Curve joins the European fintech race to expand to the US
Today it has been announced that the UK fintech, Curve, is the latest to join the likes of Raisin, N26, Revolut and Monzo in the rush to expand stateside.
Curve is the first UK fintech to open an office in Brooklyn, which is considered a flourishing hub for tech startups. The opening of the new office is set to create upwards of 185 jobs by 2024. It will also invest around US$17mn in research and development over the decade. It joins other fintech institutions such as Raisin, N26, Revolut and Monzo, who have made the shift to the US market over the last year.
Heading up the US expansion is VP, Head of North America, Amanda Orson. Orson will be operating from the Brooklyn Office in order to lead the US team in its growth.
[image: Amanda Orson, VP, Head of North America]
“In the race to own the consumer relationship, Curve is building the perfect product for the US market at just the right time,” said Orson. “US consumers aren’t clamoring for a different, or additional, bank - they want their financial products to provide a better user experience. Curve’s all-in-one value proposition, ease of use, and obsession on customer experience are exactly what the US market needs. I am honored to join the team and lead Curve’s product expansion in the United States and be able to start this adventure from the world’s premier financial hub, recruiting from a pool of the best tech talent in the world.”
Eric Gertler, Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate said, “New York City has long been known as the center of the finance industry — and our rapidly growing tech ecosystem is building on that strong foundation to support some of the most innovative, interesting, and successful fintech firms. Curve’s decision to open its first U.S. office in Brooklyn is a testament to everything the Empire State has to offer, and we are proud they will call New York home for years to come.”
“While New York City has long established itself as the epicentre of the finance industry, we have also become a global leader in tech innovation,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “As we build on that success, we’re proud of our work to attract Curve to Downtown Brooklyn, which we believe is the new frontier for a thriving fintech community that will create good jobs for New Yorkers and strengthen our city’s tech ecosystem.”
This move follows on from a notably successful 2019 for the company, which closed its series B funding half way through last year, taking the company’s valuation to $250mn.
What is curve?
Curve is a payment card that allows several cards to be consolidated into one application. The card, which is issued by Wirecard, hosts a number of benefits such as: free spending abroad; 1% cashback from retail giants such as Amazon, Uber, Netflix and Sainsbury’s and Time Travel; and swap a purchase to a different card within the app.
Today the platform has over 900,000 users and over US$1.6bn has passed through the platform
Did you know? In September 2019, Curve became the fastest UK startup in history to raise GBP4mn in crowdfunding on Crowdcube.
For more information on all topics for FinTech, please take a look at the latest edition of FinTech magazine.
Zafin: Banking is now in the era of the tech ecosystem
The development of tech ecosystems is placing the future of post-COVID banking in jeopardy. At a time when Big Tech can replicate the functions of traditional financial institutions, what can banks do to retain a grip on the market?
John Smith, EVP Ecosystem at Zafin, has a few ideas. A SaaS cloud-native product and pricing platform for financial institutions, Zafin is preparing the next generation of banks to cope with this precise challenge.
Smith is responsible for the strategic and tactical management of the company’s ecosystem, including the creation of new business models to support growth and differentiation. We asked him four questions:
Q. Have the events of the pandemic caused an irreversible shift in the digitalisation of banks? If so, is COVID the sole cause or are there other factors?
It’s a great question and one that I am asked a lot. Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a significant shift in the acceleration of digital. In fact, I’ve seen some estimates show there to have been as much as four to six years of digital adoption growth since the initial lockdown started.
While the pandemic may be the primary reason for this growth, two other drivers include fintech disruption and the high costs of operating a traditional retail bank. Both of these factors have caught the attention of banking executives as they set their minds on accelerating digital transformation with a focus on high return, low risk.
Q. Some commentators believe banks must learn from Big Tech in order to survive. Do you agree? Please expand.
I agree completely; we’re living in the era of the ‘ecosystem’. All the seismic shifts we’re seeing in technology, be it aggregation, embedded finance, DeFi or hyper-personalisation are all enabled by the foundation of an ecosystem.
When financial institutions work with a strategic partner like Zafin, which has made the strategic investments in a best-in-class ecosystem, they’re able to capitalise on opportunities more quickly and safely, and will be better positioned for growth now and at the other side of the pandemic.
Q. What are currently the obstacles to adopting Open Banking? Is it more likely to 'take off' in some regions rather than others?
I would argue that Open Banking has been in the US for some time and will only continue to grow there. By definition, Open Banking is about the secure sharing of financial information that customers are aware of and have authorised. Under that definition, we’re seeing aspects of this well underway even though its full potential remains to be seen.
Third-Party Providers are a natural outcome of Open Banking, whereby they can create propositions beyond what a bank normally does to enable banking functions such as payments, borrowing, saving and so on. Once again, some of these are already present through industry-led initiatives, whereas regions such as the EU have taken the pathway of regulation such as PSD2.
The industry-led initiatives we’ve seen in the US have also had the added advantage of guard-rails that regulatory bodies like FFIEC and CFPB provide. There are also other technology-led initiatives such as API definitions that are set out through the FS-ISAC.
I would argue the future of Open Banking in North America will be through the natural evolution of the guidelines and API definitions that have been published, as well as the natural progression of industry initiatives.
Q. Are there any other bank tech trends you'd like to discuss?
Coreless banking. Zafin has been pioneering some of the work around externalising functions out of the legacy core to drive a more ‘fintech nimble’ bank, while not having to deliver a ‘heart and lungs’ core bank replacement.
Real life examples of this include moving some of the core functions of a banking system, such as product and pricing to a platform like Zafin. Origination, onboarding, KYC, risk, and compliance are all other examples of externalising banking functions for added agility.