Klarna Locks in $639 Million in New Funding; Earns $46 Billion Valuation

Klarna Locks in $639 Million in New Funding; Earns $46 Billion Valuation

In a round led by SoftBank – and featuring participation from Adit Ventures, Honeycomb Asset Management, and WestCap Group – consumer payments pioneer Klarna has raised $639 million in funding. The investment brings the company a valuation of $46 billion at a time when the buy now pay later trend is reshaping consumer financing

“Consumers continue to reject interest- and fee-laden revolving credit and are moving toward debit while simultaneously seeking retail experiences that better meet their needs,” Klarna founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said. “More transparent and convenient alternatives align with evolving global consumer preferences and drive worldwide growth.”

A Finovate alum since 2012, Stockholm, Sweden-based Klarna was among the innovators in “after-delivery payment” which enabled buyers to receive products before payment was due, with the facilitating company taking on all credit and fraud risk for online merchants. To state the obvious, Klarna’s approach to consumer financing has caught on in the years since with a wave of companies across the globe launching their own “buy now pay later” options – especially of late. Today, with this investment, Klarna is Europe’s biggest fintech unicorn, with more than $1.2 billion in 2020 revenues, and more than 18 million customers in the U.S. alone. The company’s payment options are available at nearly a quarter of the top U.S. retailers, and can be found in 17 markets around the world. Klarna’s most recent offering, Pay in 4, is a full embrace of the buy now pay later format, giving consumers the opportunity to pay for purchases over time in four, interest-free payments.

In addition to being the highest-valued private fintech in Europe, Klarna is now the #2 fintech in terms of valuation in the world – behind Stripe. And as part of the GiveOne initiative launched by Klarna earlier this year, the company will direct 1% of this week’s investment to “initiatives supporting planet health.”

“Klarna is really transforming and disrupting corporate giving by not only implementing a long-term commitment but also by enabling others to do the same,” explained Nina Siemiatkowski, founder and CEO of Milkywire, a social impact platform that serves as Klarna’s strategic partner in the GiveOne project. “We hope that many more companies follow their lead and support our planet by funding those who are on the frontlines making impactful change on a daily basis.”

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Klarna Scores Big in New Billion Dollar Funding Round

Klarna Scores Big in New Billion Dollar Funding Round

Europe’s most valuable fintech startup just got a lot more valuable.

Klarna announced on Monday that it has raised $1 billion in new funding and earned a lofty valuation of $31 billion. The company, which set out to raise $500 million in the just-ended round, credited investor demand for the exceptional amount raised. Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski also cited strong growth in the U.S. as a reason why investor dollars are flocking toward his company.

“What definitely has accelerated and changed is the success in the U.S. market,” Siemiatkowski said. “Investors are seeing Klarna getting ahead of its competitors. I think that has changed the perspective and changed the view on our valuation.”

According to Siemiatkowski, investors are seeing Klarna as the king of an e-commerce wave that is making Buy Now Pay Later a mainstream financing approach. The reverse layaway strategy of enabling consumers to receive goods and services now and pay for them in equal installments over time has made BNPL the hottest new thing in online shopping. Klarna, which was founded in 2005 and made its Finovate debut seven years later, has been a pioneer in “after delivery payment” and other forms of consumer financing for years. This week’s financing is, in part, a recognition of this fact and a bet that, amid rising competition, Klarna will come out on top.

Right now, both Siemiatkowski and Klarna’s backers seem equally eager to take on legacy consumer financing options as well as Klarna’s BNPL rivals. Pointing out how the buy now pay later approach is fairer insofar as it makes the same offer to all consumers, Siemiatkowski adds, “There’s a number of investors out there that agree with us. They see that this credit card industry is actually at its core flawed and needs some innovation.”

In addition to using the new capital for acquisitions, the company is more interested in synergies that will “help people save time and money” than it is in purchasing rivals. That said, Siemiatkowski does have a few novel uses for at least some of the company’s new funding: Klarna will donate approximately $10 million to organizations that are dedicated to fighting climate change.

More than 30 current and new investors participated in Klarna’s latest fundraising, including Silver Lake, Sequoia Capital, BlackRock, and HMI Capital. Other investors included Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC and individual investor, rapper Snoop Dogg.

Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Klarna claims 90 million users and 250,000 merchant partners around the world. The company is optimistic about its growth in the U.S., saying they expect it to overtake Germany as its biggest market by the end of this year. The company has inked partnerships with 20 of the top 100 brands in the U.S., and said it gained a million new customers a month in the States in the final quarter of last year.

Photo by Jean-Daniel Francoeur from Pexels

Klarna Launches Bank Account Offering in Germany

Klarna Launches Bank Account Offering in Germany

Klarna is taking its Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) platform to a logical next step. The Sweden-based company announced today it will launch a bank account offering in Germany.

This move makes Klarna the first BNPL firm to make such a move. The company will now compete with the growing roster of digital banks in Germany, including N26 and Tomorrow.

Users will receive a Visa debit card, which is available in two colors, and will have tools on the app to track, manage, budget, and analyze their spending habits. Klarna will also reimburse users for two global ATM transactions per month.

“Our focus is to provide a superior shopping experience to our consumers at the intersection of retail and banking,” said Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski. “And we know that there’s still massive room for improvement to the way many people bank and save their money today. Users are demanding more seamless, intuitive and transparent services to meet their daily needs, but many banks still do not cater for this.”

As Siemiatkowski points out, Klarna banking will be useful for “bundling shopping and banking in one app.” However, it is difficult to see the extra value a Klarna bank account will bring to users who aren’t big on shopping. N26 touts an integration with Transferwise for easy and inexpensive foreign money transfers and Tomorrow differentiates itself with a positive approach to sustainability and social causes. Klarna, in contrast, makes shopping a more embedded experience. This isn’t necessarily a positive attribute for one’s finances.

To counteract this “spend, spend, spend” mentality, Klarna said it has plans to add savings goals to the banking app, a feature that is already available in Sweden.

A pilot of Klarna’s bank account will initially be available to the company’s “most loyal” users and will roll out to all Germany-based users “in the coming months.”

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Klarna’s $650 Million Funding Round Boosts Valuation to $10.6 Billion

Klarna’s $650 Million Funding Round Boosts Valuation to $10.6 Billion

As the buy-now, pay-later (BNPL) craze explodes, some fintechs are in just the right place to catch the sparks. Payment services company Klarna is one of these players, and it has just landed $650 million in funding.

Today’s round adds to the company’s $1.4 billion in previously raised funds, bringing its total to just over $2 billion. The investment also boosts Klarna’s valuation to $10.6 billion, ranking the company as the highest-valued private fintech in Europe and the fourth highest worldwide.

The round was led by Silver Lake, GIC (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund), and accounts managed by BlackRock and HMI Capital. Additional funds came from Merian Chrysalis, TCV, Northzone, and Bonnier, which have acquired shares from existing shareholders.

Klarna will use the funds to invest in product development, fuel global expansion, and build on its growth.

“We are at a true inflection point in both retail and finance,” said Klarna CEO and Co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski. “The shift to online retail is now truly supercharged and there is a very tangible change in the behavior of consumers who are now actively seeking services which offer convenience, flexibility and control in how they pay and an overall superior shopping experience. Klarna’s unique proposition, consumer preference and global retailer network will prove an excellent platform for further growth.”

As consumers seek alternative methods to finance their purchases, Klarna’s BNPL tool that enables users to pay in interest-free installments has gained impressive traction. The company’s shopping app has more than 12 million monthly active users worldwide, with 55,000 daily downloads.

And Klarna’s game is also strong on the merchant side of things, as many retailers have sought to increase online sales during stay-at-home orders. During the first half of 2020, the company added more than 35,000 new retailers to its existing merchant base of more than 200,000 partners including Sephora, The North Face, Timberland, and Ralph Lauren.

As a result of this growth, the company’s volume grew 44% over the first half of this year to more than $22 billion and its revenue increased 36% year-on-year to $466 million over the same period.

Photo by Jeff Kingma on Unsplash

A Look at the Top 50 Fintech Companies in Europe

A Look at the Top 50 Fintech Companies in Europe

The following is a guest post from Scott Raspa, Head of Marketing, Hydrogen.

