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Zopa becomes unicorn with latest funds to go to bank operation

Zopa will invest in its growing digital bank operation after becoming a unicorn in its latest fund-raising round

Zopa has become the newest UK fintech unicorn and will use its latest funding round to fuel growth in the digital bank it launched last year.

Following a funding round worth $330m (£220m), Zopa is now valued at over $1bn.

Best known as a peer-to-peer lender, the fintech was launched in 2005 and has since built up a large customer base. It has lent £6bn in its 16-year existence. It initially gained a UK banking licence with restrictions in December of 2018 and achieved a full licence in June 2020, with its launch soon after.

Since then, Zopa bank has attracted £675m in deposits for its fixed savings accounts, has issued 150,000 credit cards and more than doubled its revenue per customer.  

Zopa, which plans an initial public offering (IPO) this year, said the funding will be used to meet the capital requirements of its bank’s rapidly growing balance sheet. 

Jaidev Janardana, CEO at Zopa, said: “In a very crowded ecosystem that often focuses on current accounts or other free money management offerings, Zopa meets customer needs by focusing on how they borrow and save – the two things that have most impact on their finances.” 

Simplifying banking has been a mission for Zopa. Speaking to Computer Weekly last year when the bank was launched, the then chief product officer, Didier Baclin, said the company was applying its tech knowhow and machine learning to provide consumers with banking services that are as easy to use as Netflix and Amazon.

It is the promise of this type of functionality that has helped Zopa stand out to investors. One of the investors in the latest round is Softbank and Sourav Sen, investor for SoftBank Investor Advisers, said: “We believe Zopa’s fast-growing market penetration reflects high customer demand for adaptable financial services within a usable platform that can be customised to their specific needs. Zopa is fast emerging as a leading player in the UK’s nascent neo banking sector and we are proud to partner with the Zopa team on this journey.” 

The bank has also benefited from having a large part of its technology operation and infrastructure already in place through the Zopa Group, an early pioneer of fintech. This negated much of the initial cost associated with setting up a digital bank.

Zopa decided to build the tech platforms for its banking products in-house because of its extensive internal tech talent with experience in building a peer-to-peer lending platform. It has about 500 staff, around 100 of whom work directly with technology, such as software developers and data scientists. Roughly one-third of its employees work at least partly with technology.

In 2018, in preparation for the new bank, Zopa invested in building a team of developers, based in London and Barcelona.

Zopa is not alone in attracting investment in UK financial technology. According to recent figures from Tech Nation, so far this year, investment in UK fintechs has reached $11.4bn, more than double the amount for the whole of last year.

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