UK challenger banks: who’s who (and what’s their tech)
With so many new entrants trying to muscle into the UK banking sector, FinTech Futures has put together a comprehensive list of the known challengers to date and the technology they are using.
We’ll be revisiting and updating this list on a regular basis. If you have any additions to the list, please get in touch with our editorial team.
Last updated: 06 May 2021
A start-up bank for SMEs, based in Glasgow, Scotland. It focuses on providing lending and savings facilities to businesses through its “relationship-based model”.
In February 2021, family-led fund manager Seismic Venture Partners announced a £5 million Series A round for smaller investors to buy shares in Bank Alba. Scottish Industrialist Jim McColl is a founding investor.
The fintech start-up said the round transitioned it to second-stage operational status under a restricted license.
Scottish industrialist and billionaire Jim McColl is a founding investor. It launched with 35 staff. “Alba” is the Scottish Gaelic name for “Scotland”.
The people behind AlbaCo have plenty of experience in the banking world, with several (such as the CEO and CFO) coming from Airdrie Savings Bank (the bank closed its operations in 2018).
Its CEO is Rod Ashley. Whilst Michael Harriman, who oversaw the technology side at fellow SME challenger Redwood Bank, is now an IT advisor to AlbaCo.
For its technology, the bank selected Temenos Infinity and Temenos T24 Transact, as well as analytics and payments modules. Temenos is providing full hosting and application management services to Alba running on the Microsoft Azure cloud using Temenos Cloud Services.
This bank was created in 2009 with a key focus on the SME sector. The bank’s HQ is in Reading, Berkshire.
It was initially backed by AnaCap. In 2015, Aldermore was successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange.
For its core platform, it uses Temenos’ T24 Transact system. For digital banking, it has got Backbase’s Omnichannel Banking Platform.
In March 2018, South Africa’s financial services group FirstRand acquired Aldermore.
Resting on microservices and containerised software, this fintech start-up is targeting users which want an ethical banking alternative.
Its offering caters to a range of banking customers. These include Muslim consumers who require sharia-compliant banking services, as well as those wishing to make their banking habits more eco-conscious
Co-founder and CEO, Zeiad Idris, is also the co-founder of New World Capital Advisors (NWCA), a London-based merchant banking and investment firm..
Algbra, which was incubated through NWCA, intends to leverage its partner network to grow its user base quickly.
The start-up wants to take a “one-stop shop” approach to products, including ethical insurance, mortgages and personal financial management (PFM).
Algbra’s chief strategy officer, Nizam Uddin, a former executive at The Prince’s Trust, landed an OBE in 2020 for “social mobility and community integration”.
Allica Bank (formerly CivilisedBank)
Originally known as CivilisedBank, this bank received its licence in May 2017, but relinquished it a year later to take more time developing its technology platform. It then reapplied for a new licence and received it in H2 2019.
The bank offers business current accounts with deposits, transaction banking, overdrafts, FX, investments, savings and loans.
In December 2018, the bank changed its name to Allica, which, it said, reflected its “repositioned digital and relationship offer”. It also ousted the original founder, Jason Scott.
Its main shareholder is PE firm Warwick Capital, which invested £26 million in Allica in September 2020.
For its software, the bank opted for a packaged solution from local consultancy firm, Tusmor. It consists of Profile Software’s FMS for core banking operations, Dovetail (now Fiserv) for payments, Sphonic for risk management and AML, and Aqilla for accounting system.
Allica relies on an existing local network built up by traditional finance brokers, and ex-banker relationship managers. The start-up makes its money through commercial property lending – i.e. loans to support the spaces in which businesses operate.
This business mobile banking app comes with a free Mastercard debit card. It allows sole traders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners to manage their finances.
Founded in 2017, Amaiz’s business office is based in London, and the R&D office is in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The company is led by founder and CEO Sergei Dobrovolskii.
It is a registered agent of PrePay Technologies Limited. The fintech currently operates in the UK market only.
As of April 2021, plan prices ranged from £4.99 to £99.00 a month. Features include live business support, a GBP current account, smart expense categorisation, receipt capture, invoice storage, international transfers and multi-currency transactions.
Atmen is a challenger banking service promising to “bring colour to banking”. Currently, the start-up is bootstrapped.
Its blockchain-based banking-as-a-service (BaaS) provider, Optherium, is licensed to operate in the UK, EEA, SEPA region and the US, which aligns with the fintech’s expansion plans.
Founded by Marvyn Smith and Dele Abibu in June 2020, the Black-led fintech start-up wants to address some of the “unconscious biases” communities of colour face in the financial industry..
