It’s been a year of ups and downs for fintech and despite an overall positive year for the industry, not every company made it through 2020.
Fintech companies have been on a full-throttle ride for a number of years with valuations continuing to soar despite the pandemic’s disruption last year.
Of course, though, in the world of startups things don’t always go to plan. A number of firms did not make it through 2020.
This was not in most cases simply owing to the pandemic but clearly the biggest social and economic shock for a generation played its part. While many that eventually thrived in 2020 faced a more challenging effort to raise cash, others had to cut costs by pulling back from international expansion or slashing marketing. Some simply shut up shop or went fully bust in a haze of scandal.
In this article, we take a look at the firms that went out of business and examine why.
Wirecard was the biggest fintech casualty of 2020. The listed German payments and card services provider filed for insolvency in June amid one of the largest corporate scandals for many years.
The immediate fall out was severe. The FCA, the UK financial regulator, ordered Wirecard’s UK subsidiary, Wirecard Card Solutions (WCS), to halt all activities just 24 hours after its German parent company filed for insolvency.
Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) effort to steal a march on the likes of Monzo and Starling was short-lived. Bó, it’s standalone flanker brand bank, shuttered its digital doors in April last year after just six months of action.
Bó had officially launched at the end of November 2019 but by the start of 2020 had already shed its CEO Mark Bailie with Marieke Flament, the CEO of RBS’ other flanker brand - SME-focused Mettle - taking over.
By February it hit the rocks again having to replace all its customer cards after a Strong Customer Authentication problems.
The bank, which was focused on retail customers, had received c.11,000 sign-ups, RBS said.
German alternative lender Monedo, formerly Kreditech, filed for bankruptcy in September 2020. It reportedly ran into trouble after several European governments allowed borrowers to postpone loan repayments during the coronavirus pandemic.
Monedo was hit hardest by the new laws introduced by the Spanish and Polish governments, among the fintech’s largest markets.
Backed by the likes of JC Flowers and Peter Thiel, the lender had rebranded in March of 2020 following a two-year shift in strategy to offering near-prime consumer loans. It employed c.350 people and lent money in India, Poland, Russia and Spain.
In the UK another alternative lender Growth Street opted for a wind down in July 2020 following a litany of challenges. The lender launched in 2015, having originated over £500m of loans in five years but ran into trouble in 2019.
CEO Greg Carter departed the business in December 2019 and by mid-March it initiated ‘a liquidity event’ and closed investor access to its platform in a bid to stabilise its operations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In May 2020 its 2019 accounts saw losses increase to £1.86m.
Covid-19 then prompted a number of challenges to the business and investors stepped back from recapitalising the business.
“We assessed all of our realistic options, including having discussions with our shareholders and other institutions to find a solution that would enable us to build an economically viable business going forward whilst allowing us to offer a market leading proposition for our customers,” said COO Kim Goetzke at the time.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible in the current environment to put together the package of equity investment and institutional funding necessary to continue the business,” he added.
The personal finance app, which was acquired by BGL Group in October 2018, helped users manage payments and subscriptions.
In April 2020 one of the first retail-focused P2P lending aggregators closed its doors following an unsuccessful pivot to institutional investors.
Orca pivoted away from retail investors and towards institutional investors in 2019 during a period where the UK regulator began a marketing crackdown for the retail market.