I just had a week down-under in the land of the roo, and discovered that the RBA – Reserve Bank of Australia – has done an about turn in the last couple of years and encouraged some innovation in banking (at last!). As a result, I was pleasantly surprised to find FOUR neobanks lurking around, so here is a quick overview of each.
Probably the one I am closest to is 86400, so I’ll start with them.
Backed by the payments company Cuscal, 86400 emerged last summer with one of the founders being my mate Anthony Thomson, the co-founder of Britain’s Metro Bank and Atom Bank. Anthony is Chairman of 86400 and CEO is Rob Bell.
The name comes from the idea that you need to be in touch with your money every second of the day and, as there are 86400 seconds in a day, 86400 will do that for you. It’s a digital first bank that aims to challenge the Big Four – ANZ, CBA, NAB and Westpac – which after the recent Royal Commission findings may be a great time to do just that.
Fully funded by Cuscal to get started, the bank aims to launch in the summer this year and has a small team of just under 100 people working on the idea in downtown Sydney. The only thing that’s challenging in that process is getting their banking licence from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) which, at this time, only Volt has managed to achieve.
Volt Bank is launching soon and got an unrestricted banking licence in January. The difference between a Restricted and Unrestricted banking licence, is that the former means you can take no more than AUD$2 million in deposits, so it keeps the bank in test mode; the latter allows full-service deposit account-based banking.
The company has 100 staff and raised AUD$45 million in equity. It is aiming to break even by 2022 and, alongside its retail banking products, the start-up will offer budgeting and savings tools for smart phones, before expanding into small business banking in 2020.
Volt’s board includes former Foxtel chief executive Peter Tonagh and former Tabcorp chief information officer Kim Wenn, and it has a partnership with PayPal that will allow customers to start an account with their PayPal credentials.
There’s then a new bank called Xinja, which to me sounds like some Japanese warrior.
Xinja, like Monzo in the UK, likes to claim they are Australia’s first crowdfunded bank, and was one of the first Aussie neobanks back in 2017. They got their restricted banking licence from APRA in December 2018, and have until the end of 2020 to prove that they deserve a full banking licence.
The company raised $2.7 million by crowdfunding from 1,200 retail investors last year, and raised a further $2.6 million of funding from nearly 1,600 retail investors in February 2019. Retail investors were joining a $10 million Series B funding round, of which $5 million had already been raised outside of the crowdfunding platform.
The party isn’t over until the last Xinja sings ?????(invests) 3⃣hrs to go peeps! Giddy up ?our crowdfund closes ? at 5pm! Own a piece of Xinja✊ from as little as $255
nb: don’t invest what you can’t afford to lose
.#xinjabank #xinjacrowdfund pic.twitter.com/wAlD2X7men
— xinjamoney (@xinjamoney) February 22, 2019
Like their neobank brethren 86400 and Volt Bank, Xinja hope to get a full bank licence and launch home loans and deposit accounts during summer 2019.
I guess all of them are on the up and up which, funnily enough, brings me to Up.
Up avoided the lengthy process of applying for a banking license by partnering with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank – better known as Bendigo Bank – to launch its smartphone app, created by South-Melbourne based technology developer Ferocia. From Up’s blog:
Up launched publicly in October 2018, just over 12 weeks ago, but the Up journey actually started back in 2016 when we first pitched the idea to Bendigo Bank. It took about one year of development and testing before we launched the first working version of Up into production in late 2017. Then we tested Up for another year to make sure we had everything sorted before public launch, which means Up was being used for the whole of 2018.
Functionality wise, the Up app provides time of day on spending, merchant ID, location, automated weekly spend tracking and spending analysis, including how much you’ve spent at one shop in the last year or from month-to-month. The app predicts upcoming charges automatically, pays them on time, automatically generates reports and can show how much has been spent with one provider over time. There are no account fees and withdrawals are free from most Australian ATMs.
Up launches with a savings interest rate of 0.75% plus a bonus rate 2% and a digital card from within the Up app. Up also supports Google Pay, Garmin Pay and Fitbit Pay.
Typically for Aussies, I guess they’re always getting it up.
P.S. Bendigo Bank has also set the clock ticking with Tic Toc. Not really a bank, but a new financial digital firm focused upon home loans, it’s also a digital first play worth a look.