Electronic Money License in Europe
European fintech companies have been reshaping the way people handle their finances by pioneering more accessible, secure, and convenient electronic payment solutions for individuals and businesses alike. An electronic money license is a crucial facilitator of this transformation, contributing to the integration of cutting-edge technology into financial services and ensuring the integrity of the financial industry. Only by holding such a license, you’ll be able to offer electronic money services to the vast and lucrative European market.
What Is an Electronic Money License?
An electronic money license (also referred to as an e-money or EMI license) is a regulatory authorization granted by relevant financial authorities to businesses that intend to provide electronic money services primarily by issuing electronic money. Pursuant to the E-Money Directive 2 (EMD2), electronic money means electronically, including magnetically, stored monetary value as represented by a claim on the issuer which is issued on receipt of funds for the purpose of making payment transactions.
The licensed businesses that issue and manage electronic money are referred to as electronic money institutions (EMIs). Essentially, such service providers enable their customers to convert physical cash into electronic money. This electronic money can be securely stored in e-wallets provided by the EMIs, and therefore customers have the convenience of making payments using their e-wallets. In the event their e-wallets run low on funds, they have the option to convert more cash into additional electronic money.
In many European jurisdictions, you’ll find two types of EMI licenses – a Small Electronic Money Institution License and an Electronic Money Institution License. If you’re a small business or a fintech startup with a limited scope of operations and transactions looking to offer specific electronic money services in one European country, you’ll want to apply for a Small Electronic Money Institution License. If your business has a broader scope of operations and you’re looking to provide a wide range of electronic money services across the EU, you’ll want to apply for a regular Electronic Money Institution License.
By holding a European e-money license you would be able to engage in a wide variety of activities:
- Issue electronic money for European residents who can use the money for a wide range of transactions and payments
- Retain customer funds in individual client IBAN accounts without a specified time limit
- Provide digital wallets or electronic wallet services
- Facilitate money transfers within the EEA and cross-border transfers
- Facilitate electronic payments and direct debits
- Offer currency exchange services
- Issue prepaid cards that are loaded with electronic money and can be used for point-of-sale transactions, online purchases, and ATM withdrawals
- Facilitate peer-to-peer (P2P) payments and transfers
- Payment initiation services
- Account information services
Fundamentally, a European e-money license plays a significant role in the financial ecosystem of the region and the entire world. Within a well-defined regulatory framework, it promotes financial innovation among businesses that offer consumers convenient ways to make payments, transfer, and manage their funds electronically. Furthermore, an e-money license from Europe enables its holders to expand financial inclusion since they can provide opportunities for individuals and businesses that may not have access to traditional banking services to participate in the digital economy and access basic financial services.
The Difference Between an E-Money License and a Payment Institution License
As just mentioned, an e-money license permits the issuance of electronic money, the electronic storage of customer funds, the facilitation of electronic transactions, and a variety of payment services. A payment institution (PI) license permits the same broad range of payment services without the issuance of e-money and the ability to hold customer funds which means PI license holders essentially facilitate instant payment processing. While getting a PI license involves relatively reasonable requirements for initial capital, EMI licensees are usually required to have higher capital right from the start and prove the ability to maintain the security of electronic money and customer funds.
E-Money Market Trends in Europe
The global e-money market is expected to grow substantially between 2023 and 2030, and the European fintech industry should continue to position itself as a key driver of innovation and regulatory excellence, leveraging its robust financial infrastructure and commitment to digital transformation. In spite of the latest funding setback, certain trends prevail, and the most persevering electronic money institutions will ultimately thrive in this promising and competitive market, establishing themselves as long-term leaders.
The most notable e-money market trends in Europe:
- The adoption of mobile wallets and contactless payment methods continues to rise as consumers increasingly use their smartphones for making payments
- There is a growing demand for frictionless cross-border electronic money transfers and payments, with innovative solutions emerging to make international transactions easier and more cost-effective
- The integration of cryptocurrencies and stablecoins into electronic money services has been growing, with companies exploring these digital assets as part of their payment solutions
- Open banking initiatives have facilitated the sharing of financial data and services among various financial institutions, promoting innovation in the electronic money space
- Digital-only banks, or neobanks, have gained significant popularity as they often offer e-money services and attract customers with user-friendly apps, lower fees, and convenient digital-only experiences
Benefits of Obtaining an E-Money License in Europe
Holding a European electronic money license from a reputable regulator can offer you many benefits that will contribute to the growth and success of your business. Generally speaking, this license can position you as a trustworthy, innovative, and competitive player in the European and international financial industry.
