She had long announced and struggled with numerous problems, but now the time has come: The Internet Bank N26 expands to America. This is a big step for the Berliners. So far, the more than 3.5 million customers are only represented in 24 European markets. America is the first market the company is targeting outside Europe. Although it is initially only a beta phase – it is said that the product is still being tested and only gradually opened – but this should already be completed in the next quarter.
You have to be put on a waiting list and we then unlocked in batches. For the United States as the first destination outside Europe, it was decided because of the great interest from overseas. More than 100,000 people are said to have registered on the N26 website. These are now informed and put on the waiting list.
In order to conquer the market, one will rely on a similar model as at the beginning in Germany. N26 has sought a partner bank with Axos, which takes over the entire process in the background. Whitelabeling is called something like that, in Germany Wirecard was then the N26 partner. "We wanted to go as fast as possible at the start," says N26 founder and CEO Valentin Stalf. But in the United States this is also more widespread than in Europe.
The app for the United States looks at first glance very similar. But the complexity in the background is much higher: There is another privacy environment, the data has to be separated from the ones in Europe, it runs on other servers and you have to work a lot with the local institutes.
But there are also some pitfalls waiting for N26 in the United States. Especially with the huge card industry you have to develop your own idea, says Stalf. "Our approach is a kind of checking account with a Visa debit card," he explains. There is a trend towards better cost control, especially among young people, and that's exactly what they want to serve. "We see a market niche there," says Stalf.
A credit card should follow at the beginning of next year. Otherwise, much is similar to what it is in Europe: The basic account is free, the paid accounts will then start in the next few months. Stalf has big plans: "Although the fintech market in the United States has made further progress, nobody has revolutionized the checking account – that's what we want to do," he says confidently.
But in the United States there were also many problems. Today, up to 75 people work in the New York office. But finding it turned out to be a Herculean task. "We underestimated how difficult it is to get the right talent," says Stalf. You compete with Google and Facebook for the employees. "That's hard if you do not have a product on the market yet," says Stalf. The goals for the United States are as usual ambitious: quickly there should be more than one million customers and in the next 5 to 10 years, Stalf already wishes to have up to 10 million customers. Worldwide N26 has even more goals: already in the year 2020 is about to take place in Brazil.
In America, N26 can not afford blunders like last on the German home market. Here, the German financial supervision Bafin had to act last to order the closure of vulnerabilities. "We respect each market and take the United States together with our partner bank very seriously," says Stalf. It also combines hope with the new market: For example, innovations from the European market are spilling over into the American market, and that is exactly how innovations from America could emerge in this country.