By Laura Manent
In a society where having a bank account becomes a necessity when it comes to paying your taxes or getting a job, two friends transformed quite a utopia into an actual service born on 11 February 2014 in France.
Ryad Boulanouar, a technician, and Hugues Le Bret, working in finance, partnered to create an alternative banking service destined to the more than 2.5 million indebted French citizens who have been banned from holding a bank account.
The so called “Nickel account” can be opened in any of the 1062 tobacco shops partnering with Nickel in a few minutes. What you need : an identity card, 20 euros and proof of address.
This account allows to withdraw cash almost for free everywhere in France and abroad, and you can make deposits directly in your local tobacco shop. Nickel does not allow any deficit, constitution of savings, and does not grant loans. However, the big difference is that you are not subject to any income conditions for the opening of your Nickel account!
This is where the big innovation is: anyone banned from holding a real bank account because of existing debt can open a Nickel account for around 20 euros per year, and will thus be provided with an international Mastercard to pay for transactions and withdraw cash, and a Bank Identification Code, necessary to do so many things, specifically make transactions online.
Even the tobacconists get something out of this partnership: they earn 3 euros overtime someone opens an account, as well as when they deposit or withdraw cash.
This account looks like a little revolution in a world where any financial difficulty can lead to an exclusion of society. As Hugues Le Bret said in an interview, 25% of the owners of a Nickel account have no job or regular revenues.
But by providing a simple, low-cost banking alternative, Boulanouar and Le Bret attracted not only those excluded from the traditional banking system but also clients with medium incomes in need of control over their resources and people needing a simple account for common costs. Because with a Nickel account, you get informed in real time about what is going on with your finances. You cannot risk indebtedness. You cannot be banned.
The enterprise just created an account for young people between 12 and 18 and now projects to open one dedicated to very small companies.
Nickel is definitely changing the way we perceive the banking system.