Chris Skinner's blog

Shaping the future of finance

Ring out the old, ring in the new

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Like many of us, I have several pet hates about banks. My main one is when they sting you with charges you don’t expect. I always remember getting a £50 charge for an unauthorised overdraft a few years ago. I’d been with the bank for over twenty years and never been overdrawn before. This instance was caused by a payment I’d expected being credited a day late. Tough. Here’s the bill.

In fact, I realise that I have the same issue with any company. Extra taxes on my hotel stay that weren’t quoted on the booking; suddenly high billing from my mobile provider due to one call made out of plan; hidden service fees on Airbnb that weren’t made obvious; and so on and so forth.

It made me think about what does make for a great experience?

  • First has to be complete transparency and no hidden surprises.
  • Second would be an experience better than expected. I certainly get that from some of the new kids on the block.
  • Third is something that feels like it has been designed just for me.
  • And finally, is value for money.

I’m sure there’s more we could add to the list but transparency, a great experience, personalisation and great value are all up there at the top of my list.

So then I go back to thinking about my bank, and can’t say they meet these criteria. There is little transparency; the experience is average; it’s definitely not tailored to me; and the value is not obvious.

I then think about my new bank app from one of the upstarts and it’s the opposite. They’ve designed the bank from the ground-up with these principles in mind. This is what is needed to truly leverage capabilities against the incumbent crowd. Even so, getting customers to switch is still hard.

In fact, it intrigued me that the UK regulator is looking at making it mandatory for banks to offer services, such as placing blocks on ordering from companies you don’t like or making payments to accounts that don’t match the account name. The former is illustrated well by Monzo and Starling who allow you to block certain companies, such as gambling stores, to minimise your addictions. The latter is a scam, where fraudsters get you to send a payment to a dummy account,  which you only realise after the fact was a dummy account.

The interesting aspect of both of these developments is that it requires a redevelopment of core systems thinking for the big banks to implement such changes, and that’s hard. However, the more that the new banks offer in terms of services and flexibility, the more that the old banks will find their systems being challenged.

In fact, maybe it’s not that challenger banks are challenging the old banks but more that they are challenging the old banks’ systems. That’s where the weaknesses can be found, and these are just a few illustrations of how to bring that to light.  There will be more because, if you consider my starting point, the more transparent, personalised and valuable the experience I have with new financial brands, the more the old financial brands will start to lose out.

We shall see.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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