It offers free in-app peer-to-peer transfers, with multi-currency transfers – i.e. remittances – generating the initial source of income.
In the future, Atmen intends to offer small business loans, in order to help Black-led business which struggle to get access to finance.
This digital bank that was founded in 2014, and opened for business in October 2016.
It has a hefty technology set-up. This includes FIS’s Profile core banking system. As well as FIS/Sungard’s Ambit Quantum and Ambit Focus for treasury and risk management. Iress’ Mortgage Sales & Origination (MSO) suite for its mortgage business and front-to-back office. Wolters Kluwer’s OneSumX for regulatory reporting. Intelligent Environments (IE) for front office capabilities. CSC’s ConfidentID system for security. Phoebus Software for secured business lending and account servicing for residential lending. And finally, WDS Virtual Agent for customer queries supplied by WDS (a subsidiary of Xerox).
In 2018, it announced a multi-year tech deal with Thought Machine, a UK-based core banking software start-up. The bank also chose TruNarrative to help guard against financial crime in May 2019. And selected Google Cloud to underpin its application and product development.
Atom Bank also acquired a local digital design agency, Grasp.
In H1 2017, it announced it was suspending the launch of current accounts. Later in the year, it partnered with Deposit Solutions to offer retail deposits in Germany.
In early 2019, the bank was rumoured to be up for sale, with investor BBVA as a potential acquirer.
In April 2021, Atom raised a £40 million at 60p-a-share, around half the price at which it raised equity in 2019. The round was led by BBVA which owns about 40% of Atom.
London-based fintech start-up Babb App is creating a bank based on a “permissioned” blockchain implementation of a distributed ledger using Ethereum smart contracts.
In early 2018, it raised $20 million in funding and was looking to raise another £1.5 million later that year for 1.48% of the business (at a pre-money valuation of $100 million). At the time, it had a community of 50,000 people spanning 173 nationalities.
Babb is regulated as an approved payment institution (API) by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It plans to become a licensed bank in the UK and/or EU, offering a bank account, payment card, and access to its global peer-to-peer network.
It does not see itself as a “challenger” but as co-operating with existing banks and financial institutions. It works with Contis Group to utilise Contis’ white-label licence and banking services infrastructure to provide UK bank accounts, transfer and card payment services.
It began by focusing on using crypto to help raise money for worthy causes. In April 2021, the start-up said it was moving away from this to focus on P2P payments and multi-tokenised fiat.
Bank of Dave (Burnley Savings and Loans)
Bank of Dave is a brainchild of David Fishwick, a UK businessman. In 2011, he set up Burnley Savings and Loans, a lending company based in Burnley, UK.
The company describes itself as “a fair and friendly loans facility to the people and businesses of Burnley and Lancashire, and we’ll do it with genuine personal service for our customers”.
Bank of Dave launched a funding round of £5 million on crowdfunding platform Seedrs in October 2018 to fund its banking licence. It marked the first time Fishwick has accepted outside investment. Fishwick has invested £2 million in the business.
For its technology, it will use Finastra’s Fusionbanking Essence core banking system.
FinTech Futures reached out to Bank of Dave to understand the status of its banking licence.
A London-based subsidiary of India’s Bank of Baroda. The bank was operating a foreign branch in the UK for many years. It received a banking licence from the UK regulator at the end of 2017.
For its core banking technology, Baroda UK uses Infosys’ Finacle, which is Bank of Baroda’s standard core banking solution for international operations.
This London-based business is the investment banking division of BCS Financial Group, the largest independent securities broker on the Russian exchange.
It obtained a UK transaction banking licence in 2018.
BCS GM offers investment and corporate banking services, as well as providing customers with an international payments system covering 180 countries.
BCS uses Calypso Technology’s software for asset management, front-to-back office.
In October 2020, the bank appointed the former head of IT and operations at Sberbank, Moscow-based Vadim Kotov, as its chief operations officer.
BFC Bank is a subsidiary of the Bahrain Financing Company (BFC) money transfer group. The project went through some stops and starts, but the bank finally received its banking licence in 2016.
BFC opted for an outsourced “bank in a box” version of ERI’s Olympic core banking system. The system is hosted by Blue Chip.
For its anti-money laundering (AML) operations BFC uses the AMLtrac tool from a UK-based provider, iFinancial.
The bank finally launched in the UK in May 2018. Its offering focuses on banking services for SMEs and payments service providers (PSPs).
International payments, multi-currency accounts and foreign exchange (FX) are BFC Bank’s core competencies.
