BBVA continues its fintech acquisition run, buys Holvi, an online-only business bank

By Ingrid Lunden for techcrunch

Spanish banking giant BBVA has made another M&A play as it looks for a bigger role in the next generation of financial services: today the company has announced the acquisition ofHolvi, an online-only bank for entrepreneurs and SMBs based out of Finland. (“Holvi” means “vault” in Finnish.)

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed but we are trying to find out. I do know that deal was “not material” to the company, which is one reason the figures may not have been disclosed. Given that BBVA’s acquisition of U.S. banking startup for Simple for $117 million was disclosed, one guess is that Holvi was acquired for around or maybe less than $100 million.

(And just by coincidence, when Mike wrote about Holvi in 2012, he compared it to Simple.)

Holvi was founded in 2011 and had raised just over $4 million from investors that included Seedcamp and Speedinvest, according to Crunchbase.

For those of you unfamiliar with Holvi, it is one of a league of startups that has been building a range of services for businesses to run their own financial operations and their own banking online. Its products include an online sales platform, an invoicing platform and a cashflow tracker.

It’s not clear how many customers Holvi currently has. BBVA says Holvi will remain a continuing and separate business, with operations in Finland, Austria and Germany with plans to expand to other markets to target what it estimates are some 40 million startups and other small businesses in Europe. (The company already had a license as an Authorised Payment Institution, and is currently regulated out of Finland.)

BBVA is looking to companies like Holvi to help bring it new business and to build up alternative revenue streams.

“We’re excited about Holvi as we share a vision about the benefit of technology for the customer,” said Teppo Paavola, chief development officer and general manager of New Digital Businesses at BBVA, said in a statement. “They use digital to bring a new approach to small business banking, where services essential to a business’ future such as invoicing are built into their core offer.” Paavola also happens to be from Finalnd, just like Holvi.

For Holvi, it will give the company more scale and financial muscle to expand its operations to more markets going down the line. “We’ve found the ideal owner in BBVA – a bank with the understanding of the digital world to give us the necessary room to grow, and then the scale and expertise to underpin that growth with sound foundations,” said Johan Lorenzen, CEO of Holvi, in a statement.

The deal follows and complements a number of other moves that BBVA has made to build up new business to complement its legacy banking operations. In November, BBVA put $67 million into Atom, another online-only bank, but this one aimed at consumers. And in 2014, BBVA acquired Simple, yet another online-only bank — this one being in the U.S. — for $117 million.

It’s also laying the groundwork for more potential acquisitions and strategic partnerships, or at least a seat at the table of startups that could be setting the pace for how people borrow, lend and spend money in the future.

In February of this year, BBVA moved its in-house BBVA Ventures, which had a $100 million fund to invest in promising fintech startups, to a new organization called Propel, which also received an additional $150 million from BBVA for its fund. Investments from the fund include a stake in the well-funded startup Earnest.

Edited with updated funding data for Holvi.

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