The most noteworthy benefits of a European EMI license are:
- Access to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) which simplifies cross-border payments, making it easier for EMI customers to conduct transactions across the entire SEPA region, comprising 36 European countries
- Due to the passporting principle, an EMI license obtained in one EEA member state will allow you to offer services across all EEA countries (27 EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) which means that you’ll have access to a large and diverse customer base without the need to navigate multiple regulatory frameworks
- European countries have well-established and respected regulatory authorities, and obtaining an EMI license in Europe will provide a strong endorsement of your compliance with rigorous regulatory standards
- EU directives and national regulations provide a clear legal framework for e-money businesses, and it can simplify compliance and reduce legal uncertainties for you
- A European EMI license will allow you to engage in cross-border financial services and support customers who require international payment solutions
- You should be able to apply for access to the SWIFT network which facilitates secure and standardized communication between financial institutions, primarily for international money transfers and financial messaging
- Operating with an EMI license in Europe will provide you with access to the thriving fintech ecosystem, including collaborations with other fintech firms, tech talent, potential investors, and strategic partnerships with European financial institutions
European E-Money Regulations
EMIs are regulated and supervised by the national financial authorities of each European country. These national authorities are responsible for granting e-money licenses, overseeing EMIs, and ensuring their compliance with relevant national regulations and directives enforced at the EU level. While national e-money compliance standards vary to some extent, the EU directives largely harmonize them so that European EMIs can have regulatory clarity and focus on developing electronic payment innovations.
The EU’s Electronic Money Directive 2 (EMD2), or Directive 2009/110/EC, is the key legislative act providing the legal framework for the issuance of electronic money in the EU. It outlines the requirements for the authorization and operations of EMIs and includes provisions for capital requirements, safeguarding of funds, customer protection, passporting system, complaint handling, and more. To keep the EU regulatory framework aligned with evolving technological and regulatory developments, the EMD2 has been amended several times.
The Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2), or Directive 2015/2366, is another notable directive regulating e-money services in the EU. While the PSD2 primarily focuses on PIs, it’s still relevant to EMIs as they often provide payment services. The PSD2 introduces strong customer authentication (SCA) requirements, includes provisions for improved security of electronic transactions, and allows third-party payment service providers (TPPs), with the customer’s consent, to access customer account information held by banks and EMIs which facilitates innovative payment services and promotes competition.
As a business handling personal data, you should also take note of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), or Regulation (EU) 2016/679, which sets standards for data protection and privacy. EMIs must adhere to the fundamental data protection principles outlined in GDPR, which include lawful, fair, and transparent data processing, data minimization, accuracy, and storage limitation. When relying on consent as a legal basis for processing, EMIs must ensure that customers provide informed and unambiguous consent for specific processing activities. Furthermore, EMIs are required to report data breaches to the relevant data protection authority without any delay, and in some cases, to affected individuals.
As a European EMI, you would also have to adhere to the rules enforced by the 6th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD6). The purpose of this directive and the previous directives is to combat money laundering and maintain the integrity of the European financial market. In line with the directive, EMIs are required to maintain accurate and up-to-date records of all transactions, beneficial ownership, and other key information, as well as maintain strict customer due diligence (CDD) and know-your-customer (KYC) measures.
Top European Jurisdictions for an E-Money License
To obtain a European EMI license, you should first decide which country you want to receive it from and where you want to base your operations. Electronic payment licensing requirements and processes differ in various European jurisdictions, and you should take into consideration such factors as the national regulatory environment, market opportunities, your business model, your financial resources, and your operational structure. On the other hand, several EU countries offer almost universally favorable environments with EMI licenses with indefinite durations and are therefore worth your attention.
E-Money License in Lithuania
After the UK’s departure from the EU, Lithuania emerged as the EU jurisdiction granting the highest number of licenses to payment and electronic money institutions, thanks to the progressive approach of the Bank of Lithuania which is the national regulator. The authority offers a streamlined application process with the possibility to submit documents in the English language, which makes the procedures more accessible to international applicants.
The Bank of Lithuania has a regulatory sandbox for fintech companies, known as the LB Fintech Sandbox which is a testing environment where you can experiment with your innovative financial products under the guidance and supervision of the authority. In any case, you’ll be able to access more customers by utilizing such innovative features as remote customer identification through digital signatures, electronic copies of documents, and video communication. If this doesn’t convince you, maybe the fact that Lithuania ranks 9th in the 2023 International Tax Competitiveness Index will. It’s an indication that you’ll find it easy to comply with the national tax regulations, retain more profits, and focus on growth.
To apply for a Lithuanian EMI license, company directors and board members aren’t required to reside in Lithuania or elsewhere in Europe which attracts a lot of international entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas. If you’re a non-EU/EEA citizen planning to run a business in Lithuania, you might be eligible for a startup visa which has a simplified application process not only for startup founders but also for employees and their families. It offers long-term residence in Lithuania and enables foreign entrepreneurs to connect with a global network of like-minded individuals and businesses.
