In his book No Bank (available here in French) Hugues Le Bret tells the story of Compte Nickel, a start-up that he and his associates created for the purpose of providing people kicked out of the banking system with an ultra-low cost alternative to receiving and making ordinary card payments.
Although, in a heavily regulated sector, the project required 3 years of massive effort, chasing the funding needed to obtain regulatory approvals that were themselves needed to give enough confidence to investors, the business model is very simple:
- The customer buys a €20 ‘pack’ at a retail outlet that is licensed to sell state-regulated products such as tobacco and lottery games. The pack contains a Mastercard and an instruction booklet.
- Following the instructions, the customer scans their ID at a specially designed terminal, and provides a physical address and an email address. This 5-min operation opens the account.
- The retail outlet manager then swipes the card that was provided in the pack, instantly checking that the account has been properly opened, generating an IBAN number and activating the card.
- With a few additional steps the customer uses a mobile phone to generate a PIN and the codes for online banking.
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