“BFC Bank is not another so-called ‘challenger bank’,” the firm said in a 2018 press release.
B-North (also known as BankNorth) is based in Manchester in the north of England. It is the creation of five founders, who mainly come from another challenger bank, Atom. B-North’s focus is on SME lending.
The forces behind B-North are GrowthFunders and G.Ventures (the trading names of UK-based Growth Capital Ventures). It has also received funding from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).
It has applied for a banking licence. FinTech Futures reached out to the start-up to check its status.
The bank operates “lending pods” in major cities across the UK, the first of which is in Manchester. Each pod contains people experienced in the lending needs of SMEs, including underwriters with discretion to sanction facilities locally and an in-house valuer.
All loan applications are managed locally, and customers have access to the local teams and resource in the B-North head office.
According to B-North, this highly localised model allows lending to be made available to SMEs within ten working days.
For its tech, BankNorth became the first user of a co-created solution by German core banking tech vendor Mambu and a US-based lendtech provider, nCino. The software is hosted in the cloud.
In January 2021, it signed an advertising-for-equity deal with Channel 4 Ventures.
London-based mobile banking app Bofin offers consumers and businesses the ability to open a bank account in GBP and EUR. It partners with FCA-regulated AF Payments Limited to issue its Mastercard.
It was founded in 2016 under the name of Bizfactor, which was changed to Bofin in November 2017.
It lets people open a personal or business current account in under two minutes via mobile – and all “without credit checks, proof of local address, business plans or any other hassle”, it says. It is inviting users to sign up to a wishlist on its website.
At present, Bofin enables users to connect to their money from 16 countries in the app and open a UK personal or business current account from within any EU or EEA country.
The firm is the creation of Mohamed Dafea, a Leicester (UK) based chartered engineer with over 12 years of experience in the oil and gas industry.
In May 2018, Bofin was looking for Android, iOS and Dot Net developers to be based in Chennai, India.
British Business Bank
BBB is a government-backed bank for SMEs.
The state-owned bank was responsible for accrediting lenders to issue coronavirus business loans during the pandemic.
In June 2020, it appointed interim CEO Catherine Lewis La Torre, who was previously managing two other of the bank’s commercial subsidiaries – British Patient Capital and British Business Investments.
Keith Morgan, who has led the bank since December 2013, announced his departure last October. He leaves the bank following its growth to £7.7 billion in loans and investments made to more than 94,000 businesses.
After launching in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium, Bunq also wennt live in the UK in October 2019. The challenger bank is now active in all European Union countries, as well as European Economic Area (EEA) countries Norway and Iceland.
The Netherlands-based neobank has some clear differentiators in its technology, which was developed from scratch and took around one year.
Founder Ali Niknam describes bunq as “a bank built by coders”. This was from the database level to the app level, including card processing.
Everything is on Amazon’s AWS cloud apart from the bank’s private keys, which reside in a couple of data centres in the Netherlands. Fundamental to the development was scalability and keeping things simple, he says.
Niknam, born in Canada from Iranian descent and now living in the Netherlands, financed the venture himself without the help of venture capitalists.
In June 2020, it unvieled a “new-look”’ ‘bunq V3’ banking app. Its main feature allows users to donate to charities in the app and create their own local charities which they can invite other members to.
Cambridge & Counties Bank
CCB is nother bank for SMEs. It is owned by Trinity Hall, Cambridge and Cambridgeshire Local Government Pension Fund. The bank already has a licence and is in operation.
It uses Phoebus Software’s front-to-back office software. The front end of the solution originates from the now defunct QTS – it now resides with Phoebus and has been integrated into its portfolio of offerings.
In April 2021, the bank appointed its new chief transformation officer, David Holton. He was hired to focus the bank’s technology investments on customer experience and core customer journeys.
Holton spent more than three years at Scottish Widows, before moving to Lloyds – Scottish Widows acquirer – to head up retirement and investment digital products.
Cashplus is the product brand of Advanced Payment Solutions (APS Financial). APS Financial has been around since 2006, operating with an e-money licence. It has issued over 1.3 million cards and processed £4 billion worth of payments to date.
Cashplus offers a prepaid card (Mastercard) and current account for individuals and businesses.
The fintech announced plans to apply for a banking licence in early 2018. It landed a full banking licence in February 2021.
Cashplus received a credit licence from the FCA back in 2016, which enabled it to carry out consumer credit lending (including high-cost short-term credit lending) to micro SMEs, sole traders and consumers.
In January 2021, Cashplus bought the 5,000 customer strong portfolio of Manchester-based firm, icount.
