Lydia, the French payments app with 8 million users, launches mobile banking app Sumeria

May 15, 2024 3:30 am
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If you live in the U.S., chances are you use apps like Venmo and Cash App to pay back your friends or split the bills with your roommates. Lydia is a French startup that also turned payments into a mobile consumer app and service.

Now, after reaching 8 million users, the company finds itself in an interesting position. Does it want to add more financial services to grow its average revenue per user? Or does it want to simplify its app to make sure that as many people as possible use Lydia to send and receive money from their phones?

The company has essentially decided that it doesn’t want to pick one option over the other. That’s why Lydia is launching a challenger bank, Sumeria, and splitting itself into two apps — Lydia for peer-to-peer payments and Sumeria for people who are looking for a mobile-first bank account.

“We’re proud to announce the launch of our European banking project, Sumeria. It’s the same company, Lydia Solutions, that is launching a banking project,” Lydia’s co-founder and general manager, Antoine Porte, told TechCrunch.

The decision makes sense if you’ve been using Lydia for more than a couple of years. After raising €235 million ($255 million at today’s exchange rate) and focusing on growth, the company decided to refocus on monetization in late 2022 and 2023.

The result has been a mixed bag as Lydia grew larger and its app became more complicated. While most users had been using Lydia for quick mobile payments, the company kept telling its users that they could also use it as a bank account with a dedicated account number and a Visa debit card. The company also offers stock and crypto trading, small loans, savings accounts, cashback and more.

Two million users are now using those advanced features, and some of them even started paying for a monthly subscription — the company says that this part of the company is profitable. But during that process, Lydia inadvertently alienated part of its user base — it was no longer as simple to use as it used to be.

That’s why Lydia is trying to bring clarity to its offerings. A few weeks ago, the company launched a second app, simply (and confusingly) called Lydia, dedicated to peer-to-peer payments. Existing Lydia users who just want to send money with their phone and create money pots should switch to this new app. Hopefully, this will be the last confusing move.

As for Lydia’s original app, the company is completely changing its approach to mobile banking and launching Sumeria, a European challenger bank. It’s a new name and a new start.

This move comes a few months after communications expert and influencer Anne Boistard gathered complaints from former Lydia employees for her Instagram account, Balance Ton Agency.

Porte and Lydia’s co-founder and president, Cyril Chiche, admitted that they made mistakes in the past. “Nothing new was released. These are things that we’d already processed internally,” Chiche said. Now, the company wants to move on and the new brand is part of this process.

“We already had this idea [of rebranding] in mind. It was already in the works. But all that of course helped us move on to something more serious. We were criticized for the way we acted as a scrappy startup,” Porte said.

Image Credits: Romain Dillet / TechCrunch

All of Lydia’s banking features have been carried over to Sumeria. Users get a bank account with a dedicated IBAN to receive money and make SEPA payments, as well as a debit card that they can control from their phone. The company believes it can make a better bank account than traditional banking institutions. This pitch is reminiscent of the previous wave of European and British challenger banks, such as N26, Monzo and Starling Bank.

“Banks work for their own interests before those of their customers. It doesn’t use technology in an efficient manner,” Chiche told TechCrunch. “Online banking is a software front-end for processes and organizations that are clearly outdated and therefore very expensive to run.”

Sumeria brings a new logo, some new card designs and a complete mobile app redesign with a simpler main screen. You’ll see your card in a customizable digital wallet on the app home screen, your main account and its balance at the top, and your most recent transactions at the bottom.

You can scroll down to see all your accounts or scroll up to dig a bit more in your transaction history. There’s no menu at the bottom of the screen to switch from one tab to another. Sumeria is also launching a web interface so you can see your balance and transactions without having to install the app, or if you want to use a computer.

What’s different from other challenger banks is that Sumeria wants to simplify the way you manage money. People will earn 2% on their cash balance (4% for the first three months) as long as they use their Sumeria card at least 15 times per month — your money doesn’t have to be segregated to a separate savings account.

“We generate interest for all your accounts. You don’t have to put money in this or that account,” Porte said. “There are currently €500 billion of deposits that don’t generate any interest in personal current accounts in France,” Chiche said.

Image Credits: Lydia Solutions

Unlike Revolut, Sumeria will focus exclusively on the European market so that people who live in France, Germany or Spain feel like they’re using a French, German or Spanish bank account. “Their vision was international, not European. The valuation required to raise so much money made them promise too much,” Porte said.

With this new name, the company hopes people will take Sumeria more seriously and consider using it as their main bank account — that’s the other reason for the rebranding. That’s also why the company will open a store in Paris this summer where people will be able to talk to Sumeria experts.

It will be a sort of bank branch, but without the usual offices that you can find in bank branches. It will work more like the genius bar in Apple stores.

Lydia has set ambitious goals with Sumeria. The company plans to invest €100 million in its new venture and hire 400 people over the next three years. Sumeria wants to reach 5 million customers by 2027.

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