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Higher Rates Aren’t Enough for Monzo and Other Mobile-Only Banks to Topple Traditional Players

(London, UK):  Three-in-ten cardholders are interested in switching to mobile-only banking options if they offer superior interest rates and rewards, creating a potentially major disruption for traditional banks, according to new research from Auriemma Group. And digital challenger banks, like Monzo, Atom Bank and Tandem Bank are competitively courting traditional bank customers with their modern technology and slick user experience.

While these new digital challengers pressure traditional banks to add new services and offer rich digital experiences to their customers, the realities of operating costs and large, physical footprints put incumbents at a slight disadvantage in responding quickly to the competitive environment.

With less overhead, digital challengers can nimbly offer richer rates or other attractive offers. For example, Atom Bank and Tandem Bank, currently offer 2.00% AER on one-year fixed saver accounts, compared to well under 1.00% for Barclays, Lloyds, and HSBC.

Despite those offers, most consumers don’t know about the competitive rates mobile-only banks offer. Less than one-in-ten UK cardholders are familiar with digital challenger banks, and the 47% uninterested in switching to one often say it’s because they don’t know enough about them. Consumers are most familiar with Monzo at 9%, followed by Atom Bank and Tandem Bank at 8% and 7% respectively.

“The struggle for mobile-only banks will be educating consumers on their service—most haven’t heard of them,” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director of Payment Insights at Auriemma. “Traditional institutions should be looking to these challengers and adopting the features and functionalities customers are most excited about before the banks become mainstream.”

For traditional banks, marketing the features where they beat the digital-only players—such as savings on current accounts, regular savers, and other perks—will be key to stand out amid the more niche benefits of digital challengers. Other types of features and functionalities that would be attractive to consumers include the ability to quickly connect to customer service agents by phone or chat, a well-designed, user-friendly app interface and the ability to use biometrics for logins and transactions.

Some consumers say they will remain loyal to their traditional bank regardless of the development of new innovations or services because they’re currently satisfied with the service (47%) or simply prefer banks that have a physical location (36%).

Mobile-only banks will need to overcome consumers’ lack of familiarity with mobile-only banks and loyalty to traditional banks, but they could potentially catch up by communicating their value to younger cardholders, who are more likely to make the switch.

But these aren’t the only difficulties ahead for digital challengers. For example, only one-in-five of Monzo’s users deposit their salary, according to a Reuters interview with Tom Blomfield, Monzo’s chief executive. And Auriemma’s research found that 59% of credit cardholders would not trust financial technology startups with their banking data.

“Having origins in the prepaid space has limited consumers’ perception of Monzo’s capabilities,” says Holmes. “As a bank, Monzo is now tasked with changing some of these perceptions and building greater trust in its brand.”

In an effort to be viewed more like a traditional bank, Monzo announced this month that customers won’t be able to top up their account with a debit card. Instead, Monzo will accept funds via bank transfer. Changes like this, and the push for users to utilise direct deposit, are the first steps in getting consumers to use Monzo, and other digital challengers, as their primary bank.

“The challenges mobile-only banks face as they navigate a market dominated by established, trusted banks are many, but the group could have a bright future,” says Holmes. “If nothing else, their very existence will cause traditional banks to rethink their offerings and focus on innovation—a huge win for consumers across the UK.”

 Survey Methodology

This study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma in July 2018, among 800 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed on a monthly basis is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification. For more information, call Jaclyn Holmes at +44 (0) 2076-290075.

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