By Oliver Smith on Thursday 2 January 2020
Despite Brexit there were a host of high-profile UK launches last year.
Last year the British invasion of UK fintechs overseas continued with the likes of Monzo, Revolut, Transferwise and GoCardless expanded to the US.
Despite the intense political uncertainty in the UK, especially in the second half of 2019 with the political stalemate around Brexit, international interest was not deterred.
At least four high profile international fintechs launched in the UK during 2019, with many more smaller players coming to Britain.
Read more: The UK fintechs taking on the US
The year kicked with the arrival of Laybuy, the New Zealand rival to Klarna, in March as it signed up its first British retail partner Footasylum.
Laybuy lets shoppers spread the cost of purchases over six interest-free payments and, unlike Klarna, can be used in-store as well as online.
“The UK retail sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges as retailers attempt to navigate troubled waters,” said Laybuy Co-Founder and Managing Director Gary Rohloff.
“By providing retailers with a genuine alternative to discounts and promotions, Laybuy can not only help drive sales, but also significantly boost new customer acquisitions.”
Since launch the service has expanded its footprint to several other major high street retailers including Jones Bootmaker, Tony&Guy, Bailey Nelson and Northern Menswear.
Read more: Klarna challenger launches in UK
In May Plaid, the $2.65bn US fintech infrastructure giant, made the surprise announcement, not only that it was launching in the UK, but also that it had already quietly helped UK fintech Emma to build and launch its app in 2018.
Plaid essentially provides APIs which connect fintechs into the banking system so that entrepreneurs can rapidly create new offerings and focus on their customers.
“We’ve long admired the innovation coming out of the UK fintech sector. The commitment to enabling consumers to live fully digital financial lives is palpable and the progress impressive,” said Zach Perret, Plaid’s Co-Founder and CEO.
“We're excited to launch in the UK to both deliver on the promise of Open Banking and help drive velocity for the applications that are making money easier for everyone.”
Read more: The $2.65bn ‘plumbing for fintechs’ lands in the UK
Dutch app-only bank Bunq arrived in the UK in September after CEO Ali Niknam declared Britain ripe for another digital banking service saying people are “ready for change”.
Unlike local rivals, Bunq is Euro-only and Niknam said the service would be targeting an older, travelling userbase as it added the UK to its over 30 European markets.
"The fact the UK has a lot [of challengers] indicates people are ready for change... it's a market that's open-minded to new technologies," said Niknam.
"There aren't too many challenger banks. I think there are too many traditional banks."
While Niknam is currently the sole owner of bunq, having invested just under €45m (£40m) into the venture, he hinted to AltFi in October that he might consider raising a VC round soon.
“There might come a time we think it is in the benefit of our users and the benefit of the company. Frankly, I just need to pick up the phone because we get calls every day.
Read more: Dutch app-only bank Bunq to launch in UK this week
In September AltFi reported that Aussie low-cost share trading group Stake had been granted a green light by the UK regulator to launch in Blighty.
Since then Stake has built its UK team, led by European Managing Director Richard Watrasiewicz, and is currently in beta with plans to open its service to the public in early 2020.
When it launches Stake says it will have direct access 3,500+ US-listed stocks and ETFs, aimed at a more professional retail investor audience than local rivals.
Read more: Australian free share trading app Stake given green light to launch by UK regulator
While also not technically launching, free share trading giant Robinhood similarly established its UK launch team with the appointment of Wander Rutgers as President of Robinhood UK and unveiled its waiting list.
Robinhood is poised to offer unlimited commission-free trades, no account minimum, with access to a broad range of US and global stocks including 3,500+ US stocks listed on NYSE and Nasdaq and 1,000+ global stocks when it launches in early 2020.
Robinhood will go toe-to-toe with local rivals Freetrade, Revolut and now Stake, along with share trading industry veterans like Hargreaves Lansdown and AJ Bell.
Read more: US fintech giant Robinhood to take on Hargreaves and Freetrade with UK launch
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