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Holvi, the "neobank" for the self-employed that challenges the traditional banks

Spain is a country of self-employed. This is confirmed by data from the Ministry of Industry: 1,050,714 people work under the tax category of "natural person". To this figure can be added microcompanies with no employees –taking the number to 1.6 million–, and this total represents over half the SMEs in Spain, which make up 99.9% of the Spanish company fabric.

Holvi is part of the group of fintech companies undermining the links in the banks' value chain

This finding can be extended to the whole of Europe. La EU is a union of micro-SMEs, as is demonstrated by the latest figures from Eurostat: 92% of the companies in the EU are micro-SMEs out of a total of 20.9 million SMEs, representing 99.8% of Europe's industrial fabric.

In view of this economic snapshot of the business composition of Europe, the only surprise is that there are not more services available targeting SMEs and the self-employed.

Holvi was launched in 2011 in response to this question. This Finnish start-up has just been acquired by BBVA. Holvi is aimed very specifically at the “makers” or “doers” –in other words, to people who actually make and do things. This is a very straightforward way of referring to the neglected category of the self-employed. “A bank for entrepreneurs, made by entrepreneurs”, is how they describe themselves. Their blog proudly showcases their customers, from a yoga teacher to a startup that has created a system to ensure we never lose our most valuable objects.

Holvi's team


Holvi is part of the group of fintech companies undermining the links in the banks' value chain; they spot certain cracks that can be improved, and reinvent them thanks to technology. Holvi is a member of that large fintech sector known as a neobank –an online bank created from scratch by a startup– and which tend to be characterized by having a very defined and specialized value proposition.

Simple refers to simplicity geared to techies, Atom is an exclusively mobile bank, and Holvi is a bank intended for self-employed professionals, for freelancers”, explains Teppo Paavola, director of BBVA's New Digital Business when he describes the latest strategic purchases made in this area.

Holvi's idea however goes beyond merely banking. In fact, another distinctive feature of this startup located in Helsinki is that it operates under license from the Finnish Financial Supervision Authority that accredits it as a payment institution. The peculiarity of this type of license, endorsed by the EU payments services directive, is that it authorizes it to operate in all EU countries.

So Holvi operates in Finland, Germany and Austria, and can very easily make the leap to new markets. However, it is literally a payments company –although this has not prevented it from creating an offer that goes beyond its actual description.

Teppo Paavola, director of BBVA's New Digital Business

Teppo Paavola, director of BBVA's New Digital Business

More than an account

Up front, Holvi offers a bank account –with IBAN–, a debit card and management tools. And these tools are precisely where Holvi marks the difference. The startup claims that SMEs devote an average of 6.5 hours a week to paperwork, invoices and tax management. This takes up valuable time for entrepreneurs.

So the Holvi account provides them with a paperless accounting system, so they can see their expenditure and income, generate invoices, and check which have been paid and which are still pending collection.

Its system automatically generates highly graphic financial reports that can be understood at a glance; it even allows VAT accounting in real-time.

Users can scan their expense receipts and attach them to the card payments, making it much simpler to justify their expenses than by accumulating mountains of paper.


And as an extra, Holvi also allows users to create an online store to encourage people to venture into eCommerce, and throws in a payments gateway.

This is all done 100% digitally. Registration takes just a few minutes and can be done via the website or an app. Additionally, there are no opening costs, maintenance costs or fees for transfers or for invoicing and accounting services. For the time being it only charges a fee for sales invoiced through its online store.