Fees associated with a Lithuanian e-money license application:
- Initial capital – 350,000 EUR (there are no capital requirements if you intend to operate only in the Lithuanian market)
- Application fee – 1,463 EUR
E-Money License in Cyprus
Cyprus is also considered a favorable choice for businesses seeking to operate as EMIs in Europe. In line with EU directives and regulations, Cyprus has a well-established regulatory framework, enforced by the Central Bank of Cyprus which is responsible for the supervision of EMIs in the country. Cyprus offers a robust financial services infrastructure, including modern banking technology, secure data centers, and a stable banking sector which provides opportunities for EMIs to establish partnerships with local banks and financial institutions. The country’s strategic location provides easy access to markets in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, which can be advantageous for you if you’re seeking to expand internationally.
To obtain an EMI license in Cyprus, you need to establish a company under Cyprus law and have a registered office with a management presence within the country. There is no specific startup visa but you can choose from a number of other types of residence permits, such as Category F Permit, or join a Cyprus Investment Program. To succeed in opening a fully licensed EMI in Cyprus, you not only need a physical presence but also the necessary operational infrastructure, including secure IT systems, risk management framework, and tools for customer onboarding. While the licensing process is fairly streamlined, the preparation certainly requires legal assistance which we can readily provide you with.
Fees associated with a Cypriot e-money license application:
- Initial capital – 350,000 EUR
- Application fee – 5,000 EUR
E-Money License in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a runner-up in the number of granted European fintech licenses, including EMIs, and therefore deserves your attention as the jurisdiction succeeding in the provision of the market entry for innovative financial service providers. The country has a vibrant fintech ecosystem with a top-tier infrastructure that includes established fintech companies, startups, and investors which can support the growth of your EMI within the EU and at the international level. It has well-established connections to international payment systems and financial networks, enabling efficient access to global payment infrastructure. The country ranks 14th in the 2023 International Tax Competitiveness Index out of 38 countries.
If you’re seeking to conduct EMI operations within the Netherlands, you’re either required to obtain a license issued by De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) or qualify for an exemption. Exempt institutions fall under the supervision of the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) rather than the DNB. To obtain a license, you’ll essentially have to establish a local company with a physical presence in the Netherlands, including a registered office. Only two local directors are required, and the rest of the team can be located in other European countries and on some occasions even outside of Europe.
Fees associated with a Dutch e-money license application:
- Initial capital – 350,000 EUR
- Application fee – 6,800 EUR
E-Money License in Malta
For years, Malta has been actively supporting fintech businesses by cultivating an innovation-friendly environment, streamlining regulatory processes, and offering incentives to attract both domestic and international entrepreneurs. The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) is the regulatory body responsible for supervising financial services in Malta which has established a clear and well-defined regulatory framework for EMIs that can guarantee regulatory certainty and effectiveness. You can also expect access to the Maltese regulatory sandbox that will allow you to test your innovative e-money services in a controlled environment without the immediate burden of full regulatory compliance.
To apply for an EMI license in Malta, you must meet a lot of requirements that are typical for an EU country with a robust regulatory framework. It includes establishing a company under Maltese law and maintaining a physical presence within the country, having robust internal AML/CFT processes, demonstrating financial soundness, and appointing senior management that meets residence, and fit and proper criteria. While the country doesn’t have a startup visa program in place for entrepreneurs looking to establish fintech startups there, we can help you apply for a Malta Individual Investor Program (MIIP), the Malta Residence and Visa Program (MRVP), or other types of permits.
Fees associated with a Maltese e-money license application:
- Initial capital – 350,000 EUR
- Application fee – 3,500 EUR
E-Money License Requirements in Europe
You may have already realized that most European countries will require you to establish a local company under their national law and have a physical presence within their jurisdiction. Your company will be obligated to develop and implement strong compliance policies and procedures, establish mechanisms for safeguarding customer funds, design secure IT systems and data protection frameworks, have adequately educated and experienced senior management, and meet many other crucial criteria that will lead to reliable operations with minimized risks.
All of these processes and requirements will have to be carefully documented and supported by evidence so that the regulator of your chosen jurisdiction can thoroughly assess your company’s adherence to the established regulatory standards and ensure that the interests and security of your customers will be continuously safeguarded. While such countries as Lithuania permit the submission of documents in the English language, elsewhere you’ll need certified translation services which we can arrange for you while you’re focusing on other urgent business needs.
