Nickel, the promise of a “bank account without a bank”


Meet the French bank Nickel, soon on the Belgian market


A bank account without a bank

Nickel is the promise of a “bank account without a bank” that can be opened in 5 minutes at your tobacconists and that is accessible to all. According to their website, “even to those who are banned from banking. Young or old, rich or not, partygoer or early riser, etc. you are all welcome.” Since its launch in 2014, the company has attracted around 2 000 000 customers and has stood out not only for its success but also for its specific way of working compared to other banks. Indeed, for everything related to banking operations, Nickel relies essentially on a network of around 6 000 “Nickel points” that are mainly tobacconists in France, quite comparable to press shops in Belgium. Nickel has found a way to extend its network while most banks are reducing theirs. Also, good to know: Nickel does not face credit risks as they do not grant loans and do not allow bank overdrafts.


It all started with …

“A bank for everyone, with no conditions of income or assets, where no one will be judged or taxed. A bank where you can open your account at a tobacconist’s in five minutes, without being stripped naked with a lot of humiliating questions”. Nickel, formerly Compte-Nickel (Nickel-Account), was born from this initial idea and the unlikely meeting between Hugues Le Bret, former bank CEO, and Ryad Boulanouar, a young suburban entrepreneur and talented computer engineer.

Compte-Nickel has been launched on February 11, 2014, in partnership with a handful of adventurous tobacconists who believed in the project, says the company. In less than a year, more than 70,000 customers joined the journey!


Nickel’s growth

Nickel’s growing trend was confirmed year after year and the bank has been bought out in 2017 by BNP Paribas, making it an independent subsidiary of the Group. In 2020, Compte-Nickel became Nickel and expanded to Spain. The company’s international development will continue as from the first quarter of 2022 with a simultaneous launch in Portugal and Belgium. “Our ambition is to attract 300,000 customers in Belgium within five years,” says Thomas Courtois, the company’s CEO. Nickel is currently holding discussions with several potential partners for its distribution network. “We are looking for a dense, popular, highly frequented network run by freelancers.” We can suppose that press shops are definitely part of the discussion, but perhaps the network could expand with, for example, the many post offices in the country, given that BNP Paribas Fortis announced at the end of last year that it wanted to get its hands on the entire capital of Bpost Banque. From a global point of view, Nickel aims to be present in four additional European countries by 2024.


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