Neobank Bunq eyes UK market reentry, seeks banking licence

  • Dutch digital bank Bunq, founded in 2012 by Ali Niknam, is preparing to reenter the UK market, aiming to secure a banking licence from UK financial regulators later this year or early next year.
  • Bunq, known for its rainbow-coloured cards and focus on “digital nomads,” initially entered the UK market in 2019 but was forced to exit in late 2020 due to Brexit, which prevented EU-based financial institutions from operating in the UK using their national authorisations.

Dutch digital bank Bunq hopes to obtain a banking licence from UK financial regulators later this year or early next year, according to CEO and founder Ali Niknam.

Dutch neobank Bunq targets UK return

Bunq was first introduced in the UK in 2019 and is recognised for its rainbow-coloured cards and emphasis on “digital nomads” who are not bound to a single nation. But because of Brexit, the bank was forced to leave the nation in late 2020.

Financial institutions operating in the EU were no longer able to operate in the UK using their national authorisations after Brexit became law. The only license Bunq presently possesses is a banking license from the Dutch central bank.

Ali Niknam, CEO of Bunq, said: “I hope we’ll get somewhere by the end of the year, maybe early next year, because the U.K.’s processes may be slightly different to Europe because it’s a different regulatory area.”

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UK reentry with focus on digital nomads market

Bunq is preparing to reenter the UK market and has applied for an electronic money institution licence with the Financial Conduct Authority.

The company aims to cater to the 2.8 million British digital nomads, a “large and underserved” market of remote workers who frequently travel and work from places like coffee shops, co-working spaces, and libraries, using wireless internet devices.

However, this will be challenging. Rival fintech Revolut, which already holds an electronic money licence, has struggled for years to obtain a UK banking licence. Unlike an e-money licence, a banking licence permits firms to offer loans. Only a few UK fintech platforms, such as Monzo and Starling, have secured their own banking licences.

Bunq, one of Europe’s biggest neobanks, was established in 2012 by Ali Niknam in Amsterdam. With 12.5 million customers and €8 billion ($8.6 billion) in deposits, Bunq has experienced significant growth. Investors have placed a €1.65 billion value on the company.


Sylvia Shen

Sylvia Shen is an editorial assistant at Blue Tech Wave specialising in Fintech and Blockchain. She graduated from the University of California, Davis. Send tips to

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