Your EMI license application form will usually have to be accompanied by the following documents:
- Your company’s Articles of Association
- A business plan detailing your EMI’s proposed operations, target market, financial projections, risk management strategies, and other foundational information
- Documentation of AML/CFT policies and procedures
- Historical and projected financial statements, including balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements
- Reports from external auditors verifying your financial statements and compliance with regulatory requirements
- Proof of registered office in the jurisdiction where you’re seeking an EMI license
- CVs of your EMI’s directors and other key personnel, along with evidence of their financial qualifications and relevant experience
- Copies of passports of the company directors and shareholders
- Proof of no criminal record of each shareholder, director, and other key personnel
- Documentation outlining your EMI’s risk management policies and procedures
- Your EMI’s customer terms and conditions
- Documentation proving that your EMI meets the minimum capital requirement set by the regulatory authority
- Proof of paid application fee
E-Money License Application Process
While the step-by-step application process for obtaining an EMI license in Europe varies from one country to another, there are some general steps that you’ll most likely have to take in any European jurisdiction of your choice. Also, keep in mind that the application processing times also vary and can take anywhere between three months and nearly a year depending on such factors as the completeness of your application and the number of applications an authority has to process.
The usual e-money licensing process is as follows:
- Prepare your application by gathering all necessary information and documentation
- Pay the application fee as specified by the regulatory authority of your chosen jurisdiction
- Submit the application form along with the prepared documents to the regulatory authority of your chosen jurisdiction
- The regulatory authority will review your application package to determine your eligibility and may request further information or documentation
- If your application is accepted as complete, the vetting process will start, and the authority may conduct an on-site inspection of your company’s facilities to ensure that it has the necessary controls and infrastructure in place to operate as an EMI
- If the on-site inspection is completed successfully and all the legal requirements are met, the authority will grant an EMI license, allowing your company to commence e-money operations
Our Recommendations for a Successful E-Money License Application
If you want your application to progress as quickly as possible and succeed in obtaining an EMI license, there are certain aspects you should certainly take into consideration:
- Make sure your application package is complete and prepared very thoroughly in line with relevant regulations as none of the regulators can start processing incomplete applications
- Every piece of information you provide should be supported by strong evidence that can be validated by the regulator
- Have a thorough checklist of national eligibility requirements and make sure you tick such boxes as sufficient capital, segregation of customer funds, and physical presence
- Consult with legal experts specializing in the issuance of European fintech licenses, such as our team here at Regulated United Europe, who will make sure that your application package is of impeccable quality
- Maintain open and regular communication with the regulatory authority in order to address any queries or concerns promptly to facilitate a smoother application process
If you wish to obtain an EMI license in Europe, our team here at Regulated United Europe will be delighted to support you in incorporating a company and applying for a license in a European jurisdiction that resonates with your business goals. Our dedicated specialists can also guide you through the acquisition of a ready-made company with an existing e-money institution license. With experienced lawyers, business development professionals, and financial accountants at your side, you will find the process of starting an electronic money business easy, seamless, and transparent. Contact us now to schedule a personalized e-money license consultation and set the stage for long-lasting success.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
An Electronic Money License (EMI) is a regulatory authorization granted to businesses by financial authorities. It allows license holders to provide electronic money services - primarily by issuing electronic money.
Electronic money, as defined by the E-Money Directive 2 (EMD2), is electronically stored monetary value representing a claim on the issuer, issued upon receipt of funds for making payment transactions.
EMIs offer a range of services, including:
- Issuing electronic money;
- Providing digital wallets;
- Facilitating money transfers;
- Enabling electronic payments;
- Offering currency exchange;
- Issuing prepaid cards, and more.
European jurisdictions typically have Small Electronic Money Institution Licenses for startups and businesses with limited operations, and Electronic Money Institution Licenses for those with broader scopes across the EU.
EMI licenses enable individuals and businesses without access to traditional banking services to participate in the digital economy, promoting financial inclusion.
While both licenses permit a broad range of payment services, an E-Money License allows the issuance of electronic money and holding customer funds, distinguishing it from a Payment Institution License.
Some of the main benefits include:
- Access to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA);
- The ability to operate across all EEA countries;
- Endorsement of regulatory compliance;
- Participation in the thriving fintech ecosystem.
EMIs must adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ensuring lawful and transparent data processing, data minimization, accuracy, and prompt reporting of data breaches.
The Electronic Money Directive 2 (EMD2) and the Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) are key directives regulating EMI services in the EU, providing a legal framework for operations.
The duration varies but can range from three months to nearly a year, depending on factors like application completeness and regulatory workload.
Yes. Some countries, like Lithuania, offer opportunities for non-EU/EEA citizens to apply for a startup visa and establish an EMI business.
Yes, EMI license holders must comply with Anti-Money Laundering directives, maintaining records of transactions, implementing customer due diligence, and adhering to regulatory standards.
EMIs, with an EMI license, can apply for access to the SWIFT network, facilitating secure communication between financial institutions, particularly for international money transfers.
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