Fast paced. Ever evolving. Highly competitive. Just a few words to describe the financial technology industry. In its still relatively short existence, fintech has seemingly seen it all, be it the quick emergence of new payment platforms on a regular basis, to the similarly fast downfall of financial companies that either refused to keep up with digital trends or simply chose revenue generation over meeting customers’ changing needs.
To succeed in fintech, consistency is seemingly key, as a quick glance at the biggest names and/or brands within the industry will show that, while changing and innovating is necessary, keeping it in alignment with a farther reaching goal like making finance better for EVERYONE is what keeps one in the game.
Michael Tankred Raimund Gastauer, born on October 19, 1974, in Germany, stands as a testament to this ethos. With a net worth of a staggering US$10.4 billion as of June 2023, Michael Gastauer has established himself as one of the ten richest Germans. This, in large, has been thanks to his accomplishments in global finance, and has been maintained by his desire to make global banking as easy as doing it locally-both for individuals and businesses alike.
Earning Experience and Expertise in Entrepreneurship and Finance
After completing his university studies in 1999, Michael Gastauer was faced with a multitude of job offers from prestigious financial institutions like Deutsche Bank, ABN Amro, and Andersen Consulting. However, he chose a different path, one that would set the stage for his future success.
Gastauer’s career started at Gorilla Park, a start-up incubator focused on nurturing fledgling companies to the IPO stage. This venture led him to establish their office in Zurich, Switzerland, showcasing his early entrepreneurial spirit.
In 2001, Gastauer, along with three partners, founded an asset management company based in Zurich. In a mere three years, they partially sold the business to a German Hedge fund manager and later secured a lucrative sale to a Swiss Investment firm, raking in a substantial US$15 million (CHF 16 million).
The First of Many Visionary Ideas
By 2003, Gastauer’s knack for spotting opportunities led him to embark on a journey to revolutionize the financial industry. Recognizing the need for a payment solution for e-commerce and internet-based industries, he envisioned a global platform for accepting card payments.
At that time, he was among the first in Europe to cater to high-risk online sectors like gambling and adult entertainment, which propelled his business to exponential growth.
As the business expanded globally, with offices sprouting up in North America and Asia, it achieved a remarkable valuation of US$480 million before its assets were acquired in 2008 by an Asian Banking Group.
The Gastauer Family Office
Not one to rest on his laurels, Gastauer founded his private family office, the Gastauer Family Office (GFO), in 2008. As the President of GFO, he began strategically investing his resources into the digital banking sector.
Through his early experiences in finance, Gastauer quickly recognized a common pain point among customers across all markets. This was that they continued to experience challenges transacting with each other, given the substantial fees, unreasonable requirements, and lengthy processing times involved in making payments overseas.
It was for this reason that among the first and biggest investments made by GFO was on Gastauer’s own Black Banx.
Defining True Borderless Banking
Black Banx, founded by Gastauer after rigorous testing under the project name WB21, was established with a bold mission – to unlock a borderless financial system where money could flow freely. Officially launched to the public in 2015, Black Banx quickly gained traction, amassing over 200,000 customers in its very first year.
Via GFO, Gastauer had substantially funded his new company. According to reports, this has included investments of US$380 million over the course of four years, between 2014 and 2018. It has seemingly paid off, as by the end of 2018, Black Banx had reached an impressive valuation of US$9.8 billion, firmly establishing itself as one of Europe’s most valuable fintech companies.
Fast forward to 2022, and the platform had earned the trust of a staggering 22 million customers, generating a remarkable US$1.1 billion in revenue.
Unprecedented Growth and Innovation
In less than a decade, Black Banx has undergone exponential growth, transforming into a group of financial institutions serving a whopping 28 million customers across 180 countries.
In the first half of 2023 alone, Black Banx added another six million customers to its roster, pushing its total customer base past the 28 million mark. The revenue followed suit, surging by an impressive 47% to reach US$997 million, compared to US$680 million just six months earlier.
Such rapid expansion speaks volumes about Gastauer’s ability to steer Black Banx towards new horizons. One key achievement lies in the company’s remarkable 33% increased onboarding rate compared to the end of 2022, showcasing its unwavering commitment to global expansion.
Transforming Cross-Border Payments
Gastauer’s impact goes beyond mere financial numbers. He has played a pivotal role in transforming cross-border payments through Black Banx. Leveraging the platform, Black Banx connects with local real-time settlement systems in various countries, enabling quick and cost-effective international money transfers. This innovation has set a new industry standard, making cross-border payments more accessible and affordable for consumers and businesses alike.
Bridging the Gap: Financial Inclusion
Michael Gastauer is not just a visionary entrepreneur; he’s also deeply committed to financial inclusion. He aims to provide essential financial tools to the unbanked population through fintech solutions. This commitment bridges the gap between those with limited access to traditional banking and the world of financial opportunities, particularly in areas where banking access is restricted.
Gastauer’s forward-thinking approach is evident in his exploration of emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. These technologies hold the potential to reshape the financial sector, and Gastauer’s ability to anticipate industry trends positions Black Banx as a pioneering force in fintech.
Worldwide Banking Ecosystem
By embracing cutting-edge technology and forming intelligent partnerships, Black Banx aims to eliminate the traditional hurdles associated with international financial transactions.
This approach has facilitated international money transfers that are not only quick but also cost-effective. Furthermore, Black Banx’s ambition to create a worldwide banking ecosystem with streamlined financial services has made cross-border payments more accessible and affordable for consumers and enterprises.
Michael Gastauer’s journey from a young entrepreneur with a vision to becoming one of Germany’s wealthiest individuals is a testament to his unwavering determination, innovative spirit, and commitment to financial inclusion.
His brainchild, Black Banx, has not only transformed the fintech landscape but has also paved the way for a more inclusive and accessible global financial system.
As Gastauer continues to explore the possibilities of emerging technologies, the future looks brighter than ever for both him and Black Banx, as they redefine the way we think about finance in the digital age.