The payments company Nickel is owned by the French group BNP Paribas.
The payment company Nickel, which allows the opening of payment accounts in tobacco shops and kiosks, has planned to invest 10 million euros until 2027 and wants to reach 450 thousand customers.
Nickel, owned by the French group BNP Paribas, will start operating in Portugal in 2022 with an investment of 10 million euros for the first five years, said to Lusa the head of Nickel in Portugal.
In an interview, the head of Nickel in Portugal, João Guerra, said that at the moment the company has almost 400 points of sale, mainly kiosks and tobacco shops, where you can open a bank account in a simple way. It is also possible to open an account “online”.
“In just a few minutes, you open an account, you get a Portuguese IBAN [bank identification number], with a Mastercard that is valid worldwide. The person leaves the bank, can make transfers, direct debits and domiciliate salaries,” says João Guerra, who believes that “accessibility, price and proximity” are what differentiate the services of the company he manages.
As for the number of clients Nickel already has in Portugal, João Guerra didn’t want to give any concrete data, justifying that it is still very volatile, only stating that there are thousands of them. In France, where it started, Nickel now has more than three million clients.
Nickel also does not disclose the value of the investment in Portugal, nor the revenue prospects.
João Guerra explained that in this first phase of the operation, the focus is mainly on acquiring points of sale, in order to later attract more customers.
By 2027, the company aims to have 450 thousand customers and 2,500 points of sale.
João Guerra said that compared to the branches of large banks, Nickel already has a larger commercial network, although he admits that a point of sale and a bank branch are very different.
“With the necessary caveat in the comparisons of what a Nickel agent is and what a bank counter is, today even the big banks have 300, 400, 500 counters. Capillarity is very important for us to reach the population,” he said.
About the Nickel agents, he said that in order to exercise this activity of agents of payment institutions, they have an authorization given by the Bank of France.
As for customer support, Nickel has 26 employees in Portugal, most of whom are support staff to respond to problems that customers may have, the manager said.
The team in Portugal is also supported by teams in France. In total, Nickel has 780 employees.
Nickel does not offer a minimum account for banking services (by law, banks must offer an account with several basic banking services for a maximum amount of five euros per year) because it is not required by law, says João Guerra.
However, the manager believes that “it offers practically the same services,” with a simple price list and a basic account with an annual fee of 20 euros.
Asked about the business model, Guerra said that “a significant part of the business is very much about scale and less about margin. In addition, he said, Nickel has much lower structural costs than a traditional bank.
As for current customers, he said that Nickel attracts all types, but highlights young people and foreigners coming to Portugal. “The ‘driver’s price’ is a very important aspect”, stressed João Guerra.
Regarding the protection of clients’ money, João Guerra said that it is covered by the French Deposit Guarantee Fund (equal to the Portuguese one, as in the whole European Union, up to 100 thousand euros) and that, besides, BNP Paribas has an escrow account where the total amount that Nickel’s clients have is deposited, which he considered a “double guarantee”.
As for the behavioral supervision, this belongs to the Banco de Portugal. Thus, it will be the Bank of Portugal that will receive any complaints from bank customers and proceed with the analysis and possible sanctions.
João Guerra admitted that Nickel may offer other products in the future, such as consumer loans, but this is not expected yet.
The Portuguese market has seen the emergence of more and more ‘fintechs’ (financial services technology companies). Traditional’ banks have been critical of these companies, believing that regulators don’t impose the same requirements on them and that this is a competitive disadvantage that causes them to lose business to less regulated activities.
FinTechs, on the other hand, believe that there are obstacles in the Portuguese market that should not exist, namely the great dominance of the payments market by SIBS (a Portuguese payments company whose shareholders are the main banks operating in Portugal).
João Guerra said that “in this sector, Portugal could attract a lot more ‘fintech’ and ‘neobanks’, but any player that enters the market is limited in many things” due to the dominance of SIBS, for example in payments with ATM reference.
“It’s a sector that is still closed and very concentrated,” said the head of Nickel.