Opinion

Digital startup Mondo aims to follow in Atom Bank's footsteps to overhaul British banking

5 min read

30 June 2015

Banking startup Mondo has confirmed its first funding round with Passion Capital investing £2m. It's planning ahead and aims to offer a full current account in the first half of 2016.

Founder Tom Blomfield said the team will “be looking to raise around £15-20m before our full launch – this will be dictated by the Bank of England’s regulatory capital requirements”.

Mondo currently has 30 customers testing its prototype account and is meeting the Bank of England to determine whether it will have the formal go-ahead to apply for a banking licence. It may be feeling hopeful as Durham-based Atom recently had success on this front.

As a mobile-first challenger bank, Atom plans to launch later this year, operating solely through a mobile app. It marks an acknowledgement of the upward trajectory digital banking is currently experiencing.

Atom’s system will allow customers to open accounts and do their day-to-day banking activity from their smartphone. The bank said it aims to “set new standards for the banking sector” when it comes to technology, with plans to use 3D visualisations and gaming technology for its app.

Blomfield’s Mondo would put another digital bank on the horizon, amid statistics from the big high street banks indicating that branch usage has fallen 36 per cent since 2010 and transactions are dropping by around ten per cent annually. RBS reported transactions had fallen 30 per cent between 2011 and 2014. 

At the same time, there has been a move towards mobile. Recent data from the British Bankers’ Association said mobile apps had become the number one method for consumers to manage finances. By 2020, Brits are set to use smartphones and tablets 2.3bn times to manage accounts – more than internet, branch and telephone banking combined.

Rather than doom and gloom predicting the end of all traditional forms of banking, it suggests there is a diversification of options emerging. In March, Nationwide announced plans to invest £300m in its 700 branches – indicating that some high street banks are willing to adapt and develop their bricks and mortar stores, while still seeing the value of a physical presence.

Nationwide has been planning a significant upgrade of its cash machines, as well as plotting out a video link service across more services. One of the newer challengers to the banking scene, Metro Bank, has also reiterated the importance of branches for its model and continues to open more.

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The increased options may also be cited by the established banks as proof that competition is thriving – an interesting aside when the industry is in the process of being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority.

Mobile banking is currently the one to watch, as it has seen the most pronounced development – more so than internet banking. Banking apps for mobiles and tablets have been downloaded more than 14.7m times, while internet banking services typically receive seven million daily log-ins.

Blomfield hopes to tap into the higher expectations technology has instilled within people and provide immediate services for those “who get frustrated if they have to wait more than two seconds for things to get done”. Put simply, he said, “it’s for people who live their lives on their iPhones”.

Its model is a low-cost base – and will be steering clear of branches. Mondo aims to enable customers to block their accounts until funds become available or borrow a sum at prices in the middle of those being offered. It will also have the option of providing notifications to customers including warnings about going overdrawn, detail about how a customer spends their money and reminders of what needs paying when.

Blomfield feels the banking industry is a hotbed of potential at the moment and believes that in the next few years, “a bank will be launched that will become the scale of Google or Facebook”. It’s a big call, but one that reflects the ambition of these upcoming challengers, hoping to make an impact.

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