Qonto is increasingly growing, also even in Italy. What is the secret?

Qonto, a French fintech that has already been operating in Italy for some time and with great success, continues to grow. We asked Mariano Spalletti about the next steps in Italy and how the latest capital raised will be used, trying to grasp the secret of the success of this very active and strong company on the market

What were the biggest success factors that led to this round in your opinion?

Since its launch in 2017, Qonto has been committed to building the most loved all-in-one financial solution for SMEs and professionals. We offer a business-friendly digital solution that simplifies business management, from payments to finance and accounting, allowing our customers to focus on what really matters.
We have won the trust of 220,000 businesses in Europe and our investors with our distinctive and winning elements: a glocal and customer-centric approach based on careful listening and analysis of customer needs and the ability to quickly and effectively launch integrations and ad-hoc functionalities dedicated to each local market, a super-intuitive user experience and a high level of customer service.

In which assets will you invest the money raised?

We want to become the financial solution of choice for 1 million SMEs and professionals in Europe by 2025. Thanks to the capital raised, we will further increase our penetration in the markets where in which we are already present – France, Italy, Germany and Spain -, investing more than 100 million euro in each country over the next two years, and entering new markets by 2023.
To do so, Qonto will focus on recruiting new talents until we quadruple the team by 2025, including by creating a new hub for customer service operations, in Barcelona. To strengthen our international talent acquisition strategy and meet the needs of an increasingly agile and mobile team, we will also launch the European “Qonto Campus” programme to enable and encourage international mobility between local offices.
In addition, we will continue to invest in our product offering through in-house development, new strategic partnerships and potential acquisitions to offer customers the best products available on the market

Focus on Italy, 100 million. Why focus on Italy and what is your approach?

Italy is a very important market for Qonto; the second largest after France, which has been was chosen in 2019 as the first stage of its international expansion because of its dense network of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are experiencing an acceleration phase in their digitalisation process. We saw Italy as a mature market, with a large unmet demand for digital financial instruments from both businesses and professionals.
Since our debut, we have demonstrated exponential growth in the Italian market, with a 145% increase in customers by 2021. We have developed more than 30 functionalities for the Italian market and signed 17 partnerships at a local level, to provide Italian SMEs and professionals with solutions tailored to their needs and offer customers a full range of services, from digital business banking to integrated accounting tools and team expense management solutions.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for a fintech operating in Italy today and how do you intend to tackle them?

Compared to other European countries, Italy is lagging behind in its digitalisation process: suffice it to say that in the 2021 edition of the DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index of the European Commission), despite an improvement of five positions year on year, our country is still in the 20th place out of 27 Member States and even, in digital skills, in the 25th place. This scenario certainly represents a challenge for those operating in the digital world, especially at B2B level. As At Qonto, with our business finance management solution and through our communication initiatives, we are doing our best to raise awareness of the opportunities that digital tools offer for doing business, also in Italy, and to help accelerate the digitalisation of SMEs in our country.
As far as the financial sector is concerned, in Italy – as well as in Europe – a further realisation of the potential of ‘Open Banking’ remains desirable, looking towards ‘Open Finance’, with a growing integration of non-banking services and standardisation of API and data access methods.
Furthermore, in the B2B segment there is still a long way to go to bring together expertise from traditional players and innovators. In this sense, we are committed to creating partnerships that not only allow us to offer our clients an increasingly complete solution in a short timeframe, but also contribute to the development and innovation of the sector.

Are you planning to expand your team and if so what kind of profiles are you interested in?

Qonto’s team working for the Italian market now counts more than 40 talents. In order to offer the most personalised experience and to be even closer to local customers and partners, we opened our offices in Milan in May 2021. Expanding our team is one of our priorities for development in the country and we aim to grow expand our team with the best talents, reaching 100 people focused on the Italian market by 2023. At the moment we are mainly looking for marketing and sales profiles, human resources experts, product, customer service and compliance.

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The Italian experience of Qonto told by Mariano Spalletti

In a conversation with Mariano Spalletti, Country Manager Italy of Qonto, we find out how this French fintech has managed to succeed in Italy and what the goals are after its first year of presence in the country.

After more than a year in Italy, what results have you achieved and what factors have led you to success?

Qonto was launched in Italy a year ago and in a year we have seen our customer base grow by an average of 25% each month, for a total transaction on our platform of over 300 million euros. Our turnover is also growing steadily and doubled in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the last quarter of 2019.

Our secret is, first and foremost, a customer-centric product: putting the customer at the center of the product. Its functionality from the creation and development phase is the key to understanding what to do and how to do it, to reduce the time and effort required to perform any operation and offer a unique user experience.
In addition to this, the focus on a very vertical market segment such as SMEs, which has always been under serviced by traditional banks, together with a truly tailor-made, modern, simple, transparent service that saves companies a lot of time every day, allows us to finally respond to needs that had never been listened to, but have already been present for years.

What “surprised” you about the Italian market?

