BKN301: San Marino’s first neo bank leveraged by blockchain

BKN301: San Marino’s first neo bank leveraged by blockchain

Stiven Muccioli, Chief Executive Officer at BKN301, reveals how blockchain technology is driving FinTech in the emerging market of San Marino...

Banking-as-a-Service startup BKN301 will reach a value of €1 billion within three years, is the bold prediction from the Founder and CEO of the Republic of San Marino’s first neo bank which was launched in March 2021.

Chief Executive Officer of BKN301, Stiven Muccioli, named his FinTech start-up to reflect its European location; 301 marks the year San Marino was founded and BNK draws on the word blockchain - which is a critical component of the digital platform.

San Marino-born Muccioli has returned to his home country after 10 years following a successful career as an investor and tech entrepreneur to launch the neo bank which provides embedded financial services and token issuing services with a B2B model. He sees this as the first of many as his aim is to open FinTech banks outside the constraints of the European Union and in emerging markets from central Asia to North Africa.

Despite the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Muccioli aims to reach a fast growth for BNK301. “We want to double our revenue during this year and in the next couple of years we can improve a lot on transactions and customers and we dream to reach a value of €1 billion in the next three years.

“I sold my company Ventis at the end of 2020 for a very good deal and decided to come back to my country where I can now bring my experience and skills to drive this new startup FinTech business,” said Muccioli who launched the bank with Federico Zambelli Hosmer and Luca Bertozzi. Hosmer was former CEO of PayPal in Italy and Bertozzi was former CFO of Ventis (Iccrea Banca Group).

Muccioli was also inspired to return to the emerging market of San Marino - which is landlocked on all sides by Italy - due to the fact that although it is not a European member state it is permitted to use the euro by arrangement with the Council of the European Union. Another bonus is that it’s granted the right to use its own designs on the national side of the euro coins.

Muccioli is using blockchain technology to drive the FinTech bank but faces challenges converting the traditional population of San Marino, one of the world’s smallest countries with a population of 33,860, to convert them from brick-and-mortar style of banking to a neo bank.

He cites the use of blockchain and bank-as-a-service as two of the most disruptive innovations in banking during the past year.

“Bank-as-a-service allows corporates, that are not banks, to work in the bank business. It is a very new thing but it is possible to share banking services and mobile banking services without having the physical branches. Blockchain is a huge new opportunity and a new scheme of IT architecture. I think these two trends are the biggest in the banking business during the past 12 months,” he said.

Muccioli outlined the three key strategy points of BNK301 which includes the following:

1 Payments improvement

Firstly filling the gap vs the market standard, secondly leading innovation, addressing cross-border customers though tha BaaS.

2 Product customisation and new business model

Enabling new services and integrating new technologies in order to create a high quality

customised product.

3 Incremental revenues streams

Improving financial services and being able to generate new revenue streams, thanks to a broader and international approach to open banking APIs and blockchain.

Balance of innovation and tradition

Muccioli admitted it is not always easy to introduce white label and API-based payment solutions into an emerging economy - especially when you will be the first FinTech bank operating in San Marino.

“It's very challenging because the banking system of our country is very traditional and not digital. Our main challenge will be to connect our systems to the traditional banking systems of our country. We then want to bring great innovation, to bring people with the huge experience and know-how inside of our company from other countries and also from our country. Our main challenge is to grow as a team inside a small country and inside the financial ecosystem which is very traditional and not so dynamic and not so innovative as a platform,” he said.

BKN301 will offer white-label and API-based payment solutions from M-wallets (a virtual wallet that stores payment card information on a mobile device), loyalty programs, remittance services, peer to peer and prepaid and credit card programs.

Post-pandemic opportunity in long-term

The COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for the migration of more people to digital banking services which could benefit the launch of BKN301 as it moves forward.