Investment firm Castle Trust revealed its invitation by UK regulators to apply for a banking licence in November 2019. It landed its licence in June 2020, after being authorised with restrictions in March 2020.
The licence meant Castle Trust could convert its 30,000 existing investment accounts into savings accounts.
“The full banking licence opens up many new opportunities for the business, which we expect to benefit our specialist property finance and retail finance offerings,” CEO Martin Bischoff said in June 2020. “We already have 200,000 customers and look forward to helping even more in the future.”
Founded in 2012, the London-based company has historically offered a range of investment products as well as mortgages and development finance loans.
London-based fintech Centtrip specialises in treasury management (including payments and FX) in the corporate, marine and music sectors.
Founded in 2015 and privately owned (with venture capital backing), it is regulated by the FCA as an EMI. The EMI licence was granted in spring 2018.
Centtrip’s technology operates a multi-currency account, prepaid multi-currency Mastercard and app that allows clients to hold, exchange and make transfers in different currencies. Centtrip’s multi-currency account enables financial directors, CFOs and accountants to run, reconcile and keep track of business expenditure in real time.
The card is available with three base currencies to choose from: EUR, GBP or USD. Its customers mainly consist of nternational music artists and superyachts, which use it for cashless touring or cruising.
In July 2019, Centtrip established a new company in Amsterdam, Centtrip Europe BV, to grow its presence in mainland Europe.
Charter Savings Bank
This online savings bank was launched by Charter Court Financial Services in 2015, aimed at the consumer market. Charter Court also operates Exact Mortgage Experts and Precise Mortgages.
The group uses FIS/Sungard’s Ambit Treasury Management, plus solutions from DPR Consulting and Phoebus.
In 2016, the private equity firm that owns Charter Court (Elliott Associates) put it up for sale, with a price tag of up to £500 million.
A challenger bank based in Wales, Chetwood Financial is supported by the Welsh government which provided the bank with a £750,000 business loan.
Chetwood was set up in January 2016. It launched its first digital lending product under the LiveLend brand the following year. The technology behind LiveLend is provided by Yobota, a cloud-based operating platform for financial institutions.
In October 2020, it launched its second lending product, Better Borrow – its interest rate changes dynamically alongside the consumer’s credit score.
Chetwood received a full banking licence at the end of 2018. It also obtained a £40 million investment from Elliott Advisors (as part of the latter’s £150 million debt and equity commitment).
The start-up says it uses technology “to make people better off, through the design and manufacture of digital products across financial services”.
The bank is focused “distinct customer segments that are currently underserved by the market”. It emphasises that unlike traditional banking models, it is “not obsessed with customer ownership and cross-selling other products”, but rather focuses on standalone products that are optimal for its customers.
Savings app Chip sees itself as a “challenger bank for savings” in the UK. The firm was set up in 2016 and in autumn 2018 completed its Series A crowdfunding round on Crowdcube, raising over £4 million.
The app uses artificial intelligence (AI) to calculate how much a user can save, and automatically transfers that money to their Chip savings account.
This is a new account that a customer opens when he/she signs up with Chip – it is in customer’s name and hosted at Barclays Bank. Essentially, it’s an e-wallet. The account holder can access their money any time, Chip says.
In 2019, the company planned to launch a community lending service, ChipX. But in February 2021, Chip’s CMO announced ChipX was arriving in the “next couple of months”.
He also highlighted that the product was now a premium plan, charging customers a £3 subscription every 28 days with a 0.25% platform fee.
In November 2017, Chip reportedly set its sights on applying for a banking licence. In March 2020, it was approved by the FCA as an authorised payment institution.
City of London Group (COLG) applied for a banking licence in 2017 to target commercial, SME, bridging and development finance. It raised £20 million in H2 2017 for the licence application.
Recognise, a subsidiary of COLG, was awarded a restricted banking licence in November 2020. A few months earlier, COLG reported a loss before tax of £9.7 million in the year to 31 March 2020, compared to a loss of £3.5 million a year prior.
COLG is backed by Delancey and Bard family. It operates two platforms: one focuses on providing finance to the SME sector, including professional services firms, through both lease finance and loan finance, and the other specialises in traditional and home reversion plans in the UK residential property market.
ClearBank was set up in 2015 and is registered in Norfolk. It was granted a licence at the end of 2016, and opened for business in 2017.
Nick Ogden, founder and former CEO of payments processing heavyweight WorldPay, heads up the venture.
ClearBank is a bank for banks, FIs and fintechs, i.e. a clearing bank. It offers customers access to UK payment systems and core banking technology to support current account capabilities. It does not offer retail banking services.
