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U.K. challenger bank Starling sets up in Ireland and clears flightpath to Europe

Anthony Kwan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Starling Bank, a new U.K. challenger bank that doesn't have branches and relies on a mobile phone app instead to cut running costs and appeal to new customers, has received its banking passport into Ireland.

The expansion into the Republic of Ireland is expected to be followed by further launches into other European Union (EU) markets at a later date, taking advantage of the EU 'passporting' rights that allow companies to set up in other nations more easily.

The financial passport authorizes Starling to provide its mobile euro-denominated current account in Ireland and should make applying for similar passports a formality. The process is not expected to be complicated by the present U.K. Brexit negotiations as these will not come to fruition until 2019 and the U.K. home market of the bank may also remain part of the affiliated European Economic Area's (EEA) member states organization, or negotiate a new agreement.

However, the EU is at present resisting the retention of passporting for U.K. financial services.

Starling is hoping to take advantage of the coming open banking and data environment envisaged by European and U.K. regulators, which Yolt and other mobile phoned based players are also targeting.

According to Anne Boden, Starling's founder and CEO, speaking in a statement accompanying the expansion announcement: "Being granted our passport into the Republic of Ireland is an exciting next phase in our journey. The aim of Starling was always to ensure that the whole world could benefit from the opportunity of a healthy financial life."

Available in Google's Android operating system or Apple's iOS, the Starling app-based mobile phone account was unveiled in March 2017 in the U.K. home market. It can be set up within two minutes of download with a valid photo ID. It acts like a traditional current account, but with no branches, and added functionality such as budgeting or spending insights to track where consumers' money is going.

A product roadmap announced last week also trumpeted forthcoming support for the ApplePay and AndroidPay systems, joint accounts for customers and specific mobile-controlled in-app card security options using locational data and so forth.

The bank is additionally working towards delivery of what it terms a 'marketplace', which is essentially a banking-as-a-service model that mirrors the cloud computing service model for software, but instead focuses on apps in an open banking and data environment where open application programming interfaces (APIs) enable third parties to develop financial products, such as mortgages, that can be easily incorporated and accessed in the app.

It has also been reported by TechCrunch that another funding round is in the offing for the start-up challenger bank, with somewhere between £20-40 million expected in new investment to fund its overseas expansion plans into Europe.

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