Fintech/Analysis/

Why is a web browser investing in fintech?

Web browser Opera is no longer just competing with Google...it's also preparing to go up against top fintechs like Klarna.

By Ryan Weeks

With Stripe’s valuation nearing a colossal $100bn, fintech investments of $100m seem barely a blip on the radar.

But the pledge made by Norwegian web browser company Opera to plough $100m into building a European fintech business is worthy of closer attention.

“[That $100m is] specifically focused on building our fintech business, whether it be through R&D, acquisition — it could be anything,” Paul Andrews, VP of fintech expansion at Opera, told Sifted.

Opera certainly has the heft to be a force in European fintech. Launched in 1995, the company has some 380m browsers users globally, including 50m in Europe.

The question, though, is why it decided to get into fintech in the first place.

Opera laid the foundations for its big fintech push with two acquisitions (a banking-as-a-service startup and a bank) in 2020. Then, in February, it unveiled Dify — a wallet app that can be used for online payments and to earn cashback. The service is already live in beta mode in Spain, with more European countries to follow.

But Dify in its current state is very much the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Opera’s fintech ambitions.

“It’s not just about the wallet, it’s about what else we can do that would sit in and around that wallet,” said Andrews.

To hear Andrews tell it, there are very few fintech services that Opera is not considering tacking onto Dify. He highlighted Buy Now Pay Later tools and fractionalised share investing as two potential expansion areas (while stressing that cashback is the short-term focus). Both areas have exhibited explosive growth throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Andrews reckons the world is his oyster because Opera has what many startups lack: a user base.

We might point out that big banks’ disastrous forays into fintech offer a regular reminder that customers alone do not a fintech make. Perhaps web browsers are better placed to buck the trend.

Chinese walls?

In 2016, before Opera went public, a buyout consortium which included Chinese mobile gaming firm Beijing Kunlun acquired it for $600m

In recent years, such ownership has proven challenging for Western companies in fintech and in the wider tech world. But Andrews stressed that Opera is a European business.

“I don’t foresee that presenting any challenges [with the fintech expansion],” he said.

“We’re very much a European business, it just so happens we’re owned by a Chinese company. But we operate very independently.”

Ryan Weeks covers fintech at Sifted. He tweets from @RyanJamesWeeks and coauthors our new fintech-focused newsletter. Sign up here. 

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