N26 was a pioneer in its field, but the company has been struggling with chaos, departures and financial oversight for months. When will the German start-up finally grow up?
Meike Schreiber and Nils Wischmeyer, Cologne/Frankfurt
It’s been more than five years since Maximilian Tayenthal beamed thievingly across the conference table. He was sitting in a conference room, a glass box. It was cold in Berlin, but the offices in the headquarters on Klosterstrasse were properly heated. People were walking down the corridors and stairways with laptops under their arms. Everything in the building felt like a start-up, like: We don’t want to be a perfectly normal bank. Tayenthal waved his smartphone around on this winter day in 2018 and talked about why N26 is considering all the other money houses, why N26 is the future. In the same year, the start-up collected $160 million with investors and switched to attack. They really wanted to show the other banks with a large-scale campaign: Banking, but without bullshit, is the slogan that was emblazoned on posters all over Germany in the weeks that followed. Hashtag: #nobullshit.