N26′s chief risk officer Thomas Grosse resigned on Wednesday due to personal reasons, becoming the third senior executive to depart one of Europe’s highest-valued start-ups in less than 12 months, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times.
Grosse was one of just two people at N26 with the necessary regulatory clearance to run a bank in Germany and was in charge of governance, compliance and risk.
His departure is the third exit of a senior manager after chief operating officer Adrienne Gormley left last April and chief financial officer Jan Kemper departed earlier this year.
The exits raise questions about the group’s internal governance at a time when N26 is already under pressure from regulators over its controls.
The Berlin-based lender counts Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures and Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures among its backers and was valued at €7.8 billion in October 2021, when it raised €780 million
N26 said that “due to personal circumstances” Grosse was stepping “down from his duties”. “We ask that his privacy is respected and wish him well,” it added.
The bank did not immediately name a successor.
A former employee of Deutsche Bank and Google, Grosse was the most senior executive in charge of fixing N26′s biggest issue: the improvement of the bank’s anti-money laundering controls demanded by German regulator BaFin.
In 2021, BaFin imposed a crippling growth cap on N26, forcing the bank not to accept more than 50,000 new clients a month – a steep drop-off from the 170,000 clients a month it was accepting on average before the cap.
The restriction remains in place despite N26′s initial confidence it would be removed in 2022. BaFin also dispatched a special representative to oversee improvements to the bank’s anti-money laundering controls and fined N26 €4.25 million for weak money-laundering controls.
Co-founder and co-chief executive Valentin Stalf told journalists in October that he was confident “most” of BaFin’s restrictions would be lifted within six to 12 months if not earlier, as the lender was “compliant with the bulk of the regulatory requirements”.
N26 has eight million retail customers in Germany and 20 other European countries after pulling out of the US in 2022 and the UK a year earlier. The group reported a net loss of €172.4 million for 2021 on €182.4 million of revenue, saying it would not need additional funding before it broke even.
Grosse joined N26 in 2019 as chief banking officer in charge of its bank and bank partnerships globally. Two years later, he was additionally named chief risk officer and signed a new contract late last year when N26 changed its legal structure and became a stock corporation under German law – a move that could prefigure an initial public offering.
BaFin declined to comment. Grosse did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023