Berlin’s Global FinTech
How Berlin’s FinTech Scene Influences the Worldwide Market
Innovations don’t happen in a vacuum. Accordingly, Berlin is not isolating itself as a standalone FinTech hub, but is embedded in the international community of financial technology stakeholders. Global trends are picked up and innovated here – and some even originate in Berlin. Today, as part of our series on FinTech in Berlin, let’s look at the German capital as a key actor in the worldwide FinTech network.
In our other article Berlin: The FinTech Capital we established Berlin’s prominent role in Europe and globally, with its unicorns and favorable ecosystem conditions. To recap, there are more than 300 FinTech startups in Berlin and the sector gets the biggest share of the investment pie. According to BizClik’s FinTech Magazine, Berlin was “a hotbed for fast-growing fintechs, insurtechs and startups” and other financial services innovators already back in 2020. Berlin FinTechs are on the world map. Making waves internationally are collaborations between Berlin leaders of the field, such as Upvest taking on Raisin’s ETF (exchange traded funds) trade. And of course global players participate in Berlin FinTechs. For example, American giant BlackRock has shares of Upvest and JP Morgan invested in insurtech unicorn Wefox. In terms of technical collaboration too, international ties run deep. For example, Berlin neobank unicorn N26 uses British cross-border payment solution Wise for international transactions.
Startups in the internationalization phase come to Berlin. For instance, French banking as a service platform Swan has an office in Berlin, perhaps not so surprising since one of their early investors, Creandum, also have offices in the German capital. The Dutch ‘buy now, pay later’ solution Sprinque is opening its own office in Berlin, a decision no doubt influenced by the fact that Head of DACH (that’s Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) Mikko Riikkinen used to work at Berlin’s famous incubator Finleap. Sprinque CEO says Germany is a key market. Meanwhile French online direct bank Qonto, who serve freelancers and SMEs, simply bought into their Berlin competitor Penta. Of course, some of the world’s most prominent FinTech companies have offices in Berlin, which indicates Berlin’s importance in the FinTech sector:
• Ant Financial
While German FinTech startups still cannot compete with established global giants such as Visa and Mastercard from the US or Tencent from China, Berlin unicorns in particular, such as N26, TradeRepublic, and Mambu, are growing fast. Even beyond the countries they operate in, they are well-known among international investors as ‘challenger banks’. And some German FinTech startups manage the leap across the pond. Raisin US, for instance, has established itself in a specific market segment, namely in call deposit accounts and fixed-term deposit accounts.
Ecosystem Builder Berlin Finance Initiative
Our program ‘Fin-Tech Leaders’, deepens the ties between the US and Berlin for startups and scaleups. The goal is to help Berlin FinTechs discover the enormous opportunities of the US market, primarily through networking events with investors and companies in FinTech strongholds New York, Atlanta, Miami, and San Francisco. The Berlin Finance Initiative, part of Digital Hub Initiative and partner to de:hub FinTech Berlin, is a network that has members not only in Berlin. For instance, Dutch IBAN checkers Surepay recently joined. If you’re looking to finance your finance venture, the BFI can help, not only because financiers such as ProNoblis are members.
Berlin Remains Trendy
An all-pervasive megatrend is customer convenience. Digitalisation ostensibly makes things easier for the consumer, and in the last few years this has disrupted a world that had previously been the reserve of a small number of specialists: traders of stocks and shares. Now, thanks to innovations like Berlin’s Trade Republic, anyone can become a wolf of their street with a simple mobile app. Although customers have access to a limited set of exchanges for shares and derivatives, anyone can begin to dabble in investing, starting with very small sums. Comparing the market is another convenience that digitalization has made possible for consumers. Here, too, a Berlin FinTech company has made a name for itself. With Smava, consumers can compare loans conditions from more than 20 banks in one simple platform. Interestingly, Smava started out as a peer-to-peer lending site, connecting SME borrowers with private lenders, thus cutting out banks. While Smava has pivoted to consumers, FinCompare concentrates on the financing of SMEs.
From Competition to Cooperation
While initially FinTechs may have appeared as competition to traditional banks, by now both sides have recognized the synergies and are approaching each other. Berlin startup Banxware, effectively a loan agency that provides embedded lending solutions tailored to banks, recently announced that international banking group UniCredit joined a funding round of €15M, which facilitates a cooperation with the German Hypovereinsbank. According to co-founder Miriam Wohlfahrt, who also had a hand in founding Ratepay and is on the women’s committee of the HypoVereinsbank, Berlin provides “the ideal combination of internationality, diversity, and talent.” So take it from the FinTechs themselves, such as UnitPlus, who like Trade Republic see investing as a mass market topic. Their international team is happy to be in the German capital. “Berlin is simply an exceptional place to build up a FinTech company,” says co-founder Kerstin Schneider.
As a key player in the global fintech network, Berlin influences the global market and global trends influence Berlin. The German capital is a FinTech capital in its own right, as Ramin Niroumand, of Finleap and embedded/capital fame, now one of the Motive Partners, was quoted as saying: “Berlin’s outstanding advantage is that wherever you look, you’ll find senior fintech experts … it is unparalleled within Europe. I think it’s safe to say, Berlin has become Europe’s fintech capital.” Certainly European and international networks benefit all the players involved and global FinTech players consider Berlin as an essential location in the FinTech scene, encouraging this interdependence.
Source: Berlin Partner, the Economic Development Agency for Berlin