Black Banx CEO Michael Gastauer on the Ups and Downs of Running a Successful Fintech

As evidenced with just this year alone, the financial technology industry is among the most unpredictable. From companies hitting record valuations just two years ago to now struggling for funding and seeing those all-time-high valuations drop at similarly record pace, even an industry centered on money is not exempt from uncertainty.

Then take into account that while fintech has been an eventful space, it remains a relatively young industry, with even the companies at the forefront of were more or less start-ups less than a decade ago.

Such is the case for Toronto-based Black Banx which, while now enjoying the patronage of over 28 million global customers, was once a new company with aspirations to build a borderless financial system for everyone where money can flow freely.

Established by German billionaire Michael Gastauer in 2014 and launched to the public a year later, Black Banx had its ups and downs which, while challenging, was instrumental in turning the company into the thriving fintech that it is today.

Going global from the get-go

Michael Gastauer’s journey with Black Banx began in 2014 when he embarked on a mission to unlock a borderless financial system for everyone. This vision, driven by a deep-seated belief in financial inclusion, laid the foundation for Black Banx’s remarkable journey.

“No matter what market we looked into or the socio-economic status of the customers we worked with, one thing was clear among all of them. They were increasingly doing things beyond their locales, whether in terms of school, work, travel, or business. As such, we always knew they deserved banking that can keep up with them.”

Black Banx officially soared into the public sphere in 2015. The fintech rocket attracted over 200,000 customers in its maiden year, showcasing an unprecedented demand for its services. 

The good kind of growing pains

Operating in a staggering 180+ countries, Black Banx offers private and business accounts in 28 FIAT currencies and 2 cryptocurrencies. This global presence ensures that cross-border transactions are as seamless as local ones for customers, demonstrating the company’s commitment to making financial borders vanish.

Like with the rare few start-ups who have grown into household names, the immense popularity of Black Banx proved to be a double-edged sword. While it welcomed more customers across the globe, and at an exceptionally rapid pace, the challenge for the company became how to keep up with serving more people with a team that was becoming comparatively lean by the minute.

“Fortunately, the way our business is built has allowed us to grow at scale. We were fortunate to be profitable early on, and through that success, we had been able to grow along with our market.

The year 2016 marked a significant expansion as Black Banx opened offices in the USA, UK, and Hong Kong. It was also during this pivotal year that the company began embracing cryptocurrencies as a deposit method, paving the way for further growth.

In 2017, Black Banx achieved another remarkable feat by tripling its customer base to 3 million. To keep up with customer demand, the company leaned on this success by opening offices in Singapore, Brazil, India, and Russia.

Maintaining a commitment to innovation

Fintech is considerably fast paced, and a great deal of the ups and downs of the industry is keeping up with new developments and creating their own to also keep up with customers needs and expectations.

“We want customers to have as many options as possible, and while it is in no way easy to meet what they want or need all at once, we make a conscious effort  to cover as many bases as possible.”

The fintech world witnessed a game-changer in 2018 when Black Banx launched a fully-fledged cryptocurrency trading platform with BTC and ETH as its flagship offerings. 

Black Banx’s commitment to innovation is evident with its crypto proposition, as the company offers our clients autonomy by connecting a  fully fledged banking platform with the features of a crypto exchange, effectively enabling clients  to use their crypto balance to pay third parties directly from the Black Banx platform.

The company continually explores emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, and machine learning to reshape the financial sector. This positions Black Banx as a pioneering force in fintech, leading the charge towards a more technologically advanced financial landscape.

Thriving during uncertainty

Like with everyone, the year 2020 brought an economic downturn, courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, Black Banx defied the odds by successfully launching in China and growing its customer base to over 10.5 million.

The company could have easily taken the opportunity to slow down like many others did during the global health emergency, but as borderless banking was more needed than ever at the time, Black Banx decided to double down on its commitment.

“It was a major risk to continue attempting to grow our business as the economy was more or less at a stand still, but then again, pandemic aside, this was a challenge typical of a fintech start-up. And being global in scale, what we do is a large undertaking regardless of the challenges of Covid anyway.”

Explosive Growth in 2023 

Black Banx momentum had not waned in 2023. Just halfway into the year, Black Banx has already welcomed over 6 million new customers, bringing its total customer base to a staggering 28 million. Revenue soared by 47%, reaching $997 million, compared to $680 million six months prior.

One of Black Banx’s most significant achievements is its transformation of cross-border payments. By leveraging and connecting through the Black Banx platform with local real-time settlement systems in various countries, the bank facilitates quick, cost-effective international money transfers, setting a new industry standard. This innovation has made cross-border payments accessible and affordable, benefiting consumers and enterprises alike.

Despite the maintained success, Gastauer is wary of the ups and downs in fintech, and is well aware that the possibility of experiencing what the likes of Revolut and Klarna had experienced in terms of rapidly declining valuations is not out of the question. Still, as keeping to its commitment to customers has been effective for Black Banx, the company maintains its priorities.

Black Banx was established to redefine banking on a global scale by unlocking a borderless financial system for everyone where money  can flow freely. While it can be easy to get ahead of ourselves and go for rapid expansion like other fintechs have, our priority remains providing reliable global banking to our customers, and growing at scale is the better course for us in meeting that goal.”

Black Banx’s commitment to financial inclusion is evident in its mission. The company aims to provide essential financial tools to the unbanked through fintech solutions, bridging the gap between them and traditional banking. This not only fosters economic prospects but also empowers individuals in areas with restricted banking access.

Michael Gastauer’s journey with Black Banx is a testament to the relentless pursuit of a vision. It’s a rollercoaster of challenges, triumphs, and continuous innovation. While the fintech world is notoriously volatile, Gastauer’s ability to steer Black Banx through the highs and lows is a reminder that behind every successful fintech, there’s a determined individual with a passion for change.