UK challenger banks gaining momentum

It’s been a pretty good week for the UK challenger bank scene.
30 July 2018

First, Metro Bank reported that profits quadrupled year-on-year in H1 2018, hitting GBP24.1 million (US$31.63 million).

Craig Donaldson, Chief Executive Officer at Metro Bank, the first new high street bank in Britain in over 100 years when it launched eight years ago, said:

“We have delivered a 55 percent growth in lending and 40 percent growth in deposits year-on-year and welcomed a record 201,000 new customer accounts. Every day, every month and every quarter Metro Bank continues to win customers and grow through our disruptive service-led model.”

Unlike the vast majority of new entrants, Metro Bank has opted for a mixture of bricks and clicks.

So far this year, it has opened two new stores – Southampton and Watford – with a further eight in build and over 20 more in the pipeline and launched its online current account opening service.

It also recently unveiled its developer portal, which opens up its banking platform to third parties to develop products and services.

The AI-powered money management service Insights will also be available to customers using Metro Bank’s app in the coming weeks.

Also last week, it was announced that increasing numbers of UK current account holders were switching banks.

Over the last 12 months, 965,317 switches were completed using the Current Account Switch Service (CASS), a 6 percent increase on the previous 12 months.

Of particular interest here is FinTech and Millennials darling Starling Bank picking up 1,153 new customers.

Honorable mentions also go to Monese and Monzo.

The former recently reported that 500,000 people have signed up to its service. Currently, 2,000 people are joining Monese daily, with customers moving over US$2 billion annually through their accounts.

The majority of these use it as their primary bank account, 75 percent of deposits are salaries.

Monzo, meanwhile, is moving out of its offices in east London and into Bloomberg’s old HQ in Finsbury Square, as it prepares for major expansion. Its total customer count now exceeds 750,000.

However, before we get too carried away, we should remember that the CASS figures still represent a tiny fraction of the overall UK current account market. And 500,000 and 750,000 people is good going for ventures that only entered the fray a few years ago, but those numbers won’t be giving RBS, Lloyds Bank et al any sleepless nights.

Also, for the first quarter of 2018, the two big CASS winners were part of the banking establishment, Halifax and Nationwide, although it should be pointed out that the two worst performers (Barclays and Co-Op Bank) were also old school players.

Monese sells itself on being built around the modern-mobile on-the-go lifestyle – utilizing fast onboarding, real-time notifications and money management features. In short, the sort of things that Millennials love.

But when it comes to jumping ship, many customers seem to prefer cash switching bonuses.

Customer-centric innovations, cool mobile apps and flashy debit cards vs good old fashioned bribery. Welcome to the modern UK banking sector.