SoftBank-backed lender OakNorth doubles staff, inks deal with NIBC Bank

LONDON (Reuters) – British financial technology firm OakNorth has signed a five-year deal to provide its credit analysis and monitoring platform to Dutch lender NIBC Bank NV [NIBC.AS], OakNorth said on Tuesday in its first such agreement to be made public.

FILE PHOTO: Rishi Khosla, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of OakNorth Bank chats during an interview with Reuters at his office in central London, Britain October 20, 2016. Picture taken October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

OakNorth is Britain’s most valuable financial technology company, having raised $440 million from investors including Japan’s SoftBank Group in a February funding round that valued the firm at $2.8 billion.

The deal with NIBC bank is the first enterprise-wide agreement to be announced between OakNorth and a bank, as the firm works to monetize its proprietary software and justify the ‘unicorn’ status implied by its multi-billion dollar valuation.

It will see NIBC use OakNorth’s technology which it says helps banks make better decisions on small business loans.

More such deals will be announced shortly, OakNorth Chief Executive Rishi Khosla told Reuters, declining to give financial details of the NIBC deal.

“We are engaged with over 10 banks from today, and behind that there are at least another 10 which we are actively working with,” he said.

Seizing on a growing trend for banks worldwide to invest heavily in technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and business analytics in a bid to cut costs and improve decision making, OakNorth has grown rapidly since the February funding round.

The financial technology firm’s staffing levels have nearly doubled from just below 300 in February to 520 today, Khosla said, as OakNorth hires software developers, credit experts and product designers.

He said OakNorth has made a number of significant hires from major technology companies in recent weeks and is targeting expansion in the United States, continental Europe and ‘two to three’ Asian markets.

OakNorth operates two main businesses, a bank in Britain focused on loans to small and medium-sized businesses, and its technology platform which it says uses data analytics and AI to help lenders make decisions.

The software uses data about a prospective borrower such as the financial performance of its peers and sentiment about its brand from online reviews to help inform lending decisions.

OakNorth says such software allows a level of detailed credit analysis normally reserved for loans above 25 million pounds ($31.60 million).

NIBC listed in Amsterdam in March last year and is known as a mortgage broker and lender to small and medium-sized corporate borrowers in the Netherlands, Germany, Britain and Belgium.

Reporting By Lawrence White; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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