10 Biggest Digital Banks in 2021

biggest digital banks 2021

The digital banking space is rapidly moving forward and is constantly changing. We sought out to research the latest data on independent challenger banks across the globe to find which 10 are the biggest in the space.

The list was based on valuations, total funds raised, and the number of customers that these neobanks have up to date. 

The research data was taken from publicly available sources, such as financial institutions, government bodies, press releases, fintech websites, and magazines. The data is accurate up to April 2021. 

The top 10 biggest digital banks are a healthy mix of start-ups and companies from four different continents and all but one were founded in the last 10 years. 

Seven founders are still CEOs of their companies and the total valuation of all 10 companies is $72 billion. 

The biggest digital bank in the world is from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and has the potential to become even bigger as the Brazilian market is still underserved with a third of the population not having a bank account.

1. Nubank 

nubank
  • Founded in 2013
  • Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • CEO David Vélez
  • $25 billion valuation
  • $1.5 billion raised (last one at $400 million on Jan 28, 2021)
  • Retail and business
  • 35 million customers

Dubbed the largest fintech in Latin America, the Brazil based Nubank was founded in 2013 by Colombian David Vélez, Brazilian Cristina Junqueira, and American Edward Wible.

The biggest neobank in the world rolled out its first product, a credit card, in 2014. It was the only financial product that they could launch at that time as they couldn’t acquire a banking license in Brazil because the law was barring foreign bank ownership.

This was the perfect entry into the lucrative Brazilian banking market as credit card interest rates were up to 400% a year at the time. It was easy for them to lure in new customers with invite-only applications and by offering a credit card without any fees that you could apply for online and get in only two days. 

In 2016, Nubank already had 1 million credit card customers with hardly any money spent on marketing. May 2017 was a big date for the company as it received its full Brazilian banking license by presidential decree. 

Many digital banks and e-commerce stores saw a big surge in applications and sales during the pandemic and Nubank was no exception as its revenue nearly doubled, to $963 million in 2020. 

The São Paulo–based Nubank now has around 35 million customers and has raised a total of $1.5 billion with its latest funding of $400 million on Jan 28, 2021, from a Series G round.

This puts the company at a staggering $25 billion valuation making David Vélez, Nubank’s founder and CEO a cool $5.2 billion with a 23% stake in the company. 

Of course, Nubank isn’t sleeping on piles of cash, it started rapidly expanding across Latin America starting in 2019 with Argentina and Mexico and moving into Vélez’s home country of Colombia in 2020.

They have no plans of expanding to the (over)crowded US market at the moment although they might take Nubank public there.

All of this is easily making Nubank the biggest digital bank in the world with more than $10 billion ahead of the number two on our list. 

2. Chime 

chime bank
  • Founded in 2013
  • Based in San Francisco, USA
  • CEO Chris Britt
  • $14.5 billion valuation
  • $1.3 billion raised (last one at $485 million in September 2020)
  • Retail
  • 12 million customers

Chime, the most valuable American fintech start-up serving retail consumers, was founded in San Francisco in 2013 by Chris Britt who is still the company’s CEO, and Ryan King (CTO).

The company famously launched publicly in 2014 on the Dr. Phil Show when he surprised his guests with a Chime card and $5,000. 

Chime came a long way from its early days to become the challenger bank with the most users in the US market, having more than 12 million customers and a 50% growth through the pandemic. 

They did this by focusing on Americans who earn between $30,000 and $75,000 a year that have recognized that they can save significant amounts of money with a digital bank that has no fees.  

Britt himself said that they’re “more like a consumer software company than a bank,” that mostly makes money when customers swipe their debit and credit cards. This is in stark contrast to big banks that make most of their money on fees, penalties, and loans. 

Chime overtook Robinhood as the most valuable U.S. consumer fintech when it raised $485 million in Series F in September 2020 at a $14.5 billion valuation. 

Chime’s future looks very bright as it held preliminary talks with investment banks about launching a stock market flotation that could make their valuation blow up to more than $30 billion, as soon as the end of 2021.

3. Sofi

sofi
  • Founded in 2011
  • Based in San Francisco, USA
  • CEO Anthony Noto
  • $9 billion valuation*
  • $3+ billion raised (last one at $369.8 million in January 2021)
  • Retail and business
  • 7.5 million customers (card and loan)

Sofi, which stands for Social Finance, was founded in San Francisco in 2016 by four Stanford business school students; Mike Cagney, Dan Macklin, James Finnigan, and Ian Brady. 

Their first product was a loan program – a two million dollar pilot at Stanford that was all about connecting recent grad students with alumni. 

Fast forward to now and Sofi has its fingers in everything from mortgages to credit cards, to trading fractional shares and cryptocurrencies on its platform. And in October 2020, SoFi secured conditional approval to establish a full-service national bank.

According to Business Wire, SoFi is going public via Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPAC Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. V. and will be valued at nearly $9 billion after the deal. 

