Ripe for disruption
A rush of new entrants hope to shake up banking
“I PROMISE to open a bank account for a British citizen in just two minutes”, says Nazzim Ishaque brightly. With a background in IT, banking and asset management, he is submitting plans to the regulators to start a new bank called Lintel; the two-minute pledge is one of his selling points. Mr Ishaque reckons that he can do better than the existing banks, and is putting plenty of his own money where his mouth is, as part of the ￡5m ($7.5m) start-up cost. He hopes to start doing business early next year.
Since April 2013 three new British banks have appeared and three outfits have taken over old licences. Martin Stewart, who doles out banking licences at the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), part of the Bank of England, says people are now applying to open banks in “unprecedented numbers”. Four applicants are likely to start operating this year, he says, with a further four or so probably coming to market next year. At least as far as the consumer is concerned, banking could be on the verge of quite a shake-up.
Since March 2013 the process to apply for a license has been streamlined. The PRA claims that a new bank can be up and running just six months after final authorisation. The capital requirements for the start-ups are lower than they used to be. And many of the new entrants are acting like classic entrepreneurs. They work out how the existing banks are failing customers, then look for niches, whether in products, customers or technology. All are encouraged by the growing willingness of consumers to switch from one bank to another (see chart), stimulated in part by regulations designed to make this easier.
Mr Ishaque's niche will be immigrants, both students on short-stay visas and longer-term economic migrants. They are treated “extremely badly” by existing banks, he claims. He will offer a full range of products, in many languages, digitally and also at a few branches, to be located at the most convenient places for his target customers—such as the railway stations in London that serve Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Atom Bank's niche, by contrast, is technological. It will be the first British bank to be digital-only, with all transactions done through smartphones and tablets, via an app. This ought to lower the bank's overheads. Set up by Mark Mullen, a former head of branchless bank First Direct, and Anthony Thomson, co-founder of another of the new wave of “challenger” banks, Metro, Atom Bank should start operating in the second half of this year. (Metro Bank itself, which started in 2010, is following a quite different road: it is opening new branches almost as quickly as traditional banks like Lloyds, RBS, Barclays and HSBC are closing them.)
The banking sector is currently the subject of a review by the Competition and Markets Authority, an official watchdog. Most of the new entrants would agree with the authority's criticism that some features of the current banking market “prevent, restrict or distort competition”, in relation to both personal customers and small businesses. The entrepreneurs also claim that their innovative new products and technologies will help to address some of those criticisms. Mr Mullen, for instance, attacks what he calls the opaque pricing of many current accounts: a selling point of Atom Bank, he claims, is that all its pricing will be utterly transparent. “We will drive change,” he says.
1.hope to 希望
I hope to God they are paying you well.
The organisers hope to raise as much as ￡6m for charity.
2.apply for 申请
Investors can apply for a package of shares at a set price.
She graduated with high enough marks to apply for university.
3.agree with 同意；赞同
The dampness of the forest did not agree with him physically.
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