Otherwise known as ‘Challenger Banks’, for they do one thing well, above all others—to challenge! Maintenance fees, transfer fees, et cetera fees, tiny loans, proximity banking, holding on the phone, no crypto, and so on. If it’s an unnecessary burden on the consumer, you, it has to go. The common theme is zero or limited brick-and-mortar presence. This is a deep dive into the six most popular neobanks of 2021 in order of their forecasted number of ‘app’ downloads.
Everybody’s favourite, and growing. Revolut operates in the EEA, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan and the United States. They currently tout over 12 million customers globally, with over 1 million daily active users and nearly 1 billion USD in total investor funding. Why? Well let’s take a look at the features included in their ‘Metal’ plan for £12.99 per month.
Do ‘Platinum’ or ‘Gold’ accounts of traditional high-street banks offer this much? I’ll leave you to be the judge. But this is indeed how Revolut tripled its revenue to £163 million in 2019 and has so far maintained a $5.5 billion valuation. What will its 2020 revenue be?
Statista maintains that Revolut and N26 together could see a combined user base of 24 million people by the end of December 2020. N26 focuses purely on the elite digital banking aspect of what we hope for in neobanks. Their own metal plan is slightly more expensive at €16.90 per month, but focuses on the slightly wealthier travelling individual. Like Revolut, they offer:
Unfortunately, they are missing out on the notable investing options, such as with stocks, commodities or cryptocurrencies. Further, they do not operate in the entire EEA and outside of European countries, only the USA. The UK is visibly missing.
They have earned almost $800 million in collective investor funding, but will that increase? Will they be swallowed by Revolut? The rate of new consumers as shown in the beginning of this article is visibly flattening, with Monzo overtaking.
The UK’s dedicated neobank. The model they follow is clearly Revolut’s, but with a UK-only feel and a premium account at £15 per month. Comprehensive phone and travel insurance is also there. What makes them different?
This. Earn high savings on small balances. HSBC’s ‘Online Bonus Saver’ for example, pays 0.01%. Monzo also make a concentrated marketing effort concerning ‘Open Banking’, which is also commonly available in Europe. The key difference here is that Monzo is introducing a high-touch digital app with which to manage all of your old-school accounts. Proximity banking and going to the teller are things of the past. Would you move all your accounts to Monzo?
Also predominantly UK-based, Monese is available to all residents of the EEA (European Economic Area). Monzo is distinctly for residents of the UK.
What makes Monese special, is its focus on low-cost international transfers and being an easy-to-get and quick-to-use mobile app. With a premium account, there are zero fees in converting between the world’s major currencies. Monese to Monese account transfers are instant and free no matter the currency chosen.
They focus on simplicity. This is your basic in-and-out current account which costs nothing (the ‘Simple’ plan is free) and works anywhere you travel. There is no investing, no high rates, no insurance, nor any similar bells and whistles. But if you didn’t want them in the first place, this could just be the neobank for you. How to open? Have a passport handy and take a video selfie. That’s it.
Starling advertises the same no-fees-when-abroad strategy with respect to their personal accounts. However, their claim to fame is instead their business account. It’s free.
Given the much greater volume we can expect with business accounts over personal counterparts, the fee-free aspect is clearly disruptive. This is designed for smaller or possibly medium-sized firms, built upon two themes of (1) humanity and (2) integration. Constant human support is available, as is integration with online accounting software providers like Xero or Quickbooks.
Business banking is a noticeably smaller market than personal banking. As a result it is far less saturated with ample room for new leaders to emerge today. Tax automisation and USD availability (in the UK) for nearly nothing are already two significant value-adds.
‘Easy’ is the word. Easy is what they do. Based out of the Netherlands and similar to Monese, they are a EU-centric bank which gives extra focus towards philosophy. Meaning, nothing ‘shady’. They care about the environment and minority groups. Banking with them is banking for the good.
What’s particularly impressive with Bunq is their ‘Freedom of Choice’ option. If you want to receive interest on your savings, you can tell them how they can make their money with which to pay you. Do you want your money tied to only government bonds? Or do you think mortgages are a good opportunity? Green companies only? The potential of this idea is groundbreaking. Not offered is sharia-compliant finance, but could it be in the future?
It all comes back to you and what you want. Mobility and flexibility are the two pillars of the foundation. None of us have a particular desire to get in our car, drive to the bank and wait in line. None of us have to, anymore.
The third pillar is how much you can do, exactly, while refusing to go to the bank. In a word, features. The clear leader for personal banking is Revolut. No- or low-fee current accounts, metallic cards, many currencies, cheap international transfers, stocks, precious metals, cryptocurrencies, insurances, and so on, and more to come. It is clear for neobanks, more features at lower costs is the winning ticket. This is why Revolut’s rate of new customers well exceeds that of the five others described in this article.
Business banking is less developed. Revolut and Bunq have notable business offerings, but they are evidently not their mainstay—nor their focus. Starling uses the same strategy as Revolut, more features though with simplicity. Regardless of whether who is first or sixth, they are all rising in terms of new clients. What will the incumbents do?
Disclaimer: The author of this text, Jean Chalopin, is a global business leader with a background encompassing banking, biotech and entertainment. Mr. Chalopin is Chairman of Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The co-author of this text, Conor Scott, has been active in the international private banking industry since 2012, focusing on relationship management, investment advisory and research. Mr. Scott is a Business Development Analyst at Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text are solely the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Deltec International Group, its subsidiaries, and/or its employees.
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