The personal finance company is expected to receive up to $2.4 billion in proceeds from the deal. Not bad for a company that started with an alumni-funded lending model.

Palihapitiya had this to say of SoFi, “SoFi’s innovative, member-first platform has demystified financial services for millions of Americans and simplified the process for those looking to apply for loans, invest their money, obtain insurance and refinance their debt, among many other tasks that were previously arcane and needlessly complicated.”

*SoFi announced they will be merging with a SPAC in order to go public at a $9 billion dollar valuation at the end of the first quarter of 2021.

4. Tinkoff

tinkoff
  • Founded in 2006
  • Based in Moscow, Russia
  • CEO Oliver Hughes
  • $6.3 billion valuation
  • $1.6 billion raised ($1.1 billion IPO in October 2013)
  • Retail and business
  • 13 million customers

Moscow-based Tinkoff Bank was founded in 2006 as Tinkoff Credit Systems by entrepreneur Oleg Tinkov who invested around $70m in the project. It rolled out its first credit cards in 2007 and attracted attention from big-shot investing firms like Goldman Sachs.

They are now the second-largest credit card issuer holding 14% of Russia’s credit card market. 

2011 saw the launch of their mobile banking platform and after raising $90 million in 2012, they were ready for IPO on the London Stock Exchange that brought in a further $1.1 billion. 

In 2015, the company finally rebranded to Tinkoff Bank. It’s probably the only challenger bank that has been consistently profitable since its early days in 2009. 

It’s now offering so many services that it’s dubbed the online financial supermarket. Some of its products include a mobile network, insurance, banking, investments, travel, and loyalty programs. 

Tinkoff bank has won many rewards; from its first one by Financial Times’ Banker in 2013 for Bank of the Year to its current, the world’s Best Consumer Digital Bank at Global Finance’s Digital Bank Awards 2020.

It too profited from the pandemic as its customer base grew by 3 million users to 13.3 million in 2021. 

5. Revolut 

revolut
  • Founded in 2015
  • Based in London, England
  • CEO Nikolay Storonsky
  • $5.5 billion valuation
  • $916 million raised (last one at $580 million in May/July 2020)
  • Retail and business
  • 15 million customers

Fintech startup Revolut was founded in 2015 by Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko and was originally based in the world-famous Level39 incubator in Canary Wharf. It is still headquartered in London. 

Since its humble beginnings as an app and a prepaid card, Revolut became a household name by enabling people to spend abroad without paying high foreign exchange fees. This launched them into the digital banking stratosphere as it became the UK’s first digital bank unicorn in April 2018. 

It has since expanded all over Europe and further to Australia and Singapore in 2019. Their recent touchdown on US soil in 2020 is yet to make an impact. 

Much like Tinkoff, Revolut is trying to offer a comprehensive financial app that will offer its users the ability to sign up for a plethora of banking, insurance, travel, and investing tools. 

Alongside dedicated investing apps like Robinhood, Revolut has popularised investing in stocks, commodities, and cryptocurrencies. 

Although a metal credit card can be traced back to 1999 and the American Express Centurion card, Revolut has since made it a status symbol once again and a popular item among young people around the world. 

Revolut has now over 15 million global users and is valued at $5.5 billion. 2020 was a big year for them, as it was for other neobanking companies, as Revolut raised 580 million dollars that they will reportedly use to focus on improving its platform for existing users as well as revenue. 

2020 also marked the year when Revolut “quietly” became profitable after a 40% dip in revenues in the early days of the pandemic. 

6. N26

n26 bank
  • Founded in 2013
  • Based in Berlin, Germany
  • CEO Valentin Stalf
  • $3.5 billion valuation
  • $819 million raised (last one at $30 million in February 2021)
  • Retail and business
  • 7 million customers

N26 was founded in 2013 by Valentin Stalf and Maximilian Tayenthal as Number26, referring to the 26-sided Rubik’s Cube. It has since been rebranded as N26 Bank since it received its banking license in 2016. 

Before gaining its full banking license, N26, like many of its competitors, launched with only an app and a debit card. That was back in 2015. Fast forward to 2021, and the company just reported their 7 millionth customer across 25 markets in Europe and the US.

The neobank has successfully raised more than $800 million to date, from investors such as Chinese tech giant Tencent and famous billionaires Peter Thiel and Li Ka-Shing. 

It left the UK market in 2020, blaming Brexit, but the truth is probably that the company struggled to acquire a meaningful number of customers there.

Nevertheless, the German challenger bank is set to hire 200+ people in 2021 and perusing acquisitions of companies that will further fuel their organic growth. N26 is also set to expand into Brazil where it acquired a banking license. 

We’ve already seen that the Brazilian market can be very lucrative. Even though it already has formidable digital banking companies like Nubank, the market is seriously underserved as per World Bank, a third of adults in Brazil don’t have access to a bank account. 

