.”
To obtain a banking license from the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) was also a very hard task. “The Dutch authority is very, very strict, maybe even one of the strictest in the world and [there hadn’t been a new issued] banking license for 35 years,” he says, adding that those three decades have added more regulations and restrictions.
Bunq has also launched with almost no marketing in place. “If you’re able to create a product that people love to use, that surprises them and delights them, then they will talk about it with their friends, and I think, bunq has been successful in doing that,” Niknam concludes.