The European fintech scene has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years. One of the key drivers of this growth is open banking. This is causing financial institutions and fintechs to partner together to provide more innovative, user-friendly solutions for consumers throughout Europe.

European consumers are receptive to the idea of non-financial players offering financial products, according to EY’s Global FinTech Adoption Index 2019. The survey finds that fintech adoption throughout Europe, especially in countries such as the Netherlands, U.K., Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, are well above the global average of 64%, and aren’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon.

Below is a list of the top 50 fintech companies in Europe, based on their valuations.

13Funding Circle$746.4M$1.5BU.K.
18Deposit Solutions$198.9M$1.1BGermany
21Radius Payment£150M$1.0BU.K.
26Oodle Car Finance£160M>$850MU.K.
28Starling Bank£363M>$600MU.K.
29Atom Bank£429M$590MU.K.
44Tinubu Square€79.3M>$350MFrance
46Banking CircleN/A$300MDenmark

These companies have raised over $16.8B (€14.3B) in venture capital funding and are valued, collectively, at over $92B (€78B).

The U.K. fintechs are valued at nearly $40B (€34B). The Netherlands are second, all thanks to Ayden, the most valuable fintech in Europe.

The U.K. has also invested the most money, nearly $11B (€9.4B), almost 65% of the funding of these top 50 fintech companies. After the U.K., Germany and Sweden have invested the most with 12.9% ($2.1B / €1.78B) and 12.4% ($2.0B / €1.7B) of the overall funding, respectively.

Fintech Enablement in Europe

Here at Hydrogen we work with companies all over the world. Our award-winning fintech enablement platform enables organizations to quickly and easily build fintech products and components. Whether you want to offer a PFM app in France, a challenger bank in the U.K., or issue cards in Germany, Hydrogen is here to help. Hydrogen has pre-built integrations, workflows, business logic, and UI already built in and available in white labeled/no-code modules or through our robust API.

It’s free to get started, so start building with Hydrogen today!

*Note: Funding information was provided by Crunchbase.com and the Euro, Pound, and US Dollar conversions were based off of today’s conversion rate. Also, total funding amounts didn’t include public companies or companies where we couldn’t identify the funding received.

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Finovate Alums Earn Spots in CNBC’s 2020 Disruptor 50

Finovate Alums Earn Spots in CNBC’s 2020 Disruptor 50

Six companies that have demonstrated their fintech innovations on the Finovate stage have been recognized this year by CNBC as part of their Disruptor 50 roster for 2020.

This year’s list, the eighth in the series, is marked by the high number of billion-dollar companies, or “unicorns.” Fully 36 of the firms in the 2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 have reached or surpassed the $1 billion valuation mark. Combined, the 50 companies have raised more than $74 billion in VC funding and achieved an implied market valuation of almost $277 billion.

The companies making the cut range in industry from cybersecurity and healthcare IT to education and, of course, fintech. In fact, the top-ranked company in the 2020 Disruptor 50 is none other than Stripe, the $36 billion payments platform founded in 2010. Stripe earned a #13 ranking in last year’s Disruptor 50 roster, and likely owes its first place appearance this year to a major $600 million funding raising – the company’s largest to date – and the economic and social consequences of the global health crisis.

“With many people throughout the world under lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” CNBC’s capsule on the company noted, “the move to shopping online has never been greater. That’s good news for digital payments platform Stripe.”

Stripe was not the only fintech to earn high marks from the 2020 Disruptor 50’s methodology. In addition to the half dozen Finovate alums below, some of the other fintechs on this year’s roster include:

  • Virtual bank WeLab (Hong Kong)
  • Digital mortgage company Better.com (New York City)
  • “Buy now pay later” e-commerce company Affirm (San Francisco, California)
  • Challenger bank Chime (San Francisco, California)
  • Banking app Dave (Los Angeles, California)
  • Microfinancier TALA (Santa Monica, California)
  • Trading and investing platform Robinhood (Menlo Park, California)

Also earning spots in this year’s list were a pair of insurtech companies, Lemonade and Root Insurance, as well as cybersecurity and biometric authentication firms SentinelOne and CLEAR, respectively.

