Lanistar: The fintech that found itself in hot water with the FCA is "part-owned by 3,000 of the world’s most influential people”
Following the extensive social media campaign from the fintech and the subsequent fall-out, AltFi took a deep-dive into what Lanistar actually is.
Since launching earlier this summer Lanistar has struggled to stay out of the headlines.
The digital banking fintech made waves in the fintech industry after CEO and founder Gurhan Kiziloz confidently proclaimed that his fledgeling businesses would “become the next £1bn fintech company.”
If you needed any proof for just how confident Kiziloz is about Lanistar being the UK’s next big thing, he recently installed a Lanistar-branded unicorn (pictured) into the fintech’s London office.
Despite these big ambitions, it seems Lanistar may have put the cart before the horse, or unicorn in this case.
After splashing the cash on a massive social media campaign, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)last week flagged Lanistar as a potentially fraudulent company operating without the proper licences or regulations. At the close of the weekend, it backtracked and performed something of a change of mind and removed its warning against the firm.
But what exactly is Lanistar? And how is it different from the other digital banking fintechs out there?
House of Lanistar
The UK is no stranger to new digital banking fintechs, after all, it is home to some of the biggest digital banks in Europe.
But what is strange about Lanistar is that it has fallen foul of the regulator before it’s even launched, unlike any other fintechs that are still operating today.
A series of social media posts across Instagram promoting Lanistar suggested it had thrown stacks of money at its official launch.
However, you would be mistaken. Lanistar hasn’t even onboarded its first customer, the fintech says it is planning to launch behind schedule “in early 2021,” despite the huge social media effort.
Signing up for pre-registration seemed simple and straightforward, but if you looked in the fine print, you’d notice something peculiar.
When signing up for a Lanistar card, the fintech claims to be “part-owned by 3,000 of the world’s most influential people,” but what exactly does that mean?
Being owned by some of the “world’s most influential people” falls into the lifestyle category of Lanistar’s perks according to its app.
AltFi reached out to Lanistar to ask if they were offering social media stars who had promoted the brand equity in return for their post, but it was unavailable for comment.
Some of the biggest stars to promote the brand included Atletico Madrid striker Luis Suarez (39m followers), Cristiano Ronaldo’s partner Georgina Rodríguez (21.9m followers) and Argentinian footballer Paulo Dybala (40.3m followers) to name but a few.
It’s also unsure how Lanistar pulled together enough cash to launch such a prolific social media attack.
Earlier this year, the fintech announced a £15m funding round from Turkish VC fund Milaya Capital, owned by Yasam Ayavefe, only for the investor to pull out of the deal in October, rather Kizlioz would be raising the cash from family and friends.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery?
But what actually does Lanistar do?
When the fintech first burst onto the scene back in March 2020, it criticised “established banking providers” and promised to be a breath of fresh air for banking customers.
It now seems, however, that Lanistar has pivoted to something much more like Curve’s current offering.
The fledgeling fintech will allow customers to store up to eight payment cards on its Volt card, which costs a cool £19.99/month with a six-month minimum term contract or £14.99/month if you want to commit for a whole year and you happen to be in the first 500,000 people to sign up for the offer.
If you didn’t want to pay the big bucks for a Volt card, you could shell out £5.99/month for six months or £3.99/month for a year for a Lanistar Chrome X card and be able to connect four cards to your Lanistar card.
Lanistar has also pinched another of Curve’s signature products, Go Back in Time.
The fintech promises to allow its paying Chrome X and Volt customers the chance to “change a payment card for up to seven days after the initial payment,” something again that Curve lets its customers do for up to 90 days after the transaction.
Another idea seemingly pinched from other fintechs is that Lanistar claims it will plant a tree for every new customer, just like bunq does when customers spend €100 or when Starling receives a customer referral.
Again, AltFi reached out to Lanistar for comment but it was unavailable.
It’s written in the Lanistar-s
And, if you are still confused as to what Lanistar is promising, don’t worry so are we.
Lanistar says that it is not a debit card, yet one of its perks is being able to “top up your Lanistar card for free with bank transfers,” but you can also store other bank cards on your Lanistar card, just like Curve.
If being flagged for fraudulent behaviour by the FCA wasn’t enough, Lanistar actually claimed that it was “FCA approved and [had] e-money safeguarding up to €100,000,” a statement at odds with the FCA’s rebuke last week and a statement that it has since removed from its signup page on its app.
Following the fallout from the FCA, one of Lanistar’s alleged partners also issued a statement.
Financial API provider Modulr wrote in a statement: “Lanistar has not completed our due diligence process, so it does not have any right to refer to Modulr or suggest that it has the right to provide regulatory services on behalf of Modulr.”
The statement went onto say that Lanistar had published communications without its consent and that until the fintech is an official partner it is not allowed to “use, or claim to use, Modulr services nor reference Modulr as a partner.”
In the about section on its company page on LinkedIn, Lanistar rambles: “Here’s the truth. Right now, Earth, 2020-something A.D. money isn’t power. Influence is power.”
“Because when you run the culture, you run everything. Wherever you go, people follow. And money? That follows you, too. So, let the canaries keep the wharf. This is money made for us.”
The company’s tag line also appears to hint at the fintech is only for the most elite in society: “Keeping untouchables, untouchable,” is plastered in large, white letters on its homepage.
And if that is not enough evidence for you, the company’s founder appeared to have a Bugatti Chiron, which has a hefty £2.5m price tag, wrapped in Lanistar’s signature blue chrome and emblazoned with its logo.
It still remains to be seen whether or not Lanistar will recover from being called out by the FCA, despite the regulator now removing its warning, it’s hard to undermine its efforts to flood social media and, in turn, countless headlines with its name.
Despite the media frenzy, Lanistar still seems to be ploughing ahead with its early 2021 launch but it may face a tougher battle to stay in the regulator's good books.