The partnership will provide Intesa’s SME clients with new credit products and support their growth, using iwoca’s SME lending platform and Intesa’s expertise in building banking operations across Italy, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

The strategic partnership coincides with an investment in iwoca by Neva Finventures, Intesa Sanpaolo’s fintech venture capital arm.

Christoph Rieche, co-founder and CEO of iwoca (pictured above), said: “To date, iwoca has been able to support over 10,000 small businesses with operations across the UK and mainland Europe.

“We are excited that Intesa Sanpaolo recognised the value of the technology we’ve built and will use it as part of their SME lending operations in the future.

“Partnering with Neva Finventures and Intesa Sanpaolo is an exciting opportunity to leverage our SME lending technology platform across new credit products and regions while working with one of the most forward-thinking and expansive banking groups in Europe.”

iwoca offers flexible credit facilities to SMEs using a technology-driven risk platform that draws on thousands of data points to make quick credit decisions, so it can lend a small business up to £100,000 within hours.

It has supported more than 10,000 businesses in 28,000 transactions worth over £200 million since its launch in 2012 with customers across the UK and mainland Europe.

It is also a founding member of Innovate Finance, the world’s first industry body for the fintech industry.

Montagnese maurizio

Maurizio Montagnese, chief innovation officer at the Intesa Sanpaolo Group, said: "Investing in iwoca is of strategic importance to us in that it strengthens the Intesa Sanpaolo Group's position in the area of new business models, and specifically in highly innovative digital financial services.

“The industrial synergies between iwoca and Intesa Sanpaolo could be significant in the coming years and allow the Intesa Sanpaolo Group to enter segments of the market not served by other banks."

Alternative lenders now represent a crucial lever for economic growth as traditional banks struggle to provide small businesses with the funding they need.

Intesa Sanpaolo is among the top banking groups in the euro zone, with a market capitalisation of €42.7 billion.

The Group is the leader in Italy in retail, corporate, and wealth management and offers its services to 11.1 million customers through a network of more than 3,900 branches.

Intesa Sanpaolo has a selected presence in Central Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, with over 1,100 branches and 7.7 million customers belonging to the Group's subsidiaries operating in commercial banking in 12 countries.

Its venture capital arm Neva Finventures is dedicated to fintech investments in the United States, Europe and Israel.

It will invest in fintech start-ups with disruptive new business models for the industry.