Fintech made in Spain

Image | Joan Campderrós

What do we mean when we talk about Fintech? It’s a term that is slowly sneaking into the world of tech startups. Its meaning is very simple and perfectly explains the sectors we’re referring to — finance and technology — two terms that, together, make for a very powerful mix.

In Spain, this sector isn’t being overlooked. Quite the contrary. In recent years, we’ve seen home-grown companies such as Kantox, peerTransfer and Coinffeine gaining visibility in the Fintech world market and boasting great venture rounds. Philippe Gelis, CEO of Kantox, assures that “we’re in the initial stage. We still haven’t seen much activity in M&A (mergers and acquisitions); banks observe what’s going on with a magnifying glass but not much else.” He points out that “it will take 3 or 5 years until we see the rise of Fintech banks. That is to say, a real bank, with a banking license, but 100% online and ready to connect with other Fintech banks and companies.”

With this momentous shift in site, Kantox aims to be “the driver for change in the financial industry.” Gelis notes that “we’re here for the long term, to be global, to be what is called a stand-alone business. We want to be listed on the stock exchange and not depend on anyone.”

Kantox was founded in 2011 and to date has received 7.5 million euros in investments from Partech Ventures, IDinvest Partners, Cabiedes Partners and individual business angels. Currently, it has 50 employees among its London and Barcelona offices. But what is Kantox? Gelis describes it in just over 140 characters: “Kantox is an online foreign exchange platform that offers midsize businesses a comprehensive solution based on transparency, efficiency and savings.”

The Fintech sector, besides being heavily regulated, is up against a tough competitor in traditional banking. Gelis sees two types of banks: “On the one hand, global banks such as Barclays or BBVA that seek collaboration with us, and consider Fintech to be the future; and on the other hand, local or national banks that have no strategic vision, which try to slow our development down and see us as competition.”

This is not the case for Bankinter, which invested in Coinffeine, a Spanish company that has developed a bitcoin and foreign currency exchange platform. It was founded just seven months ago and was the first company in the world to be created using Bitcoins. Its CEO, Alberto Gómez, states that “Bitcoins offer us new tools and ways to use money and Coinffeine exploits all this potential to create a P2P (peer-to-peer) market that handles all types of digital assets.” Regarding his relationship with traditional banks, Gómez thinks “we are a key partner that allows them to play in the field of cryptocurrency.”

Another Spanish financial startup that is also gaining momentum is peerTransfer, a platform founded in 2009 by Iker Marcaide, that has become a leader in tuition transfers and payments in the education and university sectors. peerTransfer has main offices in Boston and Valencia and has recently received a multi-million dollar investment from Bain Capital, one of the largest venture capital funds in the EU.

Another Spanish bank, Sabadell, has also become increasingly involved in the world of startups and entrepreneurs, with support programs such as BStartup10 and financial hackathons in order to define and invent the bank of the future.

Fintechs and banks, banks and Fintechs — together but not mixed. What is going to happen in the coming years? Will we change the way we manage our money?

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