Atom Bank, a startup out of the U.K. that has built a mobile-only bank targeting consumers between the ages of 18 and 34, has raised another £83 million ($102 million) in funding led by BBVA, the Spanish bank and owner of Simple in the U.S. The funding gives Atom a post-money valuation of £261 million ($320 million), TechCrunch has confirmed with the company. BBVA also led Atom’s previous $128 million round in November 2015.
The plan is to use the funding to continue building out its customer base and services, as well as provide capital for lending: Atom officially launched in April 2016 and customers access the services via iPhone and Android apps. Today it offers mortgages, Fixed Saver accounts and secured loans for small and medium-sized businesses.
The announcement of this £83 million comes a couple of weeks after it was reported that musician Will.i.am — a tech enthusiast who has dabbled in his own startups and using newer innovations to build his audience — was inking a deal to act as a consultant and board advisor to the company in exchange for shares. That same report, from Sky News, noted that Atom was raising close to £100 million.
A spokesperson for the company would not confirm if Will.i.am is involved with the company, but the company does say that it is due to announce more funding soon, so it may be that Will.i.am will be named along with that second wave of funds.
BBVA led the round with a £29.4 million investment, and it says that this investment will help it maintain a 29.5 percent share of the startup post-money. In its last round, Atom was valued at £152.5 million (just over $200 million), so this is a significant up-round. The startup has now raised £219 million to date ($268 million).
The fact that BBVA’s stake is just under 30 percent is notable: Under U.K. law, if a company takes a 30 percent or higher share, it triggers a regulatory requirement for that shareholder to make a mandatory takeover offer.
It remains an interesting time in British banking, and BBVA remaining in the picture and close to a tipping point in its share underscores the fact that we may see more changes ahead.
Fintech has been one of the strongest tech verticals in this country, and a number of startups have tapped into that wave and its popularity to provide products that use new channels like mobile and the internet to cut down the costs of offering service. Atom even courts early users by calling them “founders” in its promotional materials.
Atom is not alone: Others in the banking sector include Monzo (which the other week raised its own large round of funding), Starling and Tandem.
But they all feasibly have an opportunity: The U.K. public has long been a receptive market for savings and other financial products, and that’s given rise to a number of competitors like Metro Bank to challenge incumbents (Atom’s CEO, Mark Mullen, was the CEO of another “challenger,” online-only banking effort, First Direct).
Atom is not disclosing any metrics about its usage, but it appears to be still on the early and small side. The company tells us that it now has 14,000 but is growing fast. For some context, there are 66 million people living in the U.K. today, and although Atom targets a particular demographic, it doesn’t restrict its services to that age group.
In any case, the focus today seems more on laying the foundations for its capitalization so that it can push more to build its customer base in the future.
“We are very pleased with the response we have had from investors,” said Anthony Thomson, the founder and chairman of Atom who previously founded another disruptive player in U.K. banking, Metro Bank. “Our customers benefit from the backing of highly reputable investors who are supportive of what we are doing. This is a great vote of confidence in our growth prospects and plans for the future. With the work we have done so far we are just beginning to see how transformational our new approach to banking can be. There is so much more to come from Atom in the coming months and years.”
Others participating in this round include previous backers Woodford Investment Management, Toscafund Asset Management and other unnamed investors.