Europe’s Got a Brand New Bank as Klarna Earns License

As former Vice President Joe Biden might put it, today’s news that Klarna has been granted a full banking license is truly a BFD.

“Big Fintech Deal,” that is.

“We are now one of Europe’s largest banks with 60 million customers, 70,000 merchants, and working seamlessly across borders,” Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said (pictured). He called the banking license an “exciting milestone” for the Stockholm, Sweden-based company, in specific, and for the European banking sector, in general. The full banking license was granted by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, Finansinspektionen, and will enable Klarna to provide a range of new services – from payment cards to digital wallets – to consumers throughout the continent. Indeed, TechCruch reported today that as part of the licensing, Klarna will legally change its name to “Klarna Bank” – though it will continue to operate in the market as “Klarna.”

Highlighting the company’s history as a e-commerce innovator and its future as a “consumer-oriented, product driven, and technology intensive bank,” Siemiatkowski trained his sights on retail banking itself. “We will … (provide) solutions that ensure a smooth customer experience, help people streamline their financial lives and continue to support businesses by solving the complexity in handling payments,” he said, adding, “the opportunities are tremendous, it is a thrilling prospect.”

Coverage of the news in The Financial Times notes that Siemiatkowski had planned on making this kind of move for some time. Blaming regulations for helping limit banks’ exposure to the competition that is commonplace in the technology world, Siemiatkowski criticized the way too many banks provide customer service that is both poor and overpriced. Ironically, he suggested that new, disruptor-friendly, regulations might be just the fix that’s needed, saying new rules might “set the right prerequisites for the destruction of that industry.”

Founded in 2005, Klarna demonstrated its after-delivery payment solution at FinovateSpring 2012. Earlier this month the company announced a major new strategic investor, Brightfolk, which acquired shares valued at more than $225 million from existing Klarna shareholders. Brightfolk is held by Anders Holch Povlsen, owner of European fashion company, BESTSELLER, which is a long-time partner of Klarna. In February, the Klarna integrated with Radial’s Payment platform, expanding e-commerce payment options for the company – the same month Klarna announced that it was acquiring German online payment provider, BillPay, from Wonga. Klarna began the year with news that it was teaming up with ASOS Partners, bringing its “pay after delivery” option to consumers in the Nordic region.

With more than $376 million in funding. Klarna is believed to have a valuation of $2.25 billion. The company is among a number of fintech companies in Europe and the U.S. that are pursuing banking licenses to diversify their businesses of late. Online lender SoFi applied for federal deposit insurance earlier this month, one significant step toward launching an digital-only SoFi Bank. And London’s TransferWise unveiled a new “Borderless” foreign exchange account in May that observers believe is part of the company’s goal to more directly challenge banks.

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