In the days since the 2008 financial crisis, the term “banker” doesn’t always conjure the most favorable emotions. Whoever you choose to blame for the collapse, the aura of the “too big to fail” financial giant being bailed out through taxpayer funds has created its fair share of resentment worldwide.
Disruptive new entrants to formerly stagnant, established industries have gone hand in hand with the digital age. Whether it be Uber changing the way we move, or 3D printing revolutionizing manufacturing, if there’s one thing that’s become abundantly clear, it’s that no field is “safe”, and established industries will have to adapt to competition from innovative startups. In Europe, the financial sector is now on the forefront of it all.
Holvi, a Finnish startup founded in 2011 is making digital banking more feasible for thousands of small businesses, and freelancers across the EU.
From its onset, Holvi made it clear who it was targeting. Entrepreneurs, small businesses, and independent professionals who might feel locked out of traditional banking outlets. The company’s digital platform has a number of perks aimed at making online transactions, easier, more secure, and economically viable.
For starters, the banking system is a pay-as-you-go program with no monthly fees. It offers users a current account, with the ability for online purchases, and easy invoicing. The only costs involved come in the form of a €0.90 transaction fee for incoming and outgoing payments, along with a 3% fee for credit card transactions.
In addition to the more traditional services mentioned previously, Holvi customers can also take advantage of claims and expense reporting options built into the user-friendly system.
As the company’s motto goes, it’s built for “makers and doers”.
Accolades haven’t been short in supply for the venture, with it being listed as one of Finland’s hottest startups for 2013 by Wired. The results have been tangible on the financial side as well. As recently as this past May, Holvi announced it had received €1 million in funding from Austrian venture giant SpeedInvest.
The aim of the investment is to support a Europe wide expansion of the online service. Since then, the company has been fast at work growing its international market footprint, and has launched a pilot program in 19 European states. Approved by the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA), Holvi can now operate across the EU, and is quickly becoming an effective option for small businesses outside its original borders.
What has that funding produced so far?
As of October Holvi has provided its users IBAN numbers, offering them the ability to conduct further reaching financial transactions solely through the digital system, meaning that it’s now more than ever a legitimate competitor to Europe’s banking giants.
The cause for commotion is understandable, but as with any startup, success or failure depends on the available consumer pool. In Holvi’s case, the potential is vast.
Both the company website, along with its senior executives have made continuous references to the fact that there are more than 40 million small businesses across Europe who the firm sees a potential beneficiaries of the service. As noted in a recent company blog post “[these businesses] create over 85% of all new jobs in the region. These are the companies and the people who stand for the future growth and wealth of all citizens of Europe”.
Holvi is banking (no pun intended) on this enormous market to solidify its place on the European financial scene. Whether it succeeds or not in doing so is yet to be scene. If anything it offers the current system its first legitimate challenge in quite a while. As startup lovers, that’s always welcome.