Fintech unicorn Plaid expands further across Europe, launching in Ireland, France and Spain

Key Points
  • On the heels of its U.K. expansion, Plaid is now launching in three more European countries.
  • The company has picked up fintech firms Cleo and Pandle as clients since it launched in Britain.
  • In its new markets, Plaid will support integrations with banks including AIB, Santander and BNP Paribas.
Plaid co-founder and CEO Zach Perret.

Financial technology firm Plaid has launched in three more European countries, in its latest expansion drive.

The U.S. start-up, whose software helps link fintech apps with people's bank accounts, said Thursday it was now rolling out its services in Ireland, France and Spain. The company made its first foray into Europe with a U.K. launch earlier this year.

"We've been fortunate enough to be on the wave of fintech, starting in the U.S.," Zach Perret, co-founder and CEO of Plaid, told CNBC in an interview. "It's had a lot of early success in the U.K., despite only being there six months."

Plaid has picked up fintech firms like budget app Cleo and accounting app Pandle as clients since it launched in Britain. It claims it also serves several of the so-called challenger banks that operate in the U.K. and Europe but hasn't disclosed names. Otherwise known as neobanks, these are companies like Revolut and Monzo which provide app-based checking accounts and don't have any branches.

The company said it would support integrations with Irish banks AIB, Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland, Spain lenders BBVA, Caixa and Santander, and French banks BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and La Banque Postale.

Speaking specifically about its new markets, Perret said that Ireland has seen impressive levels of fintech adoption, with Spain trailing behind it and France lagging somewhat. According to consultancy firm EY's global fintech adoption index, Ireland's level of adoption stands at 71%, Spain's at 56% and France's at 35%.

"Ireland is going to continue to grow and generate really fantastic companies," Plaid's chief said. "Looking at Spain and France, fintech is earlier, particularly in France."

Set up in 2013 by two former consultants, Plaid's APIs, or application programming interfaces, are used by fintech developers to integrate customer account data into third party applications. This means that when you go into a platform like Coinbase or Venmo, you're able to login into your account within an app or website.

The company secured so-called "unicorn" status following a $250 million funding round announced back in December, with investors valuing the firm at $2.65 billion. Its investors include the venture capital arms of Goldman Sachs and Google parent company Alphabet, while Visa and Mastercard have also backed the firm.

'Open banking'

With its European expansion, Plaid is hoping to tap into tech-friendly banking rules in the U.K. and the European Union that require banks to open up their account information and payment initiation to regulated third parties, granted they've got the consent of customers.

Another U.K. start called Bud — which also counts Goldman as an investor — has been tapping into this trend, letting banks give users access to financial products from their rivals. Proponents of open banking say it will increase competition in the industry and ultimately benefit consumers.

Perret said open banking was a "fantastic set of regulation" as it means consumers "should be able to own use their financial data to get better financial products." He added that the "regulatory clarity in Europe relative to the U.S. is incredibly helpful."