Santander-backed Asto app strikes SMB partnership with eBay

Santander has partnered with eBay to offer loans to its 200,000 small and medium-sized business (SMB) users via Asto.

In an effort to counter the growing influence of digital 'challenger' banks in the mould of Starling Bank, the Santander-owned fintech firm will provide cash flow loans to eBay's network of small businesses.

Since launching last year, Asto has offered financial and non-financial services to the UK's network of freelancers, self-employed and SMBs. With this agreement, eBay's platform will customers easy access to funds as and when required to maintain positive cash flow.

"eBay is passionate about helping small businesses succeed," its chief operating officer Paolo Levoni said.

"Our partnership with Asto is designed to help our business sellers efficiently access cash loans to help them expand and manage cash flow - our latest step in helping small businesses in the UK to thrive."

Santander has long-teased an expansion into the digital banking arena, and last year even ventured into blockchain with a foreign exchange app that uses Ripple technology to power cross-border transactions.

The firm's Openbank venture has also been making in-roads with traditional banking customers, with the subsidiary becoming the first full-service digital banking service in Spain two years ago.

Santander supported the beta launch of Asto in July last year, which pitched itself at the time as a platform that saves time on laborious financial tasks that often involve paperwork. Among its features are mechanisms to capture receipts, issue invoices, and access different types of cash.

"We get what you go through: The highs. The lows. The endless punching in of data. The repetitive paperwork. The stressful VAT returns. The stuff that piles up to suck the joy out of running your business," Asto's website says.

"So we've come together, with Santander's backing, to shake things up. We're starting with the small, repetitive things that swallow up your time. But have big plans for the future. With fresh thinking and empowering technology, we believe we can fundamentally change the way business works.

"Because we want every good business to succeed. That's a big ambition, so it helps that we're an optimistic bunch."

The advent of Open Banking has similarly opened up new finance opportunities for businesses, developers, and consumers. The new rules, which were rolled out from January 2018, forced large traditional banks to open up the data they hold on customers to allow new products and services to be created.

"I am excited by the opportunity for Asto, as a fintech start-up, to partner with eBay, a global ecommerce platform that shares our ambition to help small businesses grow and thrive," said Asto CEO Sigga Sigurdardottir.

"Working with eBay, Asto will empower small business owners with secure access to funds in a matter of minutes from their phone, versus traditionally several weeks."

Asto's cash flow loans to eBay-based SMBs will be launched later this year. A more specific date hasn't been announced as yet.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.