When fintech got its start in Germany
Fintech in Germany can be traced back to the early 2000s when established banks were focused on transitioning from counter banking to direct banking. Leaders of this movement included Deutsche Bank (Deutsche Bank 24), Commerzbank (comdirect) and Frankfurter Sparkasse (1822direkt).
What makes Germany ideal for fintechs
Germany has historically been a nurturing environment for insurance and financial technology companies, thanks to its status as Europe’s largest economy, generous government support and diverse environments. Fintech investment in Germany was estimated at €332 million in 2015, which quickly ballooned to €1.2 billion by 2019.
Even the global pandemic has failed to put a dent in Germany’s robust fintech sector, as January 2021 alone saw a record 13 investment deals, amounting to a total value of €275 million. This rapid expansion partly has Brexit to thank for, as the disruption gave Germany space to step up and gain ground while London – Europe’s long-established financial capital – struggled with domestic rife.
Apart from developing and providing digital banking services, the German fintech sector is a heavy driver and investor of future technologies. Artificial intelligence and blockchain solutions in particular are common points of focus. Currently, Germany’s fintech sector is geared to become number one in Europe, making it a very attractive destination for foreign founders seeking to capture the European market.
Where fintech is based in the country
Germany currently has around 700 active startups in the fintech sector. Only 11% are based in Frankfurt, while 28% are in Berlin, despite the former being the country’s financial hub. Berlin’s popularity as a fintech hub may be credited to how their approach towards regulation of compliance issues allows startups to operate even with limited resources. In 2020, Berlin fintech startups received a whopping €342 million in financing, which equated to 64% of total investments in the German sector. Bavaria comes in as a far second at €123 million, 24% of total investment.
Established fintech firms in Berlin concentrate on asset management and investment, while newcomers mostly focus on banking-as-a-service (BaaS), a popular service provided by startups as it allows them to establish themselves quickly by utilising partnerships with older institutions.
Hamburg, which is home to two-thirds of all recent startups in Germany, is primarily focused on blockchain-based solutions, such as decentralised finance (DeFi).
The Rhine-Main region leads when it comes to hosting the most early-stage investment rounds, while Baden-Württemberg is the smallest hub with approximately only eight per cent of all fintech startups.
Why this is a good time for fintechs to enter Germany
Fintech comprises a core part of Germany’s dynamically growing and highly innovative segment of financial services on the market. The market grew by approximately 120% over the past five years and saw a 1/6th market volume expansion between 2016 and 2019 alone.
Since 2018, fintech makes up 10% of all new startups in Germany, and the sector has become the second-greatest startup activity in the country’s startup ecosystem after information and communication technology.
Who are the big players in the German fintech scene?
This Berlin-based fintech firm and alumni of Scaler8’s sister brand, German Accelerator, is currently valued at $9 billion – slightly higher than Commerzbank, Germany’s second-largest listed lender. Commerzbank has a market cap of €7.6 billion ($8.8 billion).
Founded in 2013, N26 now has 7 million customers across Europe and the U.S. and is on track to process $90 billion in transactions this year. The company now boasts a staff of over 1,500 people across 80 nationalities, with teams in Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Vienna, New York and São Paulo.
This startup based in Berlin provides services and technology to microfinance institutions and fintech startups. Mambu’s products have been adopted by 100 microfinance organisations in 26 countries worldwide within two years. They closed a round of €110 million earlier this year, resulting in a post-money valuation of €1.7 billion.
Mambu is now working with Cake digital bank to scale the latter’s business towards offering a full suite of digital banking services.
Beginning as a BaaS platform, Solarisbank is now a tech company with a full German banking license, boasting a multidisciplinary team of engineers, entrepreneurs and seasoned banking experts from over 60 different nations.
Solarisbank recently announced its launch in France, Italy and Spain. In addition to offering local IBANs in those regions, it now covers the entire European Economic Area (EEA) via passporting, providing the company’s partners uninhibited access to the local financial ecosystems of Europe’s four largest markets.
Founded in 1973, Raisin Bank is an established German credit institution, best known for processing loan portfolios and accounts receivable from carefully selected borrowers. Raisin was known as MHB-Bank AG in its early years and became a subsidiary of the American investment firm Lone Star, focusing on managing loan portfolios. The bank has operated under the name of Raisin Bank AG since August 2019 after its acquisition by Raisin DS GmbH in April of the same year.
Merging with fellow fintech Deposit Solutions, Raisin is forming Raisin DS, a savings and investment solutions provider, servicing banks and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.
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