Dutch fintech Bunq vies for Ulster Bank and KBC account holders

Bunq launches current accounts in Irish market offering Irish Ibans

Dutch fintech Bunq is making a play for Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland current account holders by launching in the Irish market on Wednesday with a banking service that uses Irish international bank account numbers (Ibans).

The Amsterdam-based company, which was founded a decade ago, will be first so-called neobank in the market to offer accounts with Irish Ibans.

It said the offering, available through its online app, would enable customers to easily set up direct debits and make and receive payments including monthly salaries at a time when the financial system is bracing itself as more than a million Ulster Bank and KBC Ireland current and deposit accounts are forced to find new homes for their money and day-to-day banking over the next year or so.

While it is illegal for an employer of a company, such as a utility business or hire-purchase operator, to refuse to accept Ibans from the Single European Payments Area (Sepa), Bunq chief operations officer Gerald Gruber said consumers across Europe were having to grapple with "Iban discrimination on a large scale".

Irish manager

Bunq, which has a banking licence from the Dutch Central Bank, received authorisation from the Central Bank of Ireland last month to operate here on a branch basis under European Economic Area passporting rules. The company is looking to hire a branch manager to develop the Irish business.

Mr Gruber said Bunq had no specific targets for the number of Irish retail and business customers it hopes to attract. The company earns income from monthly subscriptions for banking accounts, with its retail offering ranging from €2.99 a month fee for an account that allows instant payments to a €17.99 monthly charge for its so-called Easy Green account, which has features such as a scheme to plant a tree for every €100 spent on one of its metal cards. It also offers free basic savings accounts.

Bunq acquired Irish SME non-bank lender Capitalflow last year. The Dublin-based business employs more than 75 people and has a loan book of about €400 million.