“We build a dream with the customer. Bunq is a breath of fresh air in a very traditional sector,” remarks Ali Niknam, founder of the most colorful bank in the Netherlands. ”People are much more hesitant to leave their bank than, for example, switch between health insurer or energy supplier.”
Bunq is a well-known name in the Netherlands and is making waves throughout Europe. Only in 2013, the company entered the Accenture Innovation Awards as a start-up. Today, they have 86 employees, and on the 21st of March the app underwent its eighth update. We were wondering: “What are you up to now?”
Ali, can you describe your company in one tweet?
“Bunq is the alternative for traditional banking. Dealing with money has never been so easy: no imposing bank offices, tedious queues or dealing with bankers. With us, your privacy isn’t for sale and your money won’t be invested in dubious companies.”
Why should I use Bunq?
“Like I mentioned before, Bunq is mainly an alternative for traditional banking. Both private individuals and entrepreneurs make use of our services. Central to our app is that we don’t want our users to feel restricted or intruded by banking. Our app allows you to open and manage your bank account on your phone in less than two minutes.“
What is special about this bank of the free, which, in your words, gives you back your freedom —and offers a completely distinct experience?
“One of our app’s popular functions is the possibility to open an account for a group of people. This can be convenient when dealing with housemates or when going on a skiing trip with friends. Additionally, Bunq is always realtime: the money you see on your screen is up-to-date and never less or more than you have on your account.”
Are you using an innovative technique?
“During our update in October we introduced Dual Pin. It is a patented technology that allows you to use one card to withdraw money from two different bank accounts. We also offer shared running accounts for more than two people. We are the first bank to offer this service.”
And what does Bunq offer a business-oriented user?
“A Bunq-account is effortlessly linked to your administrative software, such as Exact and Informer. This makes it easier for you to manage various groups by, for example, allowing you to arrange the added tax separately. The app also manages automatic payments on its own, requiring you only to confirm the payment. All of this reduces the amount of effort needed to manage your affairs.”
What are some of the recently launched additions to your app?
“Our eighth update has made it possible for Italian and Spanish users to open a bank account. Both countries had many consumers eager to use our app. From now on we can address this demand. Besides all this, we are the first Dutch bank to launch Apple Pay in Italy and Spain, enabling contactless payment for users with their iPhone or Apple Watch. You can now make purchases in stores, apps, or online. Both Bunq and Apple strive for user-friendliness. So, this collaboration matches our company’s philosophy.”
What is your business philosophy?
“I wanted Bunq to contribute to society in some way. Not long ago, banks were shutting down left and right, and this negatively affected society. I felt a strong urge to find a solution to this crisis that benefited society.“
What is your background?
“Before creating Bunq, I was in charge of TransIP, the biggest webhosting and domain name provider in the Netherlands. Eventually I decided to start a new adventure. So, I gave the talented people at TransIP space and autonomy. I have always been very IT-oriented, but I consider myself an entrepreneur. I started my first company at the age of sixteen. My specialty is making sure all the invisible – but essential – processes work properly.”
Who is the target audience for Bunq?
“That’s a question of mindset. On the one hand we have the group of people I call the idealists: they want to change and improve the current state of banking. These people the best for us, but are driven by a desire to change the world of banking. The idealists are about 20 to 30% of our users, but they are very important for our image. On the other hand, we have the users who are drawn by our easy-going, new user-experience. They value convenience and, strikingly, are often oriented internationally.”
What is Bunq’s revenue model?
“The model is simple. As a customer, you pay a monthly fee. The online version of Bunq is free. If at some point you need a card, you are in fact paying for a subscription. This costs € 7,99 per month for private users and € 9,99 for each professional user.”
What has the feedback been thus far?
“The high level of involvement and feedback on our online community reflects a lot of excitement and positivity. Of course, we have also received criticism, but, more often than not, this was done in a constructive manner. People expressing criticism often did so out of a certain, specific need. These new demands are taken into consideration for the further development of Bunq. Approaching criticism this way has made people feel connected to Bunq. They feel appreciated and a real part of the Bunq-community.”
Do you have any competitors?
“In foreign countries we can see companies doing similar things, but always with small differences. You could call traditional banks competitors, considering they try to copy us a lot. For example, ABN AMRO’s Tikkie is based on Bunq’s payment request mechanism. But I think our easy-going user-experience is very different —and we listen to our users’ demands.”
What is Bunq’s greatest challenge?
“Achieving sufficient renown with our target audience is difficult as a small company. People experiencing our app often fall in love with Bunq — and stay loyal. Becoming well-known does remain challenging, however, and luring users away from traditional banking is hard to do. I often hear the phrase: “Just another bank”. That statement couldn’t be any further removed from the truth. Battling that misconception is our biggest challenge.”
As a small bank, how do you earn the lasting trust of customers?
“Who do you trust more: a banker or a technerd?”
What trends do you expect in finance for the next couple of years?
“I think the banking world will change a lot. The last couple of years very little changed; there weren’t any innovations. Sooner or later, depending on regulations, consolidation will take place. Many new parties will collaborate. Everybody will double down on their own strength. This will create an intricate web of companies, working together to cover all angles.”
What is the most valuable consequence of your AIA participation?
“It was an amazing opportunity to meet other companies that were trying to innovate and find creative solutions in their area of expertise, such as healthcare. At Bunq we come up with innovative solutions every day, so it was interesting to be confronted with different perspectives.”
What advice would you give participants of AIA18?
“The Accenture Innovation Awards offer a perfect opportunity to meet interesting companies. Through listening to other innovators’ stories, you will be able to find the inspiration needed to fuel your own innovation.”