What is the digital German bank N26 that’s about to hit a million customers?

Berlin-based bank N26 is growing rapidly. In just three years, almost one million customers across 17 European markets have signed up, according to the startup’s founder. But what makes it different from other banks?

What is the digital German bank N26 that’s about to hit a million customers?
A customer using the N26 app on a mobile phone. Photo: DPA/obs/N26 GmbH

“We are now approaching one million customers,” N26 founder Valentin Stalf told Tagesspiegel newspaper in an article published on Monday.

In March, the company announced it had acquired around 850,000 customers. Relatively new to the financial services sector, N26 entered the market in January 2015.

Headquartered in Berlin and offering its services throughout the eurozone, the German direct bank claims that they are Europe’s first mobile bank.

Set apart from conventional banks, N26 doesn't have any physical branches, meaning its customers only have the option of doing their banking online via an app. 

Founder of N26 Valentin Stalf. Photo: DPA

Among the most popular products N26 offers are the basic current account (also referred to as a chequing account in North America or a Girokonto in Germany) and the premium Black account.

One of the major ways in which the digital bank stands out from traditional ones is that it offers its customers free cash withdrawals from most ATMs across Germany.

Moreover, no fees are charged when customers withdraw foreign currency abroad with their Black or Metal Mastercard. And all N26 products include foreign currency transfers.

“They’re going in a totally different direction than other banks,” Maik Klotz, a senior consultant in the payment and banking sector, tells The Local.

Whereas traditional German banks are bad when it comes to handling and operation, N26 as a product is “simple, easy to use and tech-driven,” Klotz says, adding that “smartphone users, millennials and digital natives” are the company’s target audience.

Despite a few other potential fintech competitors with N26 at the moment, “there’s no other bank in Germany today that’s comparable.”

The only downside with the mobile bank is that it doesn’t have any physical branches for customers looking to speak with someone in person, according to the consultant.

Klotz adds that when it comes to the issue of security, “it’s not more unsafe than other banks.”

N26 has plans to enter the UK and the US this year.

With DPA

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Danish agency criticised for failure to collect child support debts from abroad

Denmark’s parliamentary ombudsman has criticised the Danish Debt Collection Agency (Gældsstyrelsen) for failing to prioritise debts related to child support payments from persons who reside abroad.

Danish agency criticised for failure to collect child support debts from abroad

The child support payment, børne- og underholdsbidrag or more commonly børnebidrag in Danish, must generally be paid by one parent of a child to the other of the other if they do not live together.

But the Debt Collection Agency has done too little to collect payments of the contribution from abroad, the Ombudsman said in a press statement on Tuesday.

“Collection of child support contributions are of major importance for the financial circumstances in many homes,” ombudsman Niels Fenger said in the statement.

“It is therefore criticisable that the agency has, for almost five years, generally not promoted the collection of these contributions,” the watchdog added.

According to the Danish Debt Collection Agency, some 12,500 persons outside of Denmark have outstanding debts related to the child payments, totalling 2.3 billion kroner.

Collection of the money has been complicated by a lack of procedures in the area, the agency said.

Instead of sending requests to authorities in the relevant countries for collection of the debt, the Danish Debt Collection Agency has prioritised assisting foreign authorities in collecting debts outstanding in Denmark, it told the Ombudsman.

It also said that it would now prioritise collecting the Danish debts, and would produce a plan for the work.

This plan will be shared with the Ombudsman when it is completed later this year.

A large amount of debt is tied up in an old system, DMI, which does not allow wage deductions as a method of collection. A new system, PRSM, does enable this.

The agency is therefore working to transfer many of the debts from the old system to the new one, it reported to the Ombudsman.

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