banking

Are you ready for Britain’s challenger banks?

By Oliver Smith 12 August 2016
Summary

These four digital banks are vying for your money.

This week Mondo, one of the most-hyped up and coming challenger banks, was given the golden seal of approval by the Bank of England to launch its app-based bank in Britain.

It’s the latest sign that Britain’s digital banking revolution has begun.

Just ten months after The Memo highlighted four British digital challenger banks aiming to tear up the rulebook of traditional banking, now all four are licensed and ready to turn into full banks.

They all ditch physical bank branches, instead giving you more control over your money through technology.

Whether that’s by using smarts to predict when you might run out of cash at the end of the month or by suggesting smart ways to manage and invest your money.

Mondo has 30,000 people using the beta version of its app and bank card.

Why is a banking licence so critical?

The key part of a banking licence is the ability to open an account with the Bank of England, join Faster Payments, get sort codes and hold deposits.

“It unlocks lots of features that people are used to, whether that’s direct debits, standing orders or just having a sort code,” Paul Rippon, Mondo’s deputy CEO told The Memo.

Read more: Meet Mondo, the app that’s got the banks worried

Basically it lets Mondo become a full bank, hold anyone’s money, and offer the features you’d associate with a traditional current account.

But Mondo isn’t the only digital challenger bank with a licence now.

The race is on

Atom Bank, Starling and Tandem are all similarly licensed and are preparing to take on the likes of HSBC, Lloyds and Barclays.

Read more: Atom Bank edges closer to being Britain’s first app-only bank

Tandem is just a few months away from launching, while Atom Bank has technically ‘launched’ – but its first product is only a fixed savings account, rather than a full current account.

And while Mondo was last to get its licence, it’s in no way lagging behind.

Mondo claims to have 30,000 people using the beta version of its card, another 80,000 who have downloaded the app and are on the waiting list, and over 200,000 on their mailing list for updates.

But, as we’ve highlighted before, the success of these businesses isn’t guaranteed. For one, at the moment just 3% of people switch bank accounts annually.

Read more: Britain WILL have a mobile banking revolution, watchdog rules, but will you switch?

So the real question is, besides these eager early adopters, will you give up on your high street bank branch for the promise of a fancy app and some high-tech features?