Relief for thousands as Wirecard's UK freeze ended

Oscar Williams-GrutSenior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Yahoo Finance UK
Markus Braun, former chief executive of Wirecard, has been arrested in connection to the scandal. Photo: Matthias Schrader/AP
Markus Braun, former chief executive of Wirecard, has been arrested in connection to the scandal. Photo: Matthias Schrader/AP

Scandal-hit German fintech business Wirecard has had restrictions on its UK business lifted, unlocking cash for thousands of Brits who were unexpectedly caught up in the crisis.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said in a statement late on Monday night it was lifting restrictions it placed on Wirecard at the end of last week.

“We have been working closely with Wirecard UK and other authorities over the last few days to ensure that the firm was able to meet certain conditions required to lift the restrictions we imposed on it,” the regulator said.

“We are now in a position to allow Wirecard to resume operational activity. This means customers will now, or very shortly, be able to use their cards as usual.”

READ MORE: Customer cash frozen as Wirecard's UK business ordered to stop operating

Wirecard provides payment services and card issuing for several UK fintechs, such as money management apps U and Pockit, and freelance business account provider ANNA Money.

The FCA’s restrictions meant that Wirecard was forced to halt all regulated activities and freeze all client money. It left thousands of customers of business like U, Pockit, and ANNA Money unable to access their money on what for many was payday.

“We know that some people may have faced difficulties over the weekend and we worked with DWP, HMT and the Home Office in order to help anyone suffering financial distress,” the FCA said. “Anyone who is still in difficulties should see our website for more details.”

READ MORE: Watchdog still has concerns about Wirecard's UK business

Pockit said on Twitter on Tuesday morning it was taking a phased approach to restarting but most accounts should be back up and running by the end of the day.

ANNA Money said in a blogpost that “not all services will be available straight away” but said it hopes to be “fully functioning by the late morning, early afternoon.”

U Account said on its website that its “teams have been working on through the night” to resolve issues with its cards. “We hope to have a resolution for this sometime this morning,” the company said.

READ MORE: Embattled payments firm Wirecard collapses into insolvency

The restrictions on Wirecard’s UK business come after its German parent company spectacularly collapsed last week. The business, which was one of Germany’s most valuable public companies, had discovered a €1.9bn (£1.7bn, $2.1bn) hole in its balance sheet. Former chief executive Markus Braun has been arrested in connection with an investigation into the scandal.

The collapse has left Wirecard’s international subsidiaries reeling. The company’s Singapore business informed the country’s central bank on Tuesday that it was unsure if it could continue to operate in the country. Wirecard’s North American business has put itself up for sale.

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