February 11, 2020 / 3:42 PM / 10 days ago

German online bank N26 to leave Brexit Britain

A N26 logo is seen in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON (Reuters) - German online bank N26 has become the first European lender to quit Britain and close all UK accounts because it will no longer be able to use its banking licence in the country after Brexit.

The Berlin-based company, which launched in Britain in 2018, said last year it was adding around 1,000 British customers a day. It currently has 5 million users across Europe.

At the time of its launch, Chief Executive Valentin Stalf described the UK as a “no brainer” for the neo-bank, which counts Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel among its early backers.

“With the UK having left the EU at the end of January, we will in due course no longer be able to operate in the UK with our European banking licence,” N26 said on Tuesday.

“Therefore we will be leaving the UK and closing all accounts in the coming months.”

The accounts will close on April 15, it said, adding that customers should transfer funds to alternative accounts by that date.

At the time of its UK launch, Stalf had said the bank had expected its licences to be valid post Brexit “in the short term” but more might need to be done to preserve access within three years.

News of N26’s decision to wind up its UK business prompted a flurry of complaints from disappointed customers on social media. Some comments suggested the bank was using Brexit as an excuse to leave Britain’s competitive market for banking start-ups.

Reporting by Andy Bruce and Sinead Cruise; editing by Stephen Addison and Jane Merriman

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