The company was the first new clearing bank in 250 years to enter the UK market. Ogden states it “was built specifically to create competition and aims to change the market dynamics radically”.
ClearBank users can save £2-3 billion annually on their transactional banking costs, according to Ogden.
The bank’s tech is cloud-based, built on Microsoft Azure (a combination of private and public clouds). It has a custom-built, integrated core banking system, known as ClearBank Core, and API developed in accordance with Swift’s ISO 20022 standards.
Its customers include Tide, OakNorth. Viva Wallet, Ecology Building Society, Allpay, and Transactive Systems.
In February 2019, it became one of the three recipients of the funds of Pool A Capability and Innovation Fund, set up by the RBS Banking Competition Remedies. It received £60 million.
This start-up is a bookkeeping service, rather than a fully-fledged bank.
It launched what it calls the “first” banking service targeted solely at freelancers (and self-employed people) in January 2018. Later that year, it launched a limited current account and invoicing tool.
The mobile app-based account comes with a bank account number and sort code, combining banking and accounting services. Among its features are ongoing real-time insights into how much tax freelancers need to pay.
In terms of the back-end technology, Coconut partnered with a BaaS provider.
In late 2018, it crowdfunded on Crowdcube, raising around £2 million. In July 2020, the start-up raised another £2.4 million – beating its target by 350%.
CSBA is a co-operative society. It has set up a UK-wide network of independent, customer-owned, regional banks. These banks support local communities and businesses.
“The UK is made up of distinctive regions, each with their own character and priorities,” CSBA states. “Strong regional banks that share those characteristics and have only those priorities is something we’re missing. We used to have it and its time to put it back.”
These banks therefore “serve the every day financial needs of ordinary people, local community groups, and SMEs”.
CSBA was originally working with an established bank, Airdrie Savings Bank, on this project. Airdrie was going to provide its banking expertise and IT systems to the new banks. However, the bank went out of business in early 2017.
CSBA then inked a tech deal with TCS Financial Solutions, for its member banks to use the vendor’s Bancs core banking system in the cloud.
The Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act was introduced in 2014, meaning it had only just become legally possible to establish banks of this kind when CSBA emerged.
Since 2017, UK charity RSA has supported CSBA.
Contis Group describes itself as “the home of alternative banking and payment solutions”.
The company was set up in 2007, receiving its e-money licence in 2010. It started offering its own debit card products in 2012.
It offers credEcard – a current account for consumers that comes with a Visa debit card, online e-account facilities and a mobile app.
As of 2016, Contis was a full agency bank. It provides white-label licence and banking services infrastructure for bank accounts, transfer and card payment services to fintechs. It also targets the European credit union market with a payments card product, Engage.
A standout feature of the offering is that Contis issues and processes in-house (unlike many other firms in this space). The company is PCI DSS Level 1 compliant.
Contis customers include Babb, Suits Me, and Token.
In 2018, Contis acquired UK-based Paze Finance. Paze’s consumer credit licence means Contis’ B2B platform clients can offer credit to their customers alongside core banking functionality.
Paze’s technology suite also went to Contis, including a consumer lending system with artificial intelligence (AI) analytics to make real-time affordability decisions.
This UK start-up is a banking and accounting service for small businesses and sole traders. It offers a free business current account that can be opened in five minutes on a smartphone.
The account comes with a UK sort code, account number and a contactless MasterCard. Countingup’s banking app also does users’ accounting, submits VAT returns, generates a profit and loss report, as well as creates their invoices.
In 2018, Countingup raised £2.3 million in seed funding. In March 2021, it landed £9.1 million in a Series A and announced a customer total of 34,000. Countingup previosuly raised a £4 million “bridge round” led by ING Ventures in May 2020.
As well as the Dutch bank, the digital bookkeeper’s investors also include Trulioo-backer Framework Venture Partners, Gresham House Ventures – which also backs FundingXchange – and software giant Sage.
This UK challenger is marrying carbon emission counting with personal financial management.
Features include account aggregation, money, spending and carbon footprint tracking. As well as expense planning and recommendations to reduce or offset your carbon emissions.
Roshan George, founder and CEO of Creed, is a former Bank of America, UBS and Barclays executive.
The start-up participated in the Capital Enterprise incubator programme. Both JP Morgan and the Mayor of London have invested in Capital Enterprise.
In February 2021, Creed claimed some 1,000 registered sign-ups, and it said its app was built to be compatible with 30 UK banks and credit.
