ClearBank — a UK fintech that has built a new set of cloud-based financial rails that allows banks and other customers real-time clearance on payment transactions and other financial services — has closed a big round of funding, money it will be using to take its services beyond its home market and move into newer areas such as cryptocurrency exchanges. The company has raised £175 million ($230 million at today’s conversion rates), from a single investor, the PE firm Apax Partners.
The startup — founded in 2015 and launched in 2017 — is not disclosing its valuation, but CEO Charles McManus said that the company had prior to this raised £195 million from investors that include Canadian businessman John Risley and PE firms PPF Group and Norther Private Capital, and that its new valuation after Apax’s investment is a significant increase. PitchBook notes that as of the end of December, ClearBank’s valuation was just under £274 million, which likely puts the current valuation at $590 million at its most conservative estimate.
But the company’s current size and ambitions speaks to potentially larger numbers. Originally founded by Nick Ogden, who was also the founder of WorldPay (which Fidelity acquired for $43 billion, which was at the time the biggest deal ever made in international payments sector), ClearBank currently has 200 customers — large financial institutions and fintechs using its infrastructure to enable faster transactions — with the list including UK businesses like Tide and Oaknorth, but also international companies like Coinbase, which uses ClearBank for clearing and payments services for its UK customers. Those customers cover some 13 million bank accounts and £3 billion (nearly $4 billion) in assets.
The tech world has been awash in “fintech” for a number of years — with a wide swathe of challenger banks; businesses built on the concept of APIs and cloud computing and “embedded” financial services from third parties; artificial intelligence, personalization and mobile apps; and a number of other tech-led innovations, all corralled in the call to disrupt incumbents with new and arguably better and easier to use approaches to spending, saving and investing money. The growth of e-commerce and other services on digital platforms has further spurred that trend.
But ClearBank’s existence underscores one of the untold truths amid all of that innovation: many of these new services have been built on top of legacy infrastructure. Some companies like Stripe have built tech to get around some of the hurdles that arise as a result of this: for example, it can take typically days to reconcile and settle a transaction on traditional payment rails. Fintechs like Stripe will offer faster processes not because they have rebuilt that infrastructure, but because they have used tech to assess the overall risk of any single transaction getting rejected and is taking the calculated risk …….