BusinessAdapting to Market Changes: Insights from German Billionaire Michael Gastauer

Adapting to Market Changes: Insights from German Billionaire Michael Gastauer

Ten years ago, German billionaire and venture capitalist Michael Gastauer set forth to create not just a stopgap but a long-term solution for the inadequacies and lapses of the traditional banking system. At the time, the global market was at a loss and struggling to meet the changing demands of consumers amid the rapid growth of international industries, particularly e-retail, e-commerce, online-based companies, and digital currencies. And while most financial firms opted to lean on what’s been tried and tested for hundreds of years, Gastauer braved the unknown and came up with a revolutionary digital bank that now serves as a blueprint for all new and budding neobanks.

Called Black Banx, this fintech firm banks on its mobile app, software, and innovative technologies to streamline banking transactions without the need for conventional physical branch networks. It also opens the doors to a more financially inclusive and borderless banking system that is perfect for modern-day customers, be it private individuals or business entities.

Conquering the Challenges in Traditional Banking

“I created a company that is executing my wish of changing the world, turning the financial industry into a fairer place where people from 180 countries have the [equal] opportunity to participate and make a [global] bank account,” Gastauer notably said while accepting the Global Banker Award in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2018.

Despite being one of the top ten wealthiest individuals in Germany, Gastauer has always taken it upon himself to do something for the people. So after spending several years in the corporate industry and realizing how traditional banking was not for all, Gastauer took the initiative to develop a solution that could reach the four corners of the world and serve everyone, especially the underbanked and unbanked in remote places. In mid-2013, he created WB21 with the help of a team of software experts. The idea was to have an online platform that could offer instant account opening for private and business clients worldwide with just a photo ID. Having the most minimal requirement made the digital bank’s sign-up process less discriminating and alluring to many clients, compared to traditional banks.

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However, WB21 offered way more than just instant and easy membership. From the get-go, it also allowed global real-time fund transfers in multiple fiat and cryptocurrencies—something that traditional banks were hesitant to do at the time. When the company officially launched in 2015, it only had 200,000 customers. But when Gastauer started offering cryptocurrency as one of its supported deposit methods, the digital bank’s customer base jumped to 1 million in just a year.

By 2018, the company crossed the 5-million mark when it expanded its supported fiat currencies to 28 and introduced a fully-fledged crypto trading feature with Bitcoin and Ethereum as standard digital assets on its platform. A year later, Gastauer would rebrand his brainchild into its modern name Black Banx after successfully penetrating the United Arab Emirates and South African markets, bringing its gross customer base to 8 million.

Standing Out From Competitors

From the moment he conceptualized Black Banx, Gastauer had already envisioned a plan that would make his platform stand out despite the growing number of its rivals in the fintech space. Driven by his commitment to making his digital bank accessible and fair for all, the esteemed banker has opted to maintain a flat fee structure for cross-border payments. This, of course, enhances the appeal of the Canada-headquartered financial service compared to its competitors.

“[Black Banx’s] services are open to both private and business clients. I think it’s our commitment to making banking accessible for everyone that sets us apart from competitors. Other fintechs, for example, charge users a high percentage fee to complete cross-border transactions; we charge flat fees for cross-border payments, regardless of the currency and countries involved,” Gastauer said in an interview with Employer News, published in May 2023.

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More than its flat fee transaction rates and instant sign-up process, Black Banx offers the following services to private and business clients:

Diverse Account Options: Providing accounts in 28 fiat currencies and 2 cryptocurrencies.

Global Clientele: Welcoming private and business clients from 180 countries worldwide.

Instant Payments: Facilitating international and inter-platform instant payments across multiple currencies.

Multi-Currency Debit Cards: Offering a variety of debit card choices, including plastic, metal, and virtual cards.

Currency and Crypto Services: Delivering real-time currency exchange and crypto trading services.

Flexible Payouts and Withdrawals: Allowing unrestricted third-party payouts and crypto withdrawals to external wallets.

Interest-Bearing Savings Accounts: Featuring savings accounts with interest in various major currencies.

Business Payment Solutions: Incorporating batch upload and API for bulk payments, tailored to suit business customers.

Cross-Border Payment Innovation: Revolutionizing cross-border payments by connecting local real-time settlement systems across various countries through the Black Banx platform.

Leading the Fintech Revolution

“Being Michael Gastauer has come with its fair share of challenges but my success proves that refusing to back down has its victory. I think we’ve got a great, unique outlook on digital banking via Black Banx services, especially when it comes to our cryptocurrency proposition,” Gastauer told entrepreneurs and innovation magazine Startup Info early last year while speaking about the success of his digital bank. As per the latest internal figures published in Q3 2023, the bank already has 33 million customers worldwide.

He continued, “[Our] customers are offered full control of their crypto assets, which the majority of banks refuse to offer. We have connected the Black Banx platform to features of a crypto exchange, meaning clients can use their cryptocurrency balance to pay third parties directly from our platform. Customers can move their assets into cold wallets too if they wish, we don’t force them to keep their crypto with us as I believe full autonomy should be in the hands of the customer rather than the organisation.”

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Gastauer strongly believes that cryptocurrencies will account for a big portion of the banking industry in the future, so he is exhausting all efforts in utilising blockchain, machine learning, and other innovative technologies to solidify Black Banx’s crypto experience. The company currently only handles BTC and ETH, but it is also carefully planning to introduce other digital assets on its platform to expand its reach and enhance its appeal among the younger generation of clients who are keen on using cryptocurrencies. This move is expected to further fuel Black Banx’s success in the evolving market and fintech industry.

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