On November 9th 2019, I went to Monzo’s #FutureofMonzo event.
Anyone who knows me well knows of my love for Monzo. I was a fan before I even became a customer. My fan girl mode was definitely on when I set up an alarm clock to make sure I could get my ticket on the first release.
The weather on the day was horrible and the cold made me want to crawl back into bed but it was all worth it to hear first hand what Monzo has in store in the future.
A few weeks have gone by since the event and I’ve had time to review my notes and digest everything that went on during the day.
If you’re keen to see what went on, you can check it all out here: https://monzo.com/i/the-future-of-monzo
What is Monzo?
If you don’t live in the UK, or the US where Monzo is in beta, you may be excused for not knowing what Monzo.
It’s a bank.
There, I’ve said it.
But it’s not a boring or annoying bank. It’s a digital bank. There are no queuing at branches, no taking ages to open a bank account and no terrible UX.
It’s a unicorn. They serve 3.2m+ customers, they have 1400 employees and counting, and they have raised in total £324.7m from the likes of Passion Capital, Accel and Local Globe.
1. Monzo’s vision is definitely not tiny
Monzo wants to become your super-app/control centre for your finances— both for your personal and business needs.
It makes sense. Traditional banks, despite their faults, have been doing this — or at least trying to — for ages. You go to your high street bank and they help you get a mortgage, get insurance, invest some of your cash and save some money. It is reasonable for Monzo to want to do the same — and to try to do so better.
It also makes sense given the myriad of customer-facing fin-tech apps available today. I’ve found myself comparing and contrasting all sorts of different products for saving and investing and the process made me feel completely overwhelmed. Having everything under one roof can make life easier and thanks to open banking, it seems achievable.
What does this mean in practice? Expect to get to see your credit score in the Monzo ecosystem. If you are a business account holder, expect to have Monzo take care of your billing & invoicing, payroll and accounting all in one place.
2. Monzo is in the US- the first step to international expansion?
They’ve got a Beta. They have some customers — and plenty others on the waiting list waiting to access the product in the US.
Will they be able to win?
Monzo has taken a radically different approach from some of its digital bank competitors, waiting way longer before dipping its toes in international waters. N26, the German-born digital bank is available in 26 markets. Revolut is available in many European countries, has launched in Australia and Singapore and plans to take a number of other countries by storm.
The jury is still out. I think that they stand a chance and the reason why is simple: Monzo has been building its bank by constantly listening and talking to its community of users. The fact that they actively realise that they will need to rethink the app when they’ll start expanding in cash-based economies to better meet the needs of their users says a lot.
They won’t have first mover advantage but perhaps it is not necessary. After all Google was not the first search engine….
3. Walking the walk on Diversity & Inclusion
The #FutureofMonzo event was the first time we’ve got to see Sheree Atcheson, Monzo’s newly appointed Head of Diversity and Inclusion. And she’s phenomenal.
Every time she said something I found myself nodding in agreement and thinking “preach!”
In her speech she talked openly about the issues in the finance and tech industries; what has gone well but how much more we need to do to help everyone belong. She spoke about how companies who don’t care about diversity are shooting themselves in the foot (businesses that are diverse outperform those who aren’t). And finally she explained what her 3 months plan is: listening to what Monzo employees have to say; have frank conversations about everything from race to intersectionality; and create data-driven strategies for D&I to be tested.
The fact that Monzo, a scale-up, is thinking about D&I and is working to walk the walks is awesome. We see plenty of players in the industry talking and blabbing about how they care about women, how they care about diversity. So they do their panels, their black history month events, their LGBTQ+ months events and then forget about these issues the rest of the year.
It is still early days, but I am excited to see what Monzo gets up to in terms of D&I. I am hopeful that they’ll keep being transparent and honest and that by doing the hard work now they’ll build strong foundations as the business continues to scale rapidly.
4. Beware the Tech Giants
During the Q&A session at the end of the event, someone asked how Monzo prepares for competition as tech giants like Uber are looking to break into the industry.
Tom Blomfield, Monzo’s CEO, said that he wasn’t very concerned by the tech giants because they’re working around the edges — Google Wallet, Facebook Credits and the like — instead of trying to become the centre of your financial life à la Monzo.
To be fair, he did say that he was worried about other players coming in and being able to become a financial control centre for their users without a banking licence.
Still, I think that the nibbling around the edges that these tech giants are doing serve one purpose: getting to that financial control centre position that Monzo wants for itself sooner or later.
Uber now has “Uber Money”, which plans to offer bank accounts to move beyond payments to offer bank accounts to drivers and couriers. Google is in talks with banks so that it can offer current accounts to its users. Apple now has a credit card and there’s nothing stopping it from offering way more financial services in the future.
Take Apple’s foray into healthcare. Through the Apple Health app, the company is positioning itself as your personal health record, the control centre for your health. As Apple is moving away from its reliance on hardware to offering more and more services, it is reasonable to assume that they’d want to do the same for consumer-facing financial services.
Only time will tell what will happen.
Here are my two cents/pence on Monzo and its plans for its future. Would love to hear your thoughts about challenger banks! Is it all hype or will they last? Are incumbents destined to fail? Or will the tech giants overtake the banking industry?