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Azimo gets loan from European Investment Bank to build cross-border payments infrastructure in EU

UK fintech gets validation from EIB through €20m loan which will contribute to building its smartphone app-based payments infrastructure

UK cross-border payments company Azimo will invest in its rapidly growing EU operation after receiving a €20m loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Part of the money will be spent on software engineers as the company evolves its product, particularly with European Union (EU)-based customers in mind.

Azimo’s platform enables people to make cross-border transactions in seconds via a smartphone app, at a considerably lower cost than traditional high-street money transfer shops. The Azimo platform removes complexity through automation.

Michael Kent, co-founder and CEO at Azimo, said the EIB contacted the company as part of its plans to expand payments infrastructures in Europe. Fintech is relatively new for the EIB, he said, but it has already lent money to German neo bank N26 and Swedish point-of-sale fintech izettle.

“The EIB’s focus here was to build critical payments infrastructure in the EU to support job creation,” said Kent. “We were very pleased to get the money from the EIB. It is validation for us because the EIB wants to build European champions in the digital space, with N26 in banking, izettle in point of sale and us in cross-border payments. It’s a good gang to be in.”

Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission (EC) vice-president for an economy that works for people, said: “People need to be able to transfer money as quickly and safely as possible. This is a priority of the EC and we will continue to support successful companies such as Azimo to boost the European fintech sector and improve the experience of millions of customers.”  

Azimo has its technology hub in Kraków, Poland, where about 130 of its 160 staff are based, and its EU headquarters are in Amsterdam. “We expect to significantly expand the headcount in both those places,” said Kent. Most tech new tech staff will be in Kraków, he said, “which is a great place to attract and retain great engineering talent”.

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Kent added: “We are going to spend money on engineers and product managers to continue to iterate on the product for people in the EU market. Then we will spend on marketing to make more people in the EU aware of it.”

The UK is Azimo’s biggest single market, but more than half of its business is now done in the EU, where sales are growing more quickly than in the UK. Germany, Italy, France and Spain are the firm’s fastest-growing markets.

Azimo safeguarded its EU business in November when it opened a Dutch subsidiary, which was created to shield the company from the damaging effects of Brexit.

World Bank figures show that global remittance volumes stood at $642bn in 2018, and are forecast to exceed $700bn by 2021, with Europe one of the world’s largest sending regions. With legacy cross-border transfer companies such as Western Union still the main players, there is a lot of room to grow, and the EIB’s loan is a signal of the EU’s appetite for fintech.

Since its launch in 2012, Azimo has served more than a million sending customers and handled over €2bn in transfers.

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