Here’s a look at the Finovate alums that made this year’s list.

#5 Klarna

  • Founded: 2005
  • Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden
  • CEO: Sebastian Siemiakowski
  • Valuation: $5.5 billion
  • Previous ranking: #8 in 2016

#8 SoFi

  • Founded: 2011
  • Headquarters: San Francisco, California
  • CEO: Antony Noto
  • Valuation: $4.8 billion
  • Previous ranking: #26 in 2019

#24 Kabbage

  • Founded: 2009
  • Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
  • CEO: Rob Frohwein
  • Valuation: $1.1 billion
  • Previous ranking: #14 in 2019

#27 Trulioo

  • Founded: 2011
  • Headquarters: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • CEO: Steve Munford
  • Valuation: N.A.
  • Previous ranking: #37 in 2017

#28 Ripple

  • Founded: 2012
  • Headquarters: San Francisco, California
  • CEO: Brad Garlinghouse
  • Valuation: $10 billion
  • Previous ranking: First appearance

#33 Marqeta

  • Founded: 2010
  • Headquarters: Oakland, California
  • CEO: Jason Gardner
  • Valuation: $4.3 billion
  • Previous ranking: First appearance

Photo by Malte Luk from Pexels

Marqeta Partners with Klarna and Doordash for Australia Launch

Marqeta Partners with Klarna and Doordash for Australia Launch
Photo by Sabel Blanco from Pexels

Courtesy of a partnership with a pair of current customers, card issuing platform Marqeta is open for business in Australia. The company announced today that its arrival in the Asia-Pacific market will also help support fellow Finovate alum Klarna and customer Doordash as they expand in the country.

“Card issuing is on its way to being an $80 trillion global opportunity by 2030, and Marqeta is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this over the coming years,” Marqeta founder and CEO Jason Gardner said. “The Australian market relies heavily on card spending and is digitizing rapidly. It is a market that was important to our customers and where we saw a lot of potential for Marqeta technology to help revolutionize customer experience in payments.”

Marqeta’s announcement comes in the wake of news that the company – in partnership with Visa – had earned certification to process payments in 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In Australia, the first market in the APAC where Marqeta’s services will be available, the company hopes to take advantage of both the high penetration of traditional bank accounts compared to the rest of the region, as well as a boom in digital payments.

With the first transactions facilitated by Marqeta in late January, partner Klarna is already appreciating the results. “Our close collaboration in bringing an entirely new product offering and shopping experience to the Australian market in record time has been a big success,” Koen Koppen, Klarna CTO, said. “The positive reaction of Australian consumers is evident in just how many are downloading and using the app and virtual card each day.”

An alum of our developers conference, Marqeta delivered a presentation on Democratizing Issuer Payment Processing with Just-in-Time Funding at FinDEVr Silicon Valley in 2016. The Oakland, California-based company was last valued at nearly $2 billion, following a May 2019 Series E round that added $260 million to Marqeta’s coffers.

New Investment Gives Ant Financial a Minority Stake in Klarna

New Investment Gives Ant Financial a Minority Stake in Klarna
Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Chinese conglomerate Ant Financial has purchased a minority stake in Sweden’s e-commerce payments innovator Klarna. The terms of the investment were not disclosed, but the company said that the funding amounts to a 1% stake in Klarna. The most recent assessment of Klarna, based on a $460 million funding round in 2019, puts the company’s valuation at $5.5 billion.

“Alipay, and the wider Alibaba Group, have truly set the global pace on retail innovation and the app economy,” Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said. “We are delighted in this confidence shown in Klarna in defining the future of payments and shopping and are very much looking forward to working together further in the future.”

The investment comes as a tonic in the wake of Klarna’s first annual loss of $113 million in 2019. It also represents a deepening of the partnership between the two firms that will make more of Klarna’s buy now pay later solutions available to consumers and merchants in the Alibaba ecosystem. This includes more integration between Klarna and Alibaba’s Alipay which, via AliExpress, Alibaba’s retail online marketplace, leverages Klarna’s e-commerce solution.