Cynergy Bank is a rebrand of the Bank of Cyprus UK branch, following its acquisition by Cynergy Capital. The deal, announced July 2018, was closed at a value of £103 million later that year and the new brand was unveiled in December.
The new bank focuses on the UK’s SME sector, including the Cypriot community.
Cynergy assumed all aspects of Bank of Cyprus UK, including banking business, all assets and liabilities. Accounts, agreements and contracts remain unchanged, as well as day-to-day activities and the management team. The bank’s CEO is Nick Fahy, who was previously with Westpac and Bank of Ireland.
Bank of Cyprus was a long-standing user of Equation and Midas from Finastra (formerly Misys) for core processing, Fiserv (formerly Dovetail) for payments, and DPR Consulting for front-end operations, to FinTech Futures’ knowledge.
Following its acquisition, Cynergy Bank embarked on its technology review. Since then, the bank has signed technology partnerships with Google Cloud and Wipro. As of January 2021, the company bought into nCino’s Bank Operating System.
This start-up bank first began to enable sellers, buyers, and funders to transact international trade and commodity finance deals over the blockchain.
In May 2021, its website was live and accepting applications for invoice, purchase order, and supply chain financing,
Diaspora was founded in 2017 by a group of entrepreneurs and bankers, and is based in London’s Level 39. It also has an office in Den Haag, Netherlands.
Ibrahim Farag is the bank’s MD. His previously worked at FIMBank in Cairo and Union National Bank in Dubai.
DiPocket is not a bank, but a financial app that provides banking for “the mobile generation”. It markets itself as “the friendliest e-money wallet”.
The start-up is a financial institution authorised and regulated by FCA. It says it runs “a bank-grade IT infrastructure”.
Its offering includes payments services, underpinned by a Mastercard prepaid debit card. DiPocket is also a principal member of Mastercard.
Accounts and cards are available in currencies including GBP, EUR, PLN and USD, and accounts in CHF.
International transfers between DiPocket accounts are free.
The app also promises low currency exchange fees (Mastercard rates plus 1% commission), no FX fees for customers visiting the UK, US, Poland or any Eurozone countries, and low, flat fees for withdrawals at foreign ATMs.
The app also offers shared accounts for common expenses, and teenager accounts for financial independence under parents’ supervision.
In November 2020, GB & Partners Investment Management invested €6 million in DiPocket, taking majority ownership.
Distribution Finance Capital (DF Capital or DFC) was founded in 2016. It applied for a UK banking licence, which it secured in September 2020.
DFC is focused on providing additional working capital to product manufacturers, distributors and dealer networks.
The banking licence now also allows it to offer a range of personal savings products to retail customers.
DFC was owned by TruFin, another banking and fintech firm in the UK. TruFin is the creation of Arrowgrass, a UK-based hedge fund.
In April 2019, TruFin demerged from DFC to create a new holding company, Distribution Finance Capital Holdings plc (DFC Holdings). At the time, it said “this will maximise the opportunity for DFC to obtain a bank licence”.
Headed up by private lawyer Darragh O’Sullivan, DOS & Co began as an in-house counsel for the rich families.
Then in 2016, the fintech wave began to happen and the founder had the idea of a digital-first private bank. Initially parking the idea due to the amount of money it would need to spend on technology, DOS & Co picked the digital bank project back up in 2017 when BaaS providers began gaining traction.
In late 2019, Dos & Co landed approval to become a small payment institution.
The firm launched its app in a private beta in October 2020. Six weeks later, the company had already broken even. The start-up offers a high-value white glove service. It helps clients transfer luxury assets, acting as the trusted intermediary.
The start-up offers a high-value white glove service. It helps clients transfer luxury assets, acting as the trusted intermediary.
Previously known as Project Imagine, this London-based challenger defines itself as a “second generation digital bank”.
“Our income as a business is directly linked to the returns we create for you. We keep a smaller share and pass on the majority to you. Unlike most banks, we are not looking to make money from things like overdrafts, but by helping you save, invest and grow your money,” it says on its website.
The bank is led and was founded by Aritra Chakravarty, who comes from HSBC. Some 75% of Dozen’s staff is female.
“We want to be a mix of Monzo, Nutmeg and Moneybox, all in one,” says Chakravarty. “We want to encourage savings and money management, and help people get out of the overdraft/over-spending loop.”
Dozens launched in January 2019 with an e-money licence, and is yet to be a UK-regulated bank.
In April 2019, it raised £3.8 million on crowdfunding platform Seedrs.
