BBVA-owned Holvi announced this week it has teamed up with ridesharing company Uber. The two have joined forces in an effort to help Uber’s drivers manage their finances more efficiently.
Holvi has long been known for supporting workers in the gig economy, and has been referred to as the neobank for the self-employed. The company will enable Uber drivers in Helsinki to quickly open business and checking accounts. “We at Holvi want to support also this new form of entrepreneurship and make it easier for all entrepreneurs to manage their entrepreneurial responsibilities. In the future we will see more examples of platform economy and a decrease in traditional employment – we will develop Holvi to support these new forms of work,” said Antti-Jussi Suominen, Holvi CEO.
Drivers also have access to Holvi’s small business banking tools, such as bookkeeping, expense management, tax reporting, and automatic invoice management. Additionally, Holvi’s accounting services offer drivers access to its partner accountant network.
“Our collaboration with Holvi enables us to simplify entrepreneurs’ routine tasks so that our partner drivers can focus only on driving and serving their customers,” said Joel Järvinen, Uber’s country manager for Finland and Sweden.
Founded in 2011, one of Holvi’s co-founders, Kristoffer Lawson, demoed the company’s small business accounting tools at FinovateEurope 2013. In 2016, and with $4.9 million in funding, Holvi was acquired by BBVA for an undisclosed amount. Later that year, the company appointed Suominen as CEO.
In the digital age, few startup banks have gained meaningful market share in what matters, revenue and profits. In the United States, only two large bank-like companies (see note 1) have emerged from 20 years of digital disruption: PayPal and Square. There are also a handful of new online lenders that have amassed significant scale (SoFi, Lending Club, Prosper, Kabbage, Avant, On Deck).
There are still zero consumer banks started in the past 20 years that have broken the top-100 list. The possible exception was ING Direct. Butas part of a large bank, it’s a stretch to call it a startup (see note 2). BofI Holdings, the public company that owns Bank of Internet, is the largest pure digital bank with $8B in assets and ranking 151 in this list posted by MX.
Why so few successes? It’s difficult for a startup bank to gain scale. First, the market is absolutely saturated. Every bankable consumer in the USA can choose from: (1) big trusted brands with a large branch networks and sophisticated digital services; (2) small community banks with deep ties to their communities (and serviceable digital banking); (3) or equally small non-profit credit unions providing bargain priced loans and deposits (and often with above average digital banking).
Second, to be successful, startups must solve a problem much better than the incumbents. For most consumers banking digitally simply is not a problem. The exceptions were in remote payments, which PayPal solved, and micro-businesses merchant accounts, which Square solved. That’s why it will likely continue to be tough for new deposit-focused banks to become big players, at least in the United States.
But there are many niches for banking startups to mine and one of the most promising is small business banking. A startup bank that solves bookkeeping and financial management problems for small businesses can be the next Square.
Here are some of the bigger efforts around the world (note 3):
CountingUp – in private beta (waitlist numbers 930 1 Feb 2017)
Author: Jim Bruene (@netbanker) is Founder & Advisor at Finovate as well as Principal of BUX Certified, a financial services user-experience accreditation program.
You can argue they are not banks, but they provide key consumer banking services, payments and credit, so I’m going to call them banks for the purposes of this post. I’m also excluding the crypto market, since it’s too soon to call the major players “bank like” though I think they are well on that path.
I would probably add ING Direct to this list. Although they were technically not a startup, they built a significant deposit business from scratch, eventually selling for $9B to Capital One during the Great Recession.
To make this list, the startup bank must be solely focused on small businesses and must offer, or plan to offer, a debit card to access funds held on deposit at the startup.
Finnish small business digital banking service Holvi will start 2017 with a new CEO.
Former Sulake CEO Antti-Jussi Suominen has been hired by Holvi to serve as the company’s CEO starting in January. Suominen will replace Johan Lorenen, who was Holvi’s CEO for three years. “I am proud to have the opportunity to work for a service innovator like Holvi,” Suominen said. He highlighted the fact that Holvi is owned by BBVA, praising the FI for its “ambition to become the digital bank of the twenty-first century.”
Holvi Board Chair Martti Granberg pointed to Suominen’s experience in building online services and businesses around the world as one major plus of the hire. “His previous experience from various senior executive roles in startup and corporate environments helps in leading the company in its international expansion,” Granberg said.
Prior to his more than three-and-a-half years as CEO of Sulake, Suominen was head of international business development at Elisa, and head of entrepreneurial activities at Nokia Americas Bridge Program. Suominen has also served on the boards of GmbH and Beijing Mobiledu Technology Company, a joint venture between Pearson and Nokia. Suominen has spent more than six-and-a-half years at Nokia working in a variety of capacities, including general manager and head of business development. He is a graduate of the Finnish Naval Academy, the Helsinki University of Technology, and the International Institute for Management Development.
Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, Holvi demonstrated its technology at FinovateEurope 2013. In August 2016, the company announced it would partner with fellow Finovate alum SumUp to provide payment services to SMEs and self-employed entrepreneurs who are clients of Holvi. The previous month, Holvi launched its new debit card, the Holvi Business MasterCard for business users in Austria, Germany, and Finland. The company was named to the European Fintech Top 100 this spring, along with 28 of its fellow Finovate/FinDEVr alums, shortly after being acquired by BBVA for an undisclosed amount.
SumUp helps merchants accept card payments, and Holvi provides banking services to small businesses. The just-announced partnership between the two will give small businesses and the self-employed a more complete range of financial services without having to rely on traditional banks.
“The cooperation with SumUp is the next logical step for us, because the payment (market) is moving more and more toward the card payments in Germany,” said Leah Marie Zeppos, Holvi DACH country manager. The opportunity is especially large among the self-employed, which has grown by nearly 40% in the past decade to total more than 1.3 million Germans.
“With the Holvi business account, our customers can concentrate on the essentials,” says Maximilian Stella, SumUp’s VP of business development. “Independence has never been so easy.” SumUp and Holvi see the partnership has helping encourage entrepreneurship in way that is more cost-effective and efficient for smaller companies and individual businesses.
Holvi provides small business customers with an online business banking account, a Business MasterCard, and digital accounting and bookkeeping. Referred to by Wired magazine as one of the “hottest startups in Finland,” the company was acquired by BBVA in March. Johan Lorenzen joined Holvi as CEO in 2013, the same year the Helsinki-based startup made its most recent Finovate appearance.