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Neobank Bunq Looks to Court UK’s Digital Nomads

Dutch neobank Bunq is reportedly aiming to return to the U.K.

Founder and CEO Ali Nikham told CNBC in a report published Monday (June 3) that the company is hoping to obtain a banking license from British regulators.

“I hope we’ll get somewhere by the end of the year, maybe early next year, because the U.K.’s processes may be slightly different to Europe because it’s a different regulatory area,” Niknam said in an interview at the Viva Tech conference in Paris. “I don’t know when they’re going to say yes, but so far I have little reason to believe that we won’t be successful.”

Bunq had launched in Great Britain in 2019, only to be forced to exit the country the following year due to Brexit. The law changes associated with that shift meant that European financial institutions couldn’t use their own authorizations to do business in the U.K.

By returning to England, the report says, Bunq hopes to attract the country’s 2.8 million “digital nomads” — ex-pats, remote workers and others not bound to one country.

“These individuals have embraced a lifestyle that combines work with travel, leveraging technology to work remotely from anywhere in the world,” PYMNTS wrote in April.

“As this concept gains momentum, countries worldwide … are recognizing the potential economic, tourism and innovation benefits and are introducing special visas or residency programs tailored to attract remote workers.”

For example, Japan earlier this year said it was launching a digital nomad visa, which lets citizens visit nearly 50 countries to live and work in the country for up to six months at a time. South Korea also introduced a “workation visa” earlier this year, which allows remote workers employed by foreign companies to stay for up to one year.

As for Bunq, CNBC notes that the company could have an uphill battle getting approved, as rival FinTech Revolut has spent years trying to get a banking license in the U.K.

“We’re working as hard as we can, the U.K. regulator has been very responsive, dialogue is ongoing, I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but things seem to be moving,” Niknam said.

The news comes weeks after Bunq’s shareholders signed a commitment letter to provide 29 million euros (about $31 million) of capital to fund the company’s growth.

The new commitment followed the majority shareholder’s injection of 125 million euros (about $133 million) up to December, Bunq said in its 2023 annual report, which also noted the company now has more than 11 million users.