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Dutch payments processor takes pan-European licence to bypass banks

BERLIN, June 23 (Reuters) - Adyen, one of Europe's biggest fintech companies, has taken a pan-European banking licence that allows it to bypass banks and process cross-border payments directly for its merchant customers, including many of the world's top ecommerce firms.

Chief Executive Pieter van der Does said on Friday that his Amsterdam-based company was awarded a European regional banking licence in late April by the Dutch Central Bank on behalf of the European Central Bank.

Swedish payments processing rival Klarna said last week that it also had been granted a European banking licence by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, as more fintech players seek to level the regulatory playing field versus banks.

The European banking license gives Adyen the status of an acquiring bank, clearing the way for it to process merchant payments nearly instantly, rather than relying on banking partners to handle settlements over several days.

"We are displacing the banks because we have our own banking licence," van der Does said in an interview on the sidelines of the NOAH venture capital conference in Berlin.

Adyen itself has no plans to become a deposit-taking, full-service bank, but looks for the licence to give it control over the payments process to assure merchants of faster settlements.

The company, which handles international payments for eight of the top 10 global ecommerce giants including Airbnb, Booking.com, Spotify and Facebook, began seeking bank licences in other jurisdictions six years ago, van der Does said. It also handles international payments for a large number of airlines and a growing number of retailers with global operations.

In Brazil, Adyen is already licensed as a local payments institution. It is pursuing licences in the United States and other parts of Latin America and Asia.

Van der Does said that Adyen acts as the acquiring bank for a little over half of all of its transaction volume, which grew to $90 billion in 2016, up 80 percent from a year earlier.

So far, it is an acquirer for merchants in Australia, Brazil, Europe, Hong Kong and the United States.

The company relies on renting licences from banking partners in some areas of its business, including airline payments processing, in order to avoid having to assume balance sheet risk in that potentially volatile market. (Reporting By Eric Auchard; Editing by Adrian Croft)