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Tandem looks to resurrect its fintech creds with Oplo deal

·3-min read
 (Tandem CEO Susie Aliker)
(Tandem CEO Susie Aliker)

Tandem - one of the original digital challenger banks that’s struggled to keep up with fintech superstars Monzo and Starling – re-emerged on the London scene today with a big new acquisition – and a promise to deliver profits and help the environment.

Tandem announced this morning it is acquiring Blackpool-based consumer lender Oplo, which has lent over £900m to mainstream customers since it launched 10 years ago.

Although the firm was tight-lipped on details of the deal, there is speculation that private equity backers Pollen Street have injected significant new funds into the business as part of the transaction.

Together with Oplo, the bank will have £1.2bn in assets – including £230m of green lending for people wanting to invest in solar panels and carbon free heat pumps for their homes.

The green lending market is set to grow significantly over the decades ahead with the Government estimating the UK needs to spend over £10bn a year to hit its net zero targets.

First launched in 2014, Tandem’s ambitions to disrupt the digital banking market seemed to stall in recent years while other fintechs took off with sky high customer numbers and valuations.

After pulling back from offering accounts and credit cards, more recently Tandem has been limited to offering savings accounts and running specialist lending offers for home improvement loans.

The bank now has over £1 billion in lending to retail customers compared to Monzo with less than £100 million in personal loans and Starling which before it acquired a book of mortgages last year had less than £150 million in personal lending.

Today’s deal means new CEO Susie Aliker – a career banker drafted in as the new CEO last year – has decided to double down on Tandem’s potential to grow its lending operations. While other fintechs have built massive followings around their new banking apps, many have struggled to get their consumer lending operations off the ground.

What’s happening?

Digital bank Tandem has bought fast-growing consumer lender Oplo in an attempt to resurrect itself as one of the UK’s leading fintechs – and a promise to offer customers a ‘fairer greener’ way to borrow money. The deal creates a bank with over £1 billion in lending and deposits.

Total customers

Total assets

Retail lending assets

Retail deposits

Starling (Annual Report, Mar 21)

2,100,000

£7 billion

£134 million*

£2.38 billion

Monzo (Annual Report, Feb 21)

5,000,000

£3.6 billion

£87 million

£3.1 billion

Tandem (Oct 21)

171,000

£1.2 billion

c.£1 billion

c.£1 billion

* Starling purchased Fleet mortgage business in July 2021 – operate as separate businesses, c. £1.75 billion in mortgage balances

Who is Tandem Bank – aren’t they just another digital bank?

Launched in 2014, Tandem was one of the original ‘neo banks’ that emerged in the wave of new fintechs that came onto the scene after the financial crisis. Originally offering accounts, credit cards and savings products, it has recently limited itself to savings accounts, while developing specialist lending products as it battled to find ways to make money and lost pace with fintech rivals like Starling and Revolut.

Who are Oplo – I’ve never heard of them.

Oplo was launched in 2009 by founder Alex Mollart. The consumer lender has built a big lending book, focussed on those with less than perfect credit scores – a market the traditional banks shy away from. Mollart’s business has lent over £900m over the past decade and helped over 20,000 customers improve their credit scores while delivering strong profits along the way.

Why does the deal matter?

New CEO Susie Aliker is hoping the deal will put Tandem back on the map. Oplo offers Tandem a path to profit with its lending operations which alongside Tandem’s growing green lending offers could give other fintechs a run for their money in the personal finance market.

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