Klarna has become the largest European fintech company to get a banking licence, with the Swedish group saying it wants to become the Ryanair of the sector, attacking lenders across the continent.
Valued at more than $2bn, Klarna has already captured much of the market for online payments in the Nordics and Germany, and on Monday received a banking licence from the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority 20 months after filing for one.
“We want to be part of reshaping the retail banking industry. New regulations…set the right prerequisites for the destruction of that industry but it needs a Ryanair to come along. We want to be that player,” Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Klarna’s chief executive, told the Financial Times.
Fintech groups in Europe and the US such as SoFi and Zopa have been seeking full banking licences but Klarna – with its 60m customers across Europe and €13bn in transactions processed last year – is one of the largest.
The Swedish group – which had revenues of SKr3.6bn last year and was valued at $2.25bn in a fundraising in 2015 – is looking at offering customers across Europe services such as bank cards and salary accounts as well as eyeing the US for future expansion.
Klarna, which is profitable, started off by allowing customers to buy and receive goods before paying them as well as taking on the credit risk for that for retailers. Mr Siemiatkowski has long had traditional banks in his sights, believing they offer poor customer service at inflated prices.
He added that he thought an “iPhone moment” was coming in the banking industry when a new product – likely from fintechs – would completely change the sector.
“Banks are challenged. In the tech world, these companies get out competed very quickly if they don’t deliver. But due to regulation, banks with very old technology – and poor customer satisfaction – have been able to prevail,” he said.
Mr Siemiatkowski added:
What we have seen in all other industries – take retail – is global players such as H&M and Zara. Global but more specialised. When a market grows, specialisation increases. We are going to see more specialised customer offerings [in finance] that are at the same time global.