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2021 in Fintech and Alternative Finance: Part 2

Eye-catching IPOs, high-profile appointments and exits and big-ticket fundraises were amongst the stories which captured the headlines in the second half of 2021.

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There was plenty of fintech news around the world in the second half of 2021, with some big fintech IPOs, high-profile appointments and exits while the fundraising continued apace.

Missed Part 1? Take a look at what happened in the first half of 2021 here.

In this article, we look back at the stories that grabbed the headlines over the second half of 2021.

July

July was notable for the slew of big fintech news from the US.  

Robinhood filed for its IPO, just two days after a spate of misinformation and outages led to thousands of customer complaints.

Reports also emerged of another IPO, with Stripe hiring a specialist lawyer to assist in its plans for a blockbuster listing.

Meanwhile, just six months after its failed $5.3bn takeover bid of financial API provider Plaid and its €1.8bn acquisition of Tink,Visa made another bid to acquire another fintech, the cross-border payments platform Currencycloud.

Amid the rise in the buy now, pay sector, news arrived that Apple and Goldman Sachs were to join forces to take on Klarna in the sector.

In domestic July IPO news, Wise, the international transfer business, listed its shares on the LSE, securing a valuation well over £7bn for the fintech founded in 2011.

Joining Wise was LendInvest, which confirmed it was filing for a London IPO at a £255.5m valuation on AIM.

In fundraising news, Tide hit a $650m valuation after raising $100m for global expansion, while Revolut solidified its position as one of the world's most valuable fintechs after a bumper $800m Series E funding round.

In other news, Tom Blomfield took up his first fintech board position since departing from Monzo, joining the board of proptech Generation Home.

And finally, Starling Bank entered the buy-to-let market with its £50m takeover of Fleet Mortgages. 

August

The strength of the buy now, pay later market was underscored after it was revealed Jack Dorsey’s Square was to buy Australian buy now, pay later outfit Afterpay for $29bn. 

There was good news for Atom Bank after it said it turned its first monthly operating profit in the Durham-based lender’s eight-year history and would be regularly profitable on that basis soon.

Another business offering good news was the new UK neobank Kroo which received a UK banking licence with restrictions.

The authorisation’s restrictions mean that Kroo, which plans to launch in 2022, can accept deposits up to £50,000 in total in the near term. 

Elsewhere, PayPal launched its crypto operation in the UK, marking the first international expansion of PayPal's cryptocurrency service beyond the U.S. 

The month also saw Monzo remove its community forum from its website after trolling incidents.

September

September saw the long-awaited launch of JP Morgan’s Chase brand in the UK, with customers initially being able to open current accounts with a rewards programme.

Another new offering in September was Chip’s market-leading easy-access savings account at 0.7 per cent.

In big people news, Funding Circle said after 12 years at the helm, co-founder Samir Desai was to step down from the role at the end of the year. Desai was to be replaced by Lisa Jacobs, currently managing director of Funding Circle UK.

A big funding story in September was TrueLayer raising $130m as it reached Unicorn status. 

And less than a year after launching its open banking platform, Danish fintech Aiia was acquired by US financial giant MasterCard for an undisclosed amount.

October

October was thick with fintech news, with some surprising new faces entering the industry.

Open banking boss Imran Gulamhuseinwala resigned from the top job over 'bullying' findings.

Joining fintech was the former chancellor Philip Hammond who landed a role at cryptocurrency trading firm Copper and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who signed up to help scale fintech startup asset manager Ethic.

In other news, news emerged that Monzo was looking to raise £300m after withdrawing its US banking license application.

Revolut had two pieces of news: it emerged that founder Nik Storonsky opened a family office in London, while it was revealed the boss of Revolut's US operations was exiting.

Chip undertook a speedy crowdfunding round while N26 hit a $9bn value after a $900m series E funding round.

November

In November, there was less positive news for N26 as it announced its planned exit from the US, pulling the plug on its American dreams.

Elsewhere, buy now, pay later upstart Zilch closed a $110m Series C funding round, pushing its valuation to more than $2bn and making it the fastest European company to become a unicorn from its Series A round. 

In other buy now, pay later news, figures showed more than 2.5m Brits had joined the alternative payment method in just 10 months.

Another speedy fundraise-like that of Chip- was that of Freetrade,whose CEO Adam Dodds said its latest crowdfunding campaign had set a new record for speed of raising funds.

Meanwhile, new neobank Monument readied itself for launch after the regulator lifted restrictions while Thought Machine became a cloud banking unicorn.

Finally, Atom Bank made national news with its move to a four-day working week.

December

A handful of big fintech exits occurred in December.

Zopa and Lending Works both exited the peer-to-peer lending market while WealthSimple departed the UK market and Coconut ditched current accounts for an open banking strategy.

On a more upbeat note, Monzo landed a $475m round of funding as its valuation soared to $4.5bn while news emerged that Starling Bank plans to take its banking-as-a-service offering global. 

On the M&A front, crowdfunding platform Seedrs was bought by US fintech Republic for $100m while Abrdn snapped up Interactive Investor in a £1.5bn deal.

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