British challenger bank Atom on Tuesday sold a 29.5% stake in the business to Spanish banking group BBVA for £45 million ($68 million).
It means the bank, which has yet to launch and will operate through just an app, has raised over £135 million ($203 million) to date. BBVA’s stake makes it Atom’s biggest shareholder and values the 18-month-old startup at around £150 million ($226.6 million).
Atom is one of a number of new challenger banks that have sprung up across the UK since the financial crisis. These new banks are hoping to steal market share from big lenders by capitalising on consumer dissatisfaction.
Atom fits into an even more specific niche within the challenger bank field: neobanks. Neobanks are online-only lenders that operate through just apps or online portals.
Atom became the first mobile-only bank to get a banking licence earlier this year and is set to launch in the UK early next year. Other neobanks applying for licences include Starling Bank and Mondo.
BBVA’s chairman and CEO Francisco Gonzalez says in an emailed statement on Tuesday:
BBVA believes the digital market in the UK offers excellent growth opportunities and that digital banks that put the customer first are the future. BBVA’s investment in Atom backs those beliefs in one move.
Atom’s CEO Mark Mullen says:
Atom is delighted to partner with BBVA. We have long admired their vision and leadership, and like us BBVA clearly believe in the power of technology to transform customers’ lives for the better. We share BBVA’s commitment to place the interests of customers at the heart of everything they do.
Atom, based in Durham, is also backed by financial heavyweights including star fund manager Neil Woodford and Jim O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs economist famous for coining the term BRICs to refer to Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Atom CEO Mullen used to run HSBC’s telephone banking business and Atom’s chairman Anthony Thomson co-founded challenger bank Metro Bank.
The company hasn’t revealed much about but Mullen told us back in June: “We’ve set about designing a banking app that’s in tune with how people think about their money. Taking an app-based approach allows us to use all the features of your mobile device to provide a slick and highly personalised experience.”
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