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The financial services industry is seeing a lot of technological disruption these days, particularly in the arena of payments, but the humble bank account has remained relatively unaltered over recent years.
Finland’s Holvi is trying to change that. The company’s services are aimed at teams that want to quickly set up a new project (Holvi is powering ticket sales for the Slush conference in Helsinki, for example). Users can set up shared accounts and start receiving payments within minutes, and team members can collaboratively manage budgets. You can even set up an account for each of the team’s activities, and accounts can effectively act as storefronts for selling goods online.
And, in that Finnish spirit of openness, you can choose to show your account details to the world at large. In recent municipal elections, some politicians did just that with their campaign funding accounts, in a bid to demonstrate transparency.
It’s a pretty bold idea, and the company has just pulled in a new round of investment. The amount isn’t being disclosed, but one of the investors is Podio’s Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, who is now also on the Holvi board.
“I’ve been tracking the team for a long time, and in the end I couldn’t help myself,” Madsen-Mygdal told me. “I think the need for something to happen in this space is so big right now. An online bank is still the same as it was 20 years ago with telephone banking, and Holvi is fundamentally trying to change what it is.”
The investment is intended to drive Holvi’s internationalization. The firm is already up and running in Finland – getting there meant dealing with the country’s financial services regulator, of course, but it also gave Holvi the authorization it needs to go live across the European Union.
According to Madsen-Mygdal, that’s going to happen around the middle of next year. It’s a simpler task than it may at first appear, as Holvi is in reality a layer on top of more traditional accounts – all the company really needs to do is find banks to partner up with in each new territory.
And beyond Europe? Madsen-Mygdal says that’s “the vision”, but Holvi’s taking things one step at a time. After all, outside the EU, the company will need to engage with the financial services regulators of each new country it enters.
The regulators’ first question, obviously, is around the potential of using Holvi for money-laundering. However, the company says it avoids that – it may be pretty frictionless setting up a Holvi account and receiving funds, but users have to go through the same authorization procedures that would accompany the establishment of a normal online banking account if they want to pay out funds.