Born in Canada to Iranian parents, Ali Niknam made his name and his fortune in IT in the Netherlands. During the financial crash, however, he decided to launch his own challenger bank, and over the course of the next decade, pumped more than €100 million of his own money into scaling bunq across 30 countries.
Last month, the company closed one of Europe’s largest Series A funding when it raised €193 from Pollen Street Capital in a deal that valued Bunq at €1.6 billion. As part of the transaction, Bunq also acquired Capitalflow, the Irish alternative lender that has advanced €650m to SMEs.
In this podcast with Ian Kehoe, Niknam talks about what attracted him to both Capitalflow and Pollen Street, and outlines his ambitious plans for growth in the Irish lending market. Niknam also talks how over regulation is stymieing market dynamics in the banking sector and benefiting the incumbents.
He talks about his personal motivations for launching a bank, how he brought it to profitability, and what separates bunq from the string of other challenger banks that have emerged in recent years.