In February 2021, Dozens tapped up ClearBank to underpin its customers’ current accounts. Under the deal, ClearBank provides new account numbers and sort codes for Dozens, as well as opening up access to Faster Payments through “a single API”.
A month later, the fintech appointed a new chief technology officer in Peter Kasprowicz, who joined from energy-as-a-service firm Kingo.
Dzing rolled out its beta in March 2020 through the App Store and Google Play. Work started in October 2018. The platform is designed for international students, remote freelancers, overseas workers and travelers.
The start-up promises a “one minute, one click” account-opening process which doesn’t require a UK address.
Its team includes chief technology officer Pierre Larsson, previously an employee at HM Revenue & Customs, Worldpay and the BBC.
The challenger’s services are divided into three subscription plans. The first is free, then the price shifts up to £6.99 per month for an extra £200 in free ATM withdrawals each month and free money transfers throughout Europe within the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). At a steep price increase, its “elite” subscription sits at £50 per month.
Dzing is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as an electronic money service under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011 (EMRs). It was previously working with Wirecard to issue the cards.
In March 2020, Dzing released its first financial product, a mobile payment app for international currency transfers.
FairFX is a London-based multicurrency payments service. It acquired Q Money and its e-money licence in early 2017.
Start-up Q Money was going to build a bank for SMEs in the UK, but failed to take off due to the lack of funding. FairFX said the acquisition – particularly the e-money licence – opened up “the possibility of becoming the issuing bank of its own cards and internalising parts of the supply chain”, as well as the potential to create a digital banking offering for SMEs.
In April 2018, it also acquired CardOne Banking and City Forex. And then in August 2019, it bought Hermex International Limited, part of the FXPro Group, for £2 million.
FairFX inked a deal with Alternative Business Funding, a UK-based SMEs lender, to provide FairFX business customers access to lending.
The company, which was founded in 2007, reported its first full-year profit for 2017.
A subsidiary of Nigeria’s First City Monument Bank (FCMB), this firm started out in 2009 as an investment company.
FCMB Bank (UK) Limited started offering banking services in 2013. By September 2018, it expanded its portfolio to include retail and corporate banking, catering to the financial needs of businesses and individuals.
It runs the Bankware core system from a local vendor, i-Financial.
This start-up launched a Seedrs funding round in February 2018. It aimed to launch in early 2019, having announced in January 2018 that it was more than halfway through the Bank of England’s authorisation process.
But in May 2021, its website still read “Fiinu is in the pre-application phase to obtain necessary licenses from the UK regulatory authorities”. And it still hadn’t launched.
Fiinu’s focus is around its automated lending robot, providing “small overdrafts to millions of people within the payday loan price cap”.
But Fiinu says it also intends to make money from packaged accounts, FX and cryptocurrency trading, card usage, and international transfer fees. The start-up has described its monetisation strategy as the “Walmart of Banking”.
In terms of its target market, Fiinu is tapping millennials and young adults, as well as consumers with local credit scores. Whilst its savings accounts and cryptocurrency offerings are targeting the wealthier part of society.
In terms of technology, the start-up has been working on a combination of in-house development and purchased software.
Finndon landed its e-money licence from the FCA in November 2020. It offers current accounts armed with a range of “smart budgeting tools” aimed at turning spenders into savers.
It claims to have “stripped back the financial jargon” so “the everyday person can understand” how its products work.
Alongside its savings-focused current account, Finndon’s free offering also includes peer-to-peer (P2P) payments and free transactions abroad. Its premium account offers users discounts for restaurants, beauty treatments and social venues.
Technology partners to date include Modulr, Global Payment Services (GPS), Allpay Cards, and Transaction Payments.
Its co-founders Aaron Archer, Charles Alonge and Jamie Henderson invested £2 million into the venture in 2019. Henderson spent more than five years at HSBC, becoming the UK high street bank’s deputy chief operating officer for global IT cloud services. Archer’s background is in property development and investment management, whilst Alonge previously worked at the now collapsed UK airline Monarch.
Unicredit’s subsidiary, FinecoBank launched in the UK in 2017 as a direct banking entity, offering a “one stop solution which comes with a GBP or EUR Visa debit card.
Fineco itself has been around since the late 1990s, now serving more than 1.1 million clients in its home market of Italy. Fineco recorded a net profit of €246 million in the first nine months of 2020, up 23% year-on-year.
The bank claimed to be one of the first entities in Europe to offer traditional banking alongside stockbroking and investing on a single platform.
Another differentiator is that instead of standard bank branches it runs “shops”. The bank has 350 such “shops” across Italy.
In Q3 2020, FinecoBank saw 17% total UK growth.
