They may be small in size and each with a population of fewer than 6 million people, but countries in the Nordic region like Norway, Denmark and Finland are global leaders in innovation, with some of the most advanced banking infrastructure in the world.
Banks in the region have played a dominant role in this technological development, investing heavily over the decades in modern clearing and settlement systems, as well as various initiatives such as bank-backed mobile wallets, digital banking IDs and payments infrastructure.
Since then, that solid infrastructure and payment rails have made it easy for FinTech companies like Lunar to scale rapidly in the region.
“When we launched the business back in 2015, the Nordics already had a 90%+ mobile banking adoption rate, [which gave us an advantage over] other challenger banks that were going live in other European territories,” Ken Villum Klausen, the company’s founder and CEO, told PYMNTS in a recent interview.
Today, the Danish FinTech firm has grown into a regional heavyweight with over 500,000 customers across Denmark, Sweden and Norway, recently closing a $76 million (€70 million) round that brought its total Series D to $306 million (€280 million).
Read more: Digital Bank Lunar Raises $76M
While the Scandinavian company has a banking license, offers deposits and accounts and has been able to establish itself as a challenger bank in Denmark — when most consumers are already using digital banking services provided by the leading local mobile payment provider, MobilePay — Klausen said they have larger ambitions beyond banking services.
“We don’t really identify ourselves as a bank,” he said. “We see ourselves building more of an engagement platform for everything money — a platform where you can conduct all aspects of your business, whether that is savings or accounts, or it’s payments or tapping into the crypto space, or stock trading and even [B2B] payments.”
In October of last year, the firm acquired payments platform Paylike to allow Lunar’s business customers to receive eCommerce payments directly, launching one-click checkout for entrepreneurs and its eCommerce small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Since then, 50% of all newly-established Danish businesses apply for a Lunar account, according to Klausen — an indication of the solution’s growing popularity among businesses and customers.
“That’s an advantage of being in a smaller territory, we can scale equally on both sides [B2C and B2B] and then we can connect the two with beneficial USPs [unique selling points] on both sides of the table. That’s really the long-term plan for the Lunar flywheel,” Klausen added.
Crypto, Competing With Incumbents
As part of its expansion plans, the Danish firm recently launched a cryptocurrency platform to tap into the growing popularity of digital currency among consumers in the region.
“If we go to the app stores, iOS and Android, and look at the most popular apps in the finance category, a lot of those apps are crypto platforms from outside the Nordics, [and] people living [there] are tapping into those platforms because they want to get into crypto,” Klausen noted.
However, despite cryptocurrency becoming more and more mainstream across the region, Nordic banks do not allow customers to transfer proceeds from crypto platforms into their banking accounts, given the lack of transparency and clarity surrounding the origin of funds and tax payments.
It’s the reason why Klausen said they’ve built a platform within the Lunar app where users can buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies, giving Lunar full control of know your customer (KYC) checks and transaction monitoring as users’ funds are floating in and out of the crypto platform.
“In many ways, it’s a great example of Lunar being at the intersection of the old world of finance and the new world [and] solving a massive problem for users, and that is to invest in crypto if you have the appetite for it, but also being able to swap money back to fiat or just use them on your card,” he explained.
Moving forward, Klausen said they feel they’ve just scratched the surface given the “massive opportunities” in payments, investment banking and cryptocurrency across the region, including in Finland, which is why they’ll be focusing on regional expansion for now before considering opportunities beyond the Nordics.
And with incumbents constantly dominating the banking space in the region, Lunar will have to up its game to compete effectively.
“If we look at it on a long-term perspective, I believe that we are competing in probably the most fiercest financial services landscape in the world, where the incumbents are really doing a great job, [and] that means that Lunar needs to be above everybody else to compete with those incumbent [banks],” Klausen said.
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