I’m from Pontypridd, a small Welsh town, famous for Tom Jones and once the longest stone bridge in the world (look it up!). It’s not unusual that everyone there banks with the major names: HSBC, Natwest, Santander and Lloyds. And when asked why they remain loyal to these banks, people have little to argue about; customers know where their money is and where to find their local branch. It’s a feeling of security and comfort.
This sentiment of switching banks is the same all over the UK. And this is because a framework of trust has been built up around these institutions over generations to keep people’s money safe. So, I ask, what’s new pussycat? Or rather, what’s causing people to change their current account providers elsewhere? And why isn’t everyone on board?
What’s become clear is that the way young people, in particular, relate to their finances, is fundamentally changing. For example, I signed up to Monzo only a few months ago, and it is ideal for me, especially as I like to travel abroad and don’t have to take out a load of Euros for my exotic trips to Ireland. It also helps me budget and track my money, by showing a chart of my (disastrous) spending. Also, Transferwise was extremely useful when I worked in Spain and wanted to transfer money home without going through banks - it was a very quick process and less stressful than speaking Spanish. It also goes with the current trend of branches closing and most people managing their finances via mobile. The days of going into a branch to deal with your daily finances are decreasing every day. Banks not only have apps to suit general bank accounts, but there are some banks even allowing you to start a mortgage application from your flat. The relevance of the branch is quickly fading.
These are not the only areas of personal finance which have been transformed by fintech apps. As providers like Wealthify or Pension Bee emerge, it makes it easier than ever for younger generations to manage their finances holistically, while giving them the chance to invest and access financial advice for ISAs, pensions, etc. And established companies are getting involved too. For example, Nutmeg, who have been around for many years, have transformed their business by having their own app, to stay tuned to modern consumers. This is due to two main drivers: competition from new start-ups and technological innovation; and a change in the way people perceive their relationships with their finances.
The concept of everything being digital is the representation of a great transformation of financial services which the younger generation have gladly adopted. Technology has accelerated rapidly, and with this has come higher expectations from younger customers. Obviously, in the past the idea of finances was static but now, money management is a proactive – consumers have the power to move their money from one bank to the next, at any moment across their devices. Whilst, before consumers wanted their money to be sealed in a vault, in a bank near them.
It took a while for consumers to switch accounts with gas, electric, TV subscriptions, Internet and phone contracts. The time will come for bank accounts too, when everyone feels comfortable changing accounts. Here lies the opportunity for banks to embrace fintechs to build a model which works for all generations, and for challengers to take their innovation to the next level. Ultimately, we will see in the next few years if we will still be asking why, why, why people won’t switch accounts.
The seemingly unstoppable rise of fintech challenger banks continued in the final three months of 2018, with Monzo and Starling gaining almost 10,000 current account customers via the switching service.