Before the launch I was a bit sceptical about what the reaction of Italian SMEs to a digital banking service might be. I wasn’t sure if the market was ready and I was wondering how many companies could be willing to rely on a startup to manage their corporate finances with an innovative but 100% online account. There exists stereotype of Italian companies very much linked to the status quo and traditional processes and channels, especially if we talk about banking services.
I must admit that my doubts were unfounded and the answer was extremely positive from the outset. The Italian market is the fastest growing market for Qonto in Europe after the French market and we are growing significantly. I expect results to be still growing as we introduce specific features dedicated to Italian companies: the most important one so far has been the launch of the Italian IBAN, which has given a significant boost to our growth in Italy, also because it was the feature that was most in demand and that we were able to launch in record time, about eight months after the official launch.

What is the difference between the Italian market and the French market, in which Qonto has been operating for some time?

Qonto was born in France in mid 2017, while our international expansion began in mid-May 2019, when we decided to officially launch the service on the Italian market. During this year we got to know Italian companies better and better: both companies that were already Qonto customers and also potential customers, and we realized that there are actually several similarities between the French market and the Italian market.
The French and Italian SME market are in fact very similar, both in terms of size (about 4 million enterprises for both, although a little more numerous in Italy) and in terms of needs, given the inadequacy of the solutions offered by traditional banks, typically concentrated on two other market segments: private consumers and corporate customers.

What we guarantee with Qonto is a daily saving of time in the management of company finances and payments. With Qonto we guarantee the opening of the account in minutes and 100% online, to make simple and fluid corporate payments, both your own and those of your employees, canceling expense reports and simplifying accounting, all this with a UX and customer service of the highest level.
So I do not see any significant differences in terms of customers and their needs, but rather in terms of territorial dynamics and, in a sense, local bureaucracy. To give an example, we can think about the payment of taxes: in France a simple direct debit to your account via SDD (SEPA circuit debit) is enough. In Italy – as we know – you need to pay through the F24 form, a clearly specific service that exists only in our market and which is actually quite cumbersome. It is aspects such as these that actually involve extra investment to offer an identical service in the markets in which we are present. However, I think it is normal that each country has its own peculiarities, and we are in fact working to push localization to the maximum and offer the same level of service in all the markets where we are present.

How did you deal with the health emergency as a company?

The health emergency has been a challenging period for SMEs, startups and all in all also for us, as despite the strong international expansion they are still investing heavily to become profitable.
I have to say,however, that we were favored by two factors, namely: a solid business model, with revenues that are not based solely on the use of certain features (e.g. interchange on card usage) but also on fixed monthly fees; an important availability of resources, thanks to the Round C of 104M closed in January. These two factors have allowed us to face this period with serenity and not only to focus on the continuity of our service, but also to put in place some initiatives to help our customers on an economic level: we have in fact offered to all our customers from the end of March to the end of May, the virtual Qonto cards for free, even those not included in the plan and we have extended the free period from one to two months for all new customers who opened a Qonto account in the same period. In fact, the “bimonthly covid” was a moment of growth for Qonto and in Italy, in March and April, we acquired 55% more customers than during the first two months of the year.

What has this lockdown period taught you personally?

The main lesson of this period I believe, however, is related to the way companies must communicate. Although this was a trend already underway, there has been even more emphasis on the need to approach and dialogue together with one’s target market and prospects having less commercial nuances, placing even more emphasis on valuable and “inclusive” content, going from talking to a “client” to talking to one’s “community”.

We have strongly believed in the importance of helping Italian SMEs and professionals in this period of crisis, not only healthwise but also economic. For this reason we have tried not only to communicate the special offers we have put in place, but, with a broader perspective, we have tried to convey and highlight all the communications that we felt were important and useful for Italian companies to overcome the crisis, such as, for example, through the reworking and simplification of the measures of the various decrees gradually issued (“Cura Italia”, “Liquidita” and “Rilancio”) in an article to be found in our dedicated blog or by organizing or participating in webinars in order to share tips and suggestions to better face the crisis and organize for the restart.
We want to establish a special relationship with our customers: we are not just a simple “supplier” of services but a real business partner. Relevant communication is the basis for trust, the fundamental element for a valuable and sustainable relationship.

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Walliance goes to France

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For Walliance, 2019 was a splendid year, raising 61% of capital compared to 2018 and preparing for the launch of its platform in France. We met with Leonardo Grechi to get a better idea of the present and future of this brilliant Italian proptech.

What do you think was the main reason for your success in 2019?

Communication. We chose to speak clearly and transparently to investors explaining the company’s needs and responded well by increasing both the number of investments and the amount of money invested for individual projects.

The 3 most important projects of the year?

Milano NOLO and Milano Naviglio Grande and a project on Florence, all of which developed during the second half of 2019. They were the most significant because we raised a lot of capital in a very short time: one million in 5 hours in the first, Milano Nolo; 1.650 million in 3 hours on Milano Naviglio Grande and 3 million for the Florence project in 5 hours.

