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The fintechs that went out of business in 2021

Five fintechs closed down their UK operations this year.

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Alison Rose/NatWest.

It’s been another year of ups and downs and, while funding for fintechs has undoubtedly improved, we still said goodbye to some familiar names in the industry.

Things weren’t quite as bad as 2020, when we counted six fintechs that went out of business, but still worse than 2019 when just three fintechs shut down.

So in this article, we take a look at the five firms that went out of business and examine why.

Scalable Capital

Kicking off 2021, Scalable Capital announced on 27 January that it would be closing down its UK wealth business to focus instead on its European markets, exclusively revealed by AltFi.

The decision was prompted by Scalable looking to consolidate all its German, French, Austrian and Italian customers onto a single platform, with the UK getting cut as a problematic outlier.

Scalable didn’t shut down entirely in the UK; it still operates an office here and runs a B2B technology service for clients like Barclays to build and launch their own digital wealth offerings.

Still, not a great start for digital wealth players, and Scalable wouldn’t be the last to leave the UK in 2021…

Esme Loans

Next up came the shocking decision of NatWest to shutter its alternative lending brand Esme Loans in March, also exclusively revealed by AltFi.

While NatWest CEO Alison Rose had already demonstrated her willingness to pull the plug on flanker projects like Bó, the surprise with Esme was because most had thought the project a reasonable success.

Esme had originated upwards of £100m of loans for small and medium-sized UK businesses, and a significant marketing effort had established the brand among the SME community.

However, NatWest said the time had come, and it was “prioritising our investment spend across the bank”, resulting in the decision to wind down Esme.

Yolt (Consumer app)

This is a sad departure, as it signals one of the last major PFM (personal finance management) apps being shut down.

But in September, Dutch financial services giant ING decided that it was time to refocus Yolt as a pure B2B offering, with the Yolt consumer app sadly being killed off in the process.

Yolt had initially launched during a surge of interest in PFM apps like Bean and Pariti, which pre-dated open banking and let consumers analyse the data in their current accounts.

Sadly, all have now met their demise. The PFM category of apps has essentially disappeared, with most modern banking apps now including built-in analytics and categorisation, duplicating much of the functionality these apps had once offered.

Yolt’s debut in June 2017 came during a surge in personal financial management (PFM) apps like Bean,Pariti and Yolt’s own app.

PagoFX

Another example of a flanker brand from an incumbent bank looking to ride on a fintech trend, this time with Santander mimicking the functionality and usability of international payment challengers Wise and WorldRemit.

PagoFX would last just 15 months, however, as its Spanish parent company would quickly decide to pull the plug in September and focus instead on—surprise, surprise—its B2B payment offerings.

“To help support this growth, we have decided to integrate the PagoFX technology into our trade services business to leverage the fast and secure payment capabilities offered by the service,” a spokesperson said.

The news would disappoint few people, given PagoFX hadn’t been heavily marketed by Santander and counted just 329 ‘Likes’ on Facebook when it was shut down.

Wealthsimple

A final surprise departure to end the year came just earlier this month when Canadian digital wealth giant Wealthsimple decided that its operations in the UK had peaked.

While 16,000 customers and £272m in client assets might sound admirable, it was nothing compared to the C$15bn (£8.7bn) that Wealthsimple manages in its home market.

However, good news was in store for Moneyfarm, as Wealthsimple’s UK closure resulted in those customers being transferred onto its platform.

“It’s been a privilege to serve our UK clients, and we’re confident that their investments will continue to be in good hands with Moneyfarm,” said Wealthsimple’s European CEO Caroline Murphree.

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