SoftBank leads $440 million investment in UK fintech OakNorth, valuing it at $2.8 billion

  • The deal gives OakNorth an eye-watering $2.8 billion post-money valuation.
  • OakNorth says the fresh capital will be used to drive an expansion into the U.S.
  • CEO Rishi Khosla says an IPO doesn't make sense for the firm yet.
OakNorth CEO Rishi Khosla
Alex Rumford

British digital bank OakNorth said Friday it secured $440 million in an investment round led by Japan's SoftBank.

The firm, which lends to small-to-medium enterprises through its digital platform, said it had raised $390 million from SoftBank's $100 billion Vision Fund, with the remaining capital coming from Clermont.

The deal gives the three-year-old firm an eye-watering $2.8 billion post-money valuation, making it Europe's most valuable private fintech group.

OakNorth's announcement confirmed reports overnight that said the company had received a new cash injection from the Japanese tech giant.

Speculation over the funding began late last year after a Times of London report said that SoftBank was in talks with OakNorth and fellow British fintech firm Revolut about investing in both businesses via its technology investment fund.

"We decided that, with (SoftBank's) capital, and with their network, that we would be able to significantly expand the growth plans we have for the business," Rishi Khosla, co-founder and chief executive of OakNorth, told CNBC over the phone.

"Aligned with our mission to support the financing needs of growth SMEs across the globe, we thought SoftBank... would be a really good investor to have alongside our existing strong investors."

OakNorth said the fresh capital would be used to drive an expansion into the U.S. The firm has so far been mostly focused on the U.K. market, but is expanding abroad by licensing its technology platform to banks in other countries.

The firm touts its artificial intelligence-powered lending platform as a way to optimize credit for customers while cutting many of the costs traditionally involved in the process.

It said the addition of SoftBank as an investor would help open the door for its technology to be deployed in more banks and lenders internationally. The tech is currently being used by the Netherlands' NIBC Bank.

While questions around whether the bank will consider an initial public offering are likely to increase, Khosla put any speculation over a flotation in the near-term to rest.

"The whole question is, 'Why go public?' Is it to raise capital, is to raise profile, is it to give existing shareholders liquidity?" he said.

"At the moment, we don't feel like we have any of those drivers knocking on our door."

SoftBank's Vision Fund has been a major investment player in the tech sector, pumping money into the likes of ride-hailing giant Uber, co-working start-up WeWork and workplace messaging app Slack.