“At the heart of this cooperation between Klarna and Alipay is a shared ambition of innovating truly superior shopping experiences and creating destinations of inspiration for consumers across the world,” Siemiatkowski said.

More than 200,000 merchants and e-commerce platforms around the world are powered by Klarna technology. The company’s partners include IKEA, Adidas, Spotify, and Expedia Group, among many others, and in 2019 alone, Klarna added more than 75,000 new merchants to its platform. Founded in 2005 and a Finovate alum since its debut at FinovateSpring in 2012, Klarna has 2,700+ employees and is live in 17 countries. Late last month, the company announced that Klarna had reached the seven million customer milestone and 1.6 million app downloads.

Tink’s $100 Million Monday; Azimo’s C-Suite Shakeup Promotes Experience and Diversity

Tink’s $100 Million Monday; Azimo’s C-Suite Shakeup Promotes Experience and Diversity

It is hard to imagine having a better start to your week than Plaid had seven days ago when the innovative fintech (and Finovate alum) announced that it had agreed to be acquired by Visa for $5.3 billion.

But the €90 million ($100 million) raised by Swedish open banking platform Tink on Monday is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, the funding, which is the company’s largest to date, is a reminder that investment interest in (and funding for) companies dedicated to developing the infrastructure that connects consumers, banks, and the financial technologies is very much in abundance.

“Our aim is to become the preferred pan-European provider of digital banking services and to offer the technology needed for banks, fintechs, and startups to leverage the opportunities of open banking and enable them to successfully develop financial services in the future,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said in a statement.

Tink demonstrated its platform most recently at FinovateEurope 2019. For more on this year’s Finovate event in Europe kicking off next month, visit our FinovateEurope 2020 page.

Azimo, one of our earliest FinovateEurope alums, announced a pair of big changes at the top to begin the new week.

The London-based money transfer firm, founded in 2012, promoted its COO Richard Ambrose to CEO back in August, as Azimo founder Michael Kent took what TechCrunch referred to as a lateral move to become executive chairman. Today, Fintech Futures, Finovate’s sister publication, reports that the company has appointed Dora Ziambra to the post of Chief Operating Officer. Azimo also promoted its head of finance Tatiana Okhotina to the post of Chief Financial Officer.

“We’re fortunate to have the depth of talent to fill these top roles internally,” Ambrose said in a statement. “We’re lucky too that Azimo will continue to benefit from the experience and leadership of these two outstanding women.”

Here’s our weekly roundup of the latest news from our Finovate alumni:

  • Union Bank to leverage technology from FIS for core banking.
  • Italy-based CREDEM leveraging Worldline’s Payment and Liquidity Hub software CRISTAL to process Target2 payments
  • POS software Vend partners with Klarna to offer retailers more flexible payment options.
  • U.K. food retailer The Co-operative to deploy ACI Worldwide’s fraud management solution, ReD Shield.
  • A partnership between TransferGo and Currencycloud will enable the money transfer company to enter 14 new markets.
  • YellowDog forges reseller agreement with Annex Pro.
  • Bankable cozies up with Plaid to allow its bank customers to connect with their users’ bank accounts.
  • Ohpen appoints former Tesla marketing leader Corinne Aaron as new head of marketing.
  • Segmint to acquire WAND’s Product and Service Taxonomy division.
  • CuneXus celebrates 2019 success with a 40% year-over-year increase in consumer reach.
  • TransUnion expands partnership with Payfone.
  • PayPal reaches $10 billion in charitable donations processed.
  • California approves Sezzle’s lending license.
  • People’s Bank selects NYMBUS’s SmartMarketing and SmartOnboarding solutions.
  • Ayondo ends its European social trading business.

Alumni Features and Profiles

Three Key Lessons We Learned from Plaid – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Visa is acquiring Plaid for a deal that’s worth $5.3 billion. The fact that they were so widely used at such an early stage is a testament to the quality of their code, but there are also a few key lessons to take away from their success.

ITSCREDIT’s Joao Pinto on the Digital Lending Opportunity –  ITSCREDIT is a spinoff from ITSECTOR and is a fairly new player in the digital lending space. In this interview, Pinto talks to us about the digital lending opportunity, how his company fits into the current state of this fintech subsector, and what we can expect to see next.

