Debit card targeting millennials is ‘operating without permission’

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Consumers are being warned about a much-hyped debit card targeting millennials, after the City regulator said it was operating without permission.

Lanistar launched its app this week amid social media fanfare, having convinced celebrities including Love Island’s Chris Hughes and Tommy Fury, the model Demi Rose, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s girlfriend, Georgina Rodriguez, to back the card on Instagram.

The firm said a total of 3,000 social media influencers had been paid as part of the launch, as it aimed to “tap into the Gen Z and millennial market”. Its British founder, Gurhan Kiziloz, is hoping the firm will reach unicorn status and be worth £1bn within the next year.

Lanistar, which will roll out its card in January, is being advertised as a debit card service that allows customers to access all their other cards under its umbrella. It also generates new pin and security codes for every use to protect against fraud.

Lanistar says it has 400 staff in London, North Macedonia and Athens, and has raised £15m in private funding so far.

However, the Financial Conduct Authority issued a warning to potential users on Wednesday, saying the firm had not been authorised to operate in the UK. “We believe this firm has been providing financial services or products in the UK without our authorisation,” the warning read.

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The FCA added: “Almost all firms and individuals offering, promoting or selling financial services or products in the UK have to be authorised by us. However, some firms act without our authorisation and some knowingly run investment scams.

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“This firm is not authorised by us and is targeting people in the UK. Based upon information we hold, we believe it is carrying on regulated activities which require authorisation.”

Lanistar said it was aware of the FCA warning but denied it was operating without permission. “Legal and regulatory compliance are central to Lanistar’s business and we confirm that we are not providing financial services or products without the FCA’s authorisation.

“We have announced our intended future services and we will be partnering with firms that are authorised by the FCA to provide financial services or products.”

Lanistar said it was in the process of contacting the FCA and requesting that the warning notice be taken down.

Footnote added 23 November 2020. On 20 November 2020, after this article was published, the FCA removed its consumer warning about Lanistar. You can read the full FCA statement here.