Nickel: Tackling Financial Inclusion
In line with the Open Banking and the facilitation of access to banking services, the Fintech Nickel (formerly Compte Nickel) wanted to offer since 2012 an easy access bank account. Two years later, in 2014, the project became a reality and Compte Nickel showed itself to the public.
How does it work?
Since the beginning of its project, Nickel’s ambition has been to make opening and managing a bank account more accessible. The fintech’s strategy was therefore to choose the Confederation of French tobacconists as a partner to distribute its products. This is one of the special features of the service: Nickel customers will be able to go directly to their nearest tobacconist to benefit from their service.
To do so, a few quick steps must be followed:
- First of all, access to Nickel services is only available at partner tobacconists or at Point Nickel. Registration can be done online, but the customer may have to go to the tobacconist to present his or her validation code and pick up the box.
- Once there, the customer will be able to buy a Nickel box for the price of 20€. This box will contain a Nickel bank card, depending on the customer’s needs. To date, Nickel offers 5 different Mastercard cards.
- After a short registration on a Nickel terminal at the tobacconist’s, the account and the bank card will be activated.
- The customer will receive shortly after his RIB and PIN code by SMS: his Nickel account is open.
Signing up for Nickel services requires far fewer documents and prerequisites than when opening an account in a traditional bank. All you need is an ID, a cell phone and of course the €20 required to get the box. Note that to benefit from Nickel’s premium card offers, customers will have to pay an additional fee on top of the €20 spent on the box.
The Nickel account is no exception to the rule of bank limits: its customers can choose between 300 and 800€ per week or 1500 and 3000€ per month. On the other hand, Nickel does not offer a checkbook or bank overdraft to its customers. Since 2019, the fintech has been offering a contactless Nickel card in order to adapt to people’s new payment habits.
History and fundraising
As previously mentioned, the Nickel account showed itself to the public in 2014, after a test year at a few tobacconists. Quite quickly, the fintech saw its number of users gradually increase: 50,000 customers in 2014 and twice as many in April 2015, when the 100,000-user mark was reached.
Only a few months later, in December 2015, Nickel recorded an average of 750 new customers per day and continues to convince. This growth is notably explained by the Fintech’s first major fundraising. In September 2015, 10.2 million euros were raised, including 4 million from Partech Ventures, which will in fact enter the company’s capital. The rest of the funds will come from personal contributions or business angels.
Convinced by the Nickel team and the popularity of their services, Eight Roads Group will also invest in the fintech. The exact amounts are unknown and further fundraising will take place discreetly. Nevertheless, the president and founder Hugues Le Bret announced in 2017 that he had raised 8 funds for a total amount of €39.5 million.
At the beginning of April 2017, it is neither more nor less BNP Paribas that will approach the Fintech to finally acquire 95% of the capital for a confidential amount. However, Le Monde announced that this amount could reach, or even exceed, 200 million euros. This is clearly a turning point for the French Fintech.
This considerable investment will allow Nickel to continue its growth, to conquer new markets and to increase its number of partner tobacconists. The counterblow of this acquisition by BNP has an impact on the image of the fintech. The origin of the project lies in a desire for financial inclusion, by making accessible banking products that are usually difficult or even impossible to access for a certain part of the population. The aim of this initiative was to break down the barriers to access to traditional banks and to make it possible to open a bank account.
Observers and Nickel customers are therefore concerned about losing the ethical identity of the project following the takeover by one of the largest French and European banks. However, the management remains in the hands of the founders, who assure that they will not alter Nickel’s values despite this takeover.
We should therefore continue to see the Nickel offer evolve, while keeping its original principle: to make financial services accessible to those who do not have access to them in the traditional way.