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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N26 launches the new Italian IBAN, how does the strategy change?

How does N26’s business change in Italy now that all accounts opened in this country will automatically have an Italian IBAN? How is N26’s business changing now that the whole world is dealing with a pandemic? Andrea Isola, General Manager of N26, illustrates the situation of N26 in our country and what scenario he imagines for the post COVID19 fintech.

What were the key stages of the route to get to an Italian IBAN? With what time lengths and difficulties?

It was a path that required several months of work by the entire Italian team and a part of the global team – involving over 100 resources split among the different groups: product, marketing, operations, banking, customer support, and so on. It’s a novelty that was carried out precisely because we had intercepted this request coming from our community. The last two months have certainly been challenging, especially due to the global health emergency, but we have achieved a great result, a real milestone that will allow us to make N26 a solution is ever closer to the needs of our customers who will be able to use our products as primary accounts in all respects.

What are the characteristics of the Italian market? Who are your users and which are the services most appreciated?

Our customer base is very diversified: if we consider age, 55% of users are under 40 years old, 45% are over 40. It may seem strange that there are also older people among the customers of a fully mobile bank, but this shows how much more and more people – regardless of age – actually appreciate a new and fully digital bank model. The most popular features are certainly transparency, security and distinctive UX. We were first “born mobile” and therefore all our services closely linked to digital are also fully appreciated. We give clients the opportunity to open an account in just a few minutes with a fully online, paperless digital onboarding experience without the need to go to a branch. All of these features are particularly appreciated, however, in this period of lockdown when so many people are finding themselves forced into their homes, but cannot do without banking services.
In addition, we are continuously developing innovative services such as Spaces, which allow you to create virtual piggy banks, where you can save your money (also with a view to future goals, considering the period), or Rules, which allows you to set up money management rules for recurring payments or frequent expenses. At the same time, premium customers can also share money with other people thanks to Shared Spaces: virtual shared accounts for shared expenses between friends, family, couples, to name a few.

In the light of this innovation (IBAN), and Covid19 what objectives do you have for 2020 in Italy?

We want to continue to invest in the Italian market to acquire new customers, develop new products/services and forge local partnerships that are strategic for us and for users. The current health crisis is also proving to be an important driver in pushing the digitalization of the country and changing consumption habits. We expect the trend of digital payments and online shopping to continue to grow significantly, even in older age groups, as we are already seeing take placs. As a banking player, we want to support our customers in this process of technological acceleration.

In general what post-Covid-19 scenario do you imagine in finance and in particular in fintech?

Companies like ours, born with a mobile and digital soul, will certainly be one step ahead in what promises to be a total revolution in habits and ways of contacting customers. We are already talking about a “new normality” that will affect all sectors and we absolutely cannot imagine the banking sector will be excluded. Even more traditional financial realities will necessarily have to adapt to these new scenarios and we expect that many of them will be able to rely on fintech companies to speed up processes, instead of opting for the development of in-house solutions that would require much more time and resources.

How has N26 put in place special initiatives to address those who are suffering the most from the economic effects of the pandemic?

To help those who may be isolated at home or in areas with postal restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have launched a new feature, instant issuing, which allows customers to use the account via apps and without the need to wait for the physical card to arrive. Simply open a new account, which takes about 8 minutes, and after the first recharge you can use your digital card right away. To provide additional support we have kept our Support Center active 7 days a week to be able to respond quickly to any doubts of our customers. At the same time we have also launched a fundraiser within our community, inviting customers to make a donation in favour of Gruppo San Donato.

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