For this year you have announced the launch in France. With what objectives?

That’s correct. We have actually already opened there as already authorized by AMF, the French Consob. The goal is mainly to gather projects to allow Italian investors to invest in the French market. In the second phase, we would also like to allow French investors to invest in the Italian market.

Why in France?

We noticed that from the point of view of corporate law it is a country similar to ours, so of all the countries in the union, it was the one where it made the most sense to go to from our point of view. We are also waiting for the European regulation on crowdfunding that will allow us to cross-board with other countries as well.

How do you think the Italian Real Estate Crowdfunding market is doing?

It’s really growing. The numbers are double-digit year-on-year. This is partly due to the general trend of crowdfunding, but in real estate, resources are being raised for projects that have a bigger average cut, definitely bigger than a startup, and that’s why the volume of money is increasing.

How could this further growth be encouraged?

By clarifying the regulations since there is a big difference between crowdfunding and lending crowdfunding equity platforms. Finding harmony between these two instruments, also from a regulatory point of view, can give a big hand to the whole sector for its growth.

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HIPAY: interview with Paola Trecarichi

Hipay is a global payment provider. Thanks to its solutions, e-commerce and retailers can give their users the possibility to pay using their preferred payment method and local currency. There are two solutions linked to the main platform Hipay Enterprise: the Business Intelligence and the HiPay Sentinel. The first allows marketing teams to do an in-depth analysis of payment data. The second one is the anti-fraud tool, native of the Hipay Enterprise payment platform and very useful for managing risky transactions.

“With Hipay – explains Senior Head of Italy Paola Trecarichi – those who are part of the world of e-commerce, and want to open up to the international market instead of making integrations and contracts with many payment providers, can use our payment gateway that allows offering local solutions with one single integration and one single contract.

HiPay closed 2018 with +30% of managed transactions. “We have had more than 1,200 new merchants and 116 Key accounts. Our currents merchants have also grown by 19% in terms of volume compared to the previous year,” says Trecarichi, pointing out that the world of e-commerce is moving towards innovation and digital payment methods both of which are growing in Italy and Europe.

HiPay is a French company, its headquarters is in Paris and has 220 employees. The technical part is in Nantes. There are also many commercial offices in Europe, especially in Portugal, Belgium and Italy where there is a team of 7 people. HiPay is a European platform but the solutions are worldwide because they help European merchants to sell on the international market thanks to the payment methods it has integrated. China is also included since HiPay has recently integrated the payment methods of that country such as China UnionPay, WeChat and Alipay.

In the summer, HiPay joined the Fintech District, because it considers it “a gateway to the Italian market (and) one of the opportunities Italy offers”. It sees in the community “the possibility of exchanging knowledge and skills. “We think we can give our contribution and also learn from the companies that are part of this ecosystem. In Italy the fintech world is in its early stages and HiPay is part of this beginning”.

The next important event in which HiPay will take part in is Salone dei Pagamenti. “We also attended it last year, together with Fintech District – recalls Trecarichi – and we will show our technological innovations, hope to meet other people in the sector and understand what will be the future trends and what market demands”.

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QONTO: interview with Mariano Spalletti

Qonto is an online current account for business customers which allows companies and professionals to save a lot of time on all those activities and operations those who do business carry out on a daily basis. Qonto has been included by KPMG among the 100 most innovative fintech in the world.

Its success is evident by looking at the data: in France, in less than 2 years, it has reached over 40 thousand customers and continues to grow exponentially expanding in other European countries including Italy, Spain and Germany. Mariano Spalletti, Country Manager Italy, explains: “The large number of requests received in Italy after we had just arrived shows that companies and professionals perceive a gap in business banking”.

By joining the community of Fintech District, Qonto aims to have opportunities to share and exchange experiences, but also to collaborate with companies to improve the service to the end customer. “I believe that Fintech District can give valuable opportunities to the local economic system and to the fintech sector – comments Spalletti – It is the reference hub within the fintech system in Italy”.”

On the Qonto website you can create your own online bank account in 5 minutes without obligation, with many advantages and saving time every day. Among the main features of Qonto is the user experience. “It is simple and intuitive to use thanks to efficient tools for managing current accounts and payments, but also teams and expense reports – explains Spalletti – This is also thanks to tools that simplify the management of accounting and allow the accountant to directly access the account”.

Qonto also has a very active customer service that manages 40,000 customers in France, guaranteeing an average response time of about 15 minutes. Another competitive aspect of Qonto according to Spalletti is pricing: “Ours is clear and transparent. This is an added value in the banking sector, where there are so many hidden costs”.

As the number of clients grows, Qonto is carrying on an intense recruiting activity all over the world, “It’s perhaps the only case where guys from Silicon Valley come to Europe to support the growth of a startup” says Spalletti. Today Qonto has a staff of about 130 people of over 20 different nationalities, the goal is to reach the end of 2019 with over 200 employees.

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