A Santander office block in London.
Luke MacGregor | Bloomberg via Getty Images
Spanish bank Santander is launching its own “buy now, pay later” service in Europe, in a bid to fend off fintech rivals trying to eat its lunch.
The lender said on Wednesday it would roll out Zinia, an app that lets shoppers spread their purchases into interest-free monthly installments, in its markets this year, starting with the Netherlands.
The technology behind Zinia has been operational in Germany for a year, where it already has more than 2 million customers, Santander said.
Ezequiel Szafir, CEO of Santander’s Openbank online banking division, said the company aims to “become a leader in the buy-now, pay-later market.”
He touted “the security and trust provided by a large financial group” as a key factor differentiating Santander’s offering from other BNPL products, such as Klarna and Afterpay.
Buy now, pay later or BNPL programs have grown in popularity over the past two years due to the accelerated adoption of e-commerce in the coronavirus pandemic.
This has accelerated industry growth and attracted interest from major companies such as PayPal and Jack Dorsey’s Block, which agreed to buy Afterpay for $29 billion last August.
Major lenders are looking to get in on the action, with Goldman Sachs agreeing to buy fintech lender GreenSky for $2.2 billion. In the UK, Barclays has a partnership with Amazon that allows the US e-commerce giant to offer its customers installment loans.
This could provide them with a lucrative new source of income at a time when interest rates are at historic lows. Most BNPL companies make money by charging retailers a small fee on each transaction, in exchange for providing their payment method at checkout.
Still, the surge in demand for BNPL plans has sparked concern from regulators, who fear the sector is making it easier for consumers to accumulate debt. In the UK, the government plans to introduce regulation for BNPL products, while US regulators are probing some of the big suppliers in the sector.