Kasasa Enhances its Take-Back Loan – Community bank marketing expert Kasasa announced a partnership with Carleton today in which Kasasa will integrate Carleton’s insurance and debt protection calculations into its Kasasa Loan.

Our latest FinovateEurope Sneak Peeks Are Up! Meet Dorsum, CASHOFF, Tensorflight, Trulioo, W.UP, Horizn, Glia, and BLECKWEN.

Plinqit Brings Rewards-Powered Financial Literacy to First Community Bank – One day in the distant future, children will be educated in basic financial literacy as readily as they are taught algebra. Until then, solutions like Plinqit from HT Mobile Apps will be valuable tools for credit unions and community banks looking for novel ways to engage and educate their members and customers.

Credit, Data, and Cryptocurrencies: Graychain Rebrands as Credmark – The company that is bringing credit data clarity to the cryptocurrency industry is entering 2020 with a new name.

Tradeshift Lands $240 Million as it Inches Toward Profitability – The San Francisco-based company will use the investment to boost expansion efforts and gear toward a “direct path to profitability in the near future.”

Fintech, Financial Services, and the Case for 5G – Calling 5G “something banks aren’t even thinking about,” Celent SVP Dan Latimore said, “we believe the effects of 5G are going to be subtle and profound over time.”

Backbase-as-a-Service Helps Banks Leverage the Cloud to Innovate and Scale – The solution makes the company’s broad portfolio of digital banking offerings available to FIs looking to accelerate their ability to develop and offer new technologies to customers.

Also on Finovate.com

Visa to Acquire Plaid in $5.3 Billion Deal – “Today marks an important milestone for our company and for fintech,” company co-founder and CEO Zach Perret wrote on the Plaid blog earlier today. “What started with two founders building in a cramped conference room has become an incredible network that enables millions of consumers to interact with over 2,500 digital finance products.”

Not Another 2020 Trends Prediction Post (Seriously, It’s Not!) – We’re taking a look at the trends you can expect to see on stage next month at FinovateEurope. To keep things simple this year, we assessed the themes at a very high level and broke them down into three categories: the big, the little, and the trends in-between.

Singapore’s Digital Banking License Space Race Accelerates – Is there anyone out there who is NOT trying to secure a digital banking license in Singapore? The Monetary Authority of Singapore announced last week that has received 21 applications for digital bank licenses

MogoSpend Offers Credit, Cashback, and Help Reducing Your Carbon Footprint – The new digital spending account from Canadian fintech Mogo does more than help Canadians get control of their finances. The solution also offers cardholders generous cashback rewards and a way to make a positive impact on the environment by reducing their carbon footprint.

Getsafe Expands its Insurtech to the U.K. – If your insurance company is offering you drone insurance, you know it’s not your grandmother’s insurance agency. Germany-based insurtech Getsafe does just that– and the company announced today it is expanding its home contents insurance offering (though, sadly, not its drone insurance offering) to users in the U.K.

Raisin’s New Acquisition Gives Company Access to the U.S. Market – European deposit marketplace Raisin announced today it acquired New York-based Choice Financial Solutions. 

French Fintech Lydia Locks in $45 Million – TechCrunch reported this morning that French mobile payment app Lydia has raised $45 million (€40 million) in a round led by Tencent.

Visa’s Tap to Phone Brings Contactless Payments to mPOS – With Visa’s Tap to Phone app arriving pre-installed on the new, enterprise grade smartphone from Samsung, a broad range of merchants will have access to yet another way to accept payments from customers. 

INTL FCStone Acquires International Bank Transfer Firm – Headquartered in Germany, GIROXX offers international bank transfers and currency hedging. INTL FCStone plans to leverage this technology to expand its current client base to small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Influencers as Innovation: Fintechs Turn to the Famous in Bid to Boost Visibility

Influencers as Innovation: Fintechs Turn to the Famous  in Bid to Boost Visibility
Photo by Vishnu R Nair from Pexels

Expensify’s 2019 Super Bowl advertisement – Expensify Th!$ – featuring Adam Scott and rap star 2Chainz – was not the first time a fintech leveraged the shine from pop culture to illuminate itself.

