VC firms have poured $2.5 billion into fintechs like Chime and Varo this year. It's the latest threat to disrupt Main Street banks.


  • Investment into digital-only banks or “challenger banks” from
    venture capital firms this year is at $2.5 billion, already
    surpassing 2018’s record total of $2.3 billion.
  • The increased interest in digital-only banks comes at a time
    when VCs curbed dealmaking efforts in fintech overall during the
    second quarter of 2019.
  • A big selling point for challenger banks has been their large
    customer base compared to other fintechs.

  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Venture capitalists are falling in love with the idea of taking
down some of Wall Street’s biggest players.

Digital-only banks, also known as
challenger or neo banks
, are quickly becoming the latest big
bet amongst VCs, who see the threat they pose to traditional banks
as a good investment opportunity.

Year-to-date funding for challenger banks has already surpassed
2018’s record of $2.3 billion, according to a new report on fintech
investing from
CB Insights
. Through July, digital banks have raised
approximately $2.5 billion across 55 deals. 

Challenger bank funding round

Interest in digital banks from VCs comes at a time when the
number of fintech deals in the second quarter (367) dropped to the
lowest its been since the fourth quarter of 2016 (329). The slip
represents a 23% decrease in the number of deals done in the second
quarter of 2018 (476). 

From the US (Chime, Varo) to Europe (Monzo, N26) and Latin
America (NuBank), disrupting where Main Street holds its money is
an appealing concept across the globe. Big banks have taken notice
of these young, agile companies aiming to steal some of their
market share.

According to
a survey published in February from Fraedom
, a credit card
specialist, 80% of bankers believe digital banks would have an
increased impact on their business in 2019, with 30% labeling them
the biggest disruptive threat. 

Read more:
Challenger bank Varo, which has raised $179 million from Warburg
Pincus and TPG, just took a big step that might separate it from
competitors like Chime and Monzo

Some have attempted to address these young competitors head on
with digital-only offerings of their own. The most notable amongst
them was Finn, JPMorgan’s
failed banking app for millennials
. One of the main reasons for
Finn’s lack of success was due to the
uncertainty around its launch internally
, highlighting the
difficulties large financial organizations can sometimes face when
attempting to create fresh, innovative products. 

Part of the allure that challenger banks hold is their ever
expanding customer base. In a time when
customer acquisitions for startups are high
, digital banks have
managed to grow some of the largest audiences among fintechs. 

According to the report, of the 25 fintechs that have amassed
more than a million customers, excluding those in India and China,
seven are challenger banks. Brazilian NuBank (12 million) and a
UK-based Revolut (six million) led the way for the group, which in
total accounted for over 30 million accounts.

Challenger bank accounts

The report also highlighted the trend among challenger banks to
expand beyond their country of origin. Specifically, it highlighted
NuBank, which
nabbed a $400 million Series F round in July
and is valued at
$10 billion. The mobile-only bank, which counts Goldman Sachs and
Sequoia Capital as investors, recently opened its second
headquarters in
and reportedly has plans to move into

See more:
UK digital-only bank Monzo is launching in the US — but getting
American customers to sign on may be a challenge

The US is also lining up to as another battleground for
challenger banks. In addition to homegrown Chime and Varo,
UK-based Monzo
German-based N26
have both gone live in the States in the past
few months. 

Join the conversation about this story »

What El Chapo is really like, according to the wife of one his
closest henchman

Source: FS – All – Economy – News
VC firms have poured .5 billion into fintechs like Chime and Varo this year. It's the latest threat to disrupt Main Street banks.