And our next bank on the list is well aware of this fact.

7. MoneyLion

moneylion
  • Founded in 2013
  • Based in New York City, USA
  • CEO Diwakar Choubey
  • $2.9 billion valuation*
  • $227 million raised (last one at $100 million in July 2019)
  • Retail
  • 7.5 million customers

MoneyLion was founded in New York City in 2013 by Wall Street investment bankers and tech specialists Dee Choubey, Chee Mun Foong, and Pratyush Tiwari. It started off by offering lending and investment services, and financial advisory to consumers. It later started offering digital banking services as well.

By 2019, it had an all-inclusive subscription bundle that included a checking account and a Credit Builder Plus membership with managed investing and cash advances priced at $19.99 per month. 

As of July 2020, MoneyLion has unbundled its offerings making it easier than ever for users to avail of its checking account or investing for example. 

April 2021 has seen them investing in Zero Hash to offer the ability to invest in Bitcoin and Ethereum as part of its all-in-one digital financial platform.

Since its launch in 2013, MoneyLion had 7.5 million users and has earned its members’ trust by building a full-service digital platform to deliver mobile banking, lending, and investment solutions.

*On February 12, 2021, MoneyLion entered into a definitive agreement with Fusion Acquisition Corp., that will result in MoneyLion becoming a publicly listed company in the first half of 2021 and that values the equity of the combined company at $2.9 billion.

8. C6 Bank

  • Founded in 2018
  • Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • CEO Marcelo Kalim
  • $2.1 billion valuation
  • $269 billion raised (last one at $252 million in December 2020)
  • Retail and business
  • 4 million customers

This unicorn from Brazil was founded only in 2018 by Marcelo Kalim, Leandro Torres, and Carlos Fonseca, former BTG executives. Their goal is to get a slice of the Brazilian pie that Nubank heavily bit into already. 

C6 already had two rounds of investments for a total of $269 million raised. C6 hit the ground running by acquiring the payment company PayGo and the exchange platform Besser Partners in 2018, as well as the payment solution provider Setis and insurance distributor Som.us in 2019. 

C6 Bank has headquarters in São Paulo, a bank in the Cayman Islands, a brokerage in New York, and another one in São Paulo. It is set to expand its 1,400 employees and 325 business consultants.

With around 5.3 billion reais ($931 million) in assets and a credit portfolio of around 4 billion reais ($702 million), C6 is expected to achieve profitability in 2021, as it prepares for listing on the stock exchange.

9. Monzo

monzo bank
  • Founded in 2015
  • Based in London, England
  • CEO TS Anil (UK), Carol Nelson (US)
  • $1.6 billion valuation
  • $595 million raised (last one at $69 million in February 2021)
  • Retail and business
  • 5 million customers

One of the earliest digital banks to hit the UK, Monzo was founded in 2015 by Tom Blomfield, Jonas Huckestein, Jason Bates, Paul Rippon, and Gary Dolman under the name Mondo.

The group of founders were all former Starling Bank executives and Tom Blomfield was even its CTO. 

The digital banking app set a record in 2016 when it raised £1 million on the equity crowd-funding platform, Crowdcube. Already in 2018, Monzo had reached one million customers with the total number of customers now reaching almost 5 million. 

After founder Blomfield stepped down as CEO in May 2020 to become the president, and then subsequently announced that he’s leaving altogether, TS Anils was holding the CEO title for both UK and US branches. 

The company finally hired Carol Nelson, who previously spent 10 years as CEO of Cascade Bank, as the CEO of Monzo US, in February 2021. 

Monzo didn’t navigate the pandemic smoothly, as they reported that the annual post-tax loss was roughly £113.8 million in 2020. They also had to furlough and lay off staff, and even close their Las Vegas office. 

All of this made Monzo’s valuation drop from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $1.6 in 2020 with another one of the founders dropping to “farm 300 alpacas”.

Still, Monzo is a force to reckon with on both sides of the pond. 

10. Judo Bank

judo bank
  • Founded in 2018
  • Based in Melbourne, Australia
  • CEO David Hornery and Joseph Healy
  • $1.6 billion valuation
  • $1.7 billion raised (last one at $216 million in December 2020)
  • Business
  • 10k customers

Australian digital challenger and their newest unicorn, Judo Bank, was founded in 2016 by David Hornery and Joseph Healy who also serve as co-CEOs. Judo got its banking license in 2019 and started out by focusing on Australia’s SMEs but is now also offering term deposits to regular Australians.

From all the challenger banks on our list, Judo has the least amount of customers standing at around 10,000. That’s because they aren’t focusing on the retail segment for now. But as we know, the business sector is very lucrative and there are plenty of investors lining the pockets of Judo.

In fact, Judo has raised a whopping $1.7 billion to date with a recent valuation of $1.6 billion. That is an increase of 60% on its valuation following a previous raise almost a year ago.