But as Snoop Dogg celebrates his first anniversary as a high-profile Klarna shareholder and RDC announces that it has hired a network of social media influencers to help promote its new digital banking app, it’s clear that firms are all-in when it comes to using celebrity to showcase everything fintech – from expense management to pay-later ecommerce solutions. Alec Baldwin, who has become one of pop culture’s more potent pitchmen, was recently enlisted by eToro to help boost its CopyTrader marketing campaign.

The financial world has been as much a fan of celebrity as a customer engagement tool as any other industry with brands to build. Today, Mastercard announced that it was working with Swedish singer Nadine Randle to produce a song that “integrates the payment giant’s ‘sonic brand.” The company’s ‘sonic brand’ identity itself is the fruit of a partnership between Linkin Park co-founder Mike Shinoda, who developed the score last year.

And from the local sports hero to the homecoming veteran, credit unions and community banks have long leveraged the willingness of regional-minded stars and celebrities to “give back” to the communities and neighborhoods they grew up in.

But as fintechs increasingly partner with and compete with these and other financial institutions – and take advantage of new forms of celebrity such as social media influencers – they are increasingly taking a page from the FI marketing playbooks when it comes to using star power to shine a light on the work they do.

Expensify CEO and founder David Barrett highlighted the way his company’s technology would make it easier for talents like 2Chainz to “make the most epic music video ever” in his Expensify Th!$ ad. But he also told Fast Company at the time that even though Expensify had the “strongest brand” in the expense management game, and was the fastest-growing such firm with the biggest customer base, “virtually nobody in the world knows who we are.”

The celebrity approach to marketing is not without its detractors. In a post at Medium.com last year, Millennium Management COO Ajay Nagpal noted data from the 2018 Sprout Social Index that suggested that consumers are more likely to buy a product or service recommended by a friend than a celebrity. Moreover, Nagpal raised an interesting question as to whether or not the star endorsement of a brand in fashion, for example, would have the same impact as the same star’s endorsement of a brand in wealth management or tax planning.

Perhaps it depends on the star. Last fall, Finovate audiences were treated to a surprise appearance from noted Canadian investor and star of the reality show Shark Tank, Kevin O’Leary, who provided an on-stage, end-of-demo endorsement of Bambu’s Beanstox investing solution. And it’s a good bet that “Mr. Wonderful” is likely to be a more powerful advocate for white- label, B2B robo advisory technology than he might be for, say, leggings …

Additionally, as Director of Brand Strategy at Weber Marketing Group John Mathes wrote for The Financial Brand, even the best celebrity branding works better over time rather than as a one-off. Calling the practice “borrowed interest,” Mathes warned that while carefully targeted star power can produce positive results “brand building is usually a slow process. It takes time. It’s not a single campaign or gimmick.”

The impact of celebrity and influencers on the visibility of and engagement with fintech remains to be seen. But maybe more to the point, the fact that a growing number of fintechs are adopting the same approach to brand-boosting as their peers and rivals in the rest of the financial world may be a positive sign for the fintech industry in and of itself.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Finovate Alums Raise More Than Three Billion in 2019; $676 Million in Q4.
  • Sensibill Pilots SME Receipt Management Technology with Metro Bank.

Around the web

  • Mastercard partners with CleverCards and Appreciate Group for launch of digital gift card in the U.K.
  • TransferWise for Banks launches in Canada with EQ Bank as first partner.
  • CREALOGIX appoints Oliver Weber as new CEO as of January 2020.
  • Card issuing platform Marqeta and cloud banking services provider Mambu announce new collaboration.
  • Klarna to open tech hub in Berlin, Germany.
  • Splitit forges new strategic partnerships with Malaysian payment solution provider iPay88 and global payments company BlueSnap.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Bill.com Begins Trading on NYSE at $22 per Share.

Around the web

  • CIO Look interviews Rob Leslie, Founder and CEO of Sedicii.
  • Clutch’s top 1000 list names Chetu among best B2B service providers in 2019.
  • CustomerXPs wins the IBS Intelligence Global FinTech Innovation Award for ‘Most Innovative Use of AI and Machine Learning.’

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.