“I think the pandemic could be an opportunity for us due to the change in behaviour of people as they move towards digital payments as cash is not the future for the banking system. I think in the long term, it could be a good thing for the business but in the short-term, it's not so easy for us because there are not a lot of digital transactions as people spend less money. It's not a super strong moment for the business but I think in the long term we'll be fine.

Focus on emerging markets

“Our key message is that we want to grant access to financial services to emerging markets and to people that are not allowed to enter into the financial system right now.

“San Marino is one of these emerging markets because we don't have payment systems, we don't have Apple pay, we don't have Google pay and we need to grant access to these kinds of services and mobile payments and digital finance,” said Muccioli who pointed out BKN301 is looking to extend into Eastern Europe, central Asia and North Africa. 

Banking in the spotlight:

Could you summarize the major changes that increased digitization will bring to banking?

“I think digitalization will bring about the closure of a lot of branches which will mean a lot of employees could lose their jobs. It’s a huge political and a social problem for the entire financial ecosystem - not only for banks. We need to rethink the future of finance and the future of payments because we need more technology and innovative systems plus we have to think about the people who work in this business,” said Muccioli.

What are the hallmarks of a good collaborator?

“We would work with other FinTech companies and telcos. If I am thinking of our customers, the best could be telecommunication operators, banks in other countries and software companies with a huge amount of customers with payment needs. This is because we can help increase the revenue and have more frictionless transactions. The best for us is to have customers, clients and business clients with a lot of customers and a lot of payments.”

Targets for BNK301

  • Local banks
  • Telcos
  • Utilities
  • Transportation companies 
  • Retailers and and players that needs financial services to feed
  • their customers needs

Top five solutions offered by BNK301

BKN301 offers white-label and API-based payment solutions


  • M-wallets
  • Loyalty programs
  • Remittance services
  • Peer to peer
  • Prepaid and credit card programs

What is blockchain?

Blockchain technology is being used to drive the service platform - based on international payment schemes.

Formally, blockchain is a digital mechanism to create a distributed digital ledger where two or more participants in a peer-to-peer network can exchange information and assets directly without the need for a trusted intermediary. 

Records are unchangeable, time-stamped, encrypted and linked to each other in blocks; each block is a cluster of about two thousand transaction records grouped together. The ledger grows as participants transact.  

But informally, what does that definition mean? According to a report by Gartner it can theoretically do business with an unknown partner located anywhere on the planet and trade any asset at any transaction size and not need a lawyer, a bank, an insurance company.

Blockchain combines existing technologies and techniques into a novel architecture composed of five elements which include:

The five elements of blockchain include:

1 Distribution

Blockchain participants are located at a physical remove from each other and are connected on a network. Each participant operating a full node maintains a complete copy of the ledger, which updates with new transactions as they occur. 

Nodes are the machines owned or used by participants and equipped to run the consensus algorithm. Any participant can review the ledger but cannot change it except under prescribed circumstances.

2 Encryption

Blockchain uses technologies to record the data in the blocks securely and semi-anonymously as participants have pseudonyms. The participants can control their personal identity and other information and share only what they need to in a transaction.

3 Immutability

Completed transactions are cryptographically signed, time- stamped, and sequentially added to the ledger. Records cannot be corrupted or otherwise changed unless the participants agree on the need to do so. Such an agreement is known as a fork. 

4 Tokenization

Transactions and other interactions on a blockchain involve the secure exchange of value. The value comes in the form of tokens. 

5 Decentralization

Blockchain network information and rules for how it operates are maintained by computers, or nodes, on the distributed network. In practice, decentralisation means that no single entity controls all the computers or the information or dictates the rules.

Muccioli said: “Blockchain is super secure because when you send information or a transaction from one point to another point everyone can see it and it is not possible to hack or stall the data - it is super clear and it's open.

“It will bring about a huge change in behavior and infrastructure because with blockchain you don’t need third party infrastructure. You don't need Visa or MasterCard. It's possible to send cash or money from one point to another point without any other player in the middle. It's very strong for efficiency and for safe transactions,” he said.