This start-up is a multi-currency digital account for businesses registered in the UK and Ireland. Fire comes with a mobile app and a Mastercard debit card that is linked to GBP and EUR accounts.
Fire was founded in 2008. It landed its EMI licence from the Central Bank of Ireland in July 2019, which it passported to the UK.
The company says it has developed its own APIs for seamless integration of its business account features with other applications or back office systems.
Colm Lyon, formerly Ulster Bank’s head of central IT, leads fire alongside Paul Davey, ex-CFO of Realex Payments, and chief product officer Owen O Byrne – who founded Realex Payments in 2000 with Lyon.
Malta and London-based Founders Bank was still waiting on its banking licence application in May 2021. FinTech Futures reached out for an update. It filed for a banking licence on 12 June 2018 according to the Maltese government.
Following this EU licence in Malta, Founders Bank had intended to obtain licences in the US and Singapore. The bank is backed by crypto exchange Binance.
Its offering focuses on corporate banking services for tech companies, including accounts, payments, escrow and credit. It says it has “its own proprietary banking platform with instant, multi-currency settlement”.
Paula Pandolfino is the bank’s co-founder and chief strategy officer. Kenan Altunis, who has 20 years’ experience at Deutsche Bank, is CEO. Lana Burdei, formerly of HSBC and Barclays, is COO.
On the technology side, Dearg OBartuin is CTO (he was CTO at Challenger.Money, the London Block Exchange and BitPesa) and Ludwig Mallia (ex-Bank of Valetta and MeDirect Malta) is head of IT.
Co-founded by 33-year-old Pawel Oltuszyk, owner of law firm Optimal Solicitors, this fintech is solving issues clients of the law firm faced when banking with incumbents.
The Manchester-based start-up told FinTech Futures in July 2020 that it had applied for an e-money licence with the FCA.
As well as all the current account trimmings, Frost’s ‘smart engine’ helps users get the best foreign exchange rates and slash their energy bills.This feature rival sdigital disruptor Snoop.
Oltuszyk’s marketing head at Optimal Solicitors, Edyta Sliwinska, is the other co-founder of Frost. Whilst Oltuszyk did found the law firm back in 2008, his background is in computer science.
“We made a conscious decision that we don’t want to create another add-on app,” says Oltuszyk. The platform therefore converges some of the separate offerings on the fintech market which currently use open banking.
Authorised in 2008, Mayfair-based Gatehouse Bank specialises in real estate investment and financing. It offers savings products and finance for UK commercial and residential real estate, as well as sourcing and advising on UK real estate investments with a focus on the build-to-rent sector.
It advises funds with approximately $1.2 billion in real estate assets. Its customer service centre is located in Milton Keynes.
In early 2018, the bank launched a sharia-compliant home finance platform, which is underpinned by a bespoke case management solution, based on BEP Systems’ Apprivo2.
It uses cloud-based, mobile-ready technology, enabling intermediaries to “effortlessly process home finance and buy-to-let applications from enquiry through to completion”, according to the bank.
The bank has also integrated DocuSign for the electronic signature of customer documentation, Stripe for card payment processing, and Landmark Valuation Services for the automation of surveyor panel management.
This UK fintech is focusing on secured property development loans of between £1 million and £5 million, with 90% of lending supporting regional property developers, SMBs and construction companies. The company has applied for a banking licence.
GBB has raised more than £30 million from investors – most of which are from the North, as the start-up was founded in Newcastle. Some £20 million of this has come from the £5.3 billion Teesside Pension Fund.
In June 2020, it landed Monzo’s co-founder Paul Rippon as its non-executive chair. “The combination of leading-edge technology and relationship managers on the ground to provide support to customers is what property developers are in desperate need of,” Rippon said.
The start-up’s CEO, Steve Deutsch, spent 19 years at Lloyds Bank before joining Birmingham-based Wesleyan Assurance Society for 13 years, becoming its CEO.
In October 2020, GBB signed a 15-year lease for headquarters in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire.
Griffin is is a new wholesale (“infrastructure”) challenger bank, founded in London in 2017.
The “bank as a platform” or “API-first bank” provides technology to fintechs that need custodial accounts and access to interbank payments. It also offers integrated compliance solutions for KYC and AML requirements in real-time.
It charges £5 per open account belonging to an individual per year, and £20 per open account belonging to a company per year.
In January 2020, the start-up landed £3 million. The seed round was led by by Europe’s seed fund Seedcamp and Tribe Capital. Then in November 2020, it landed a further £6.5 million in a round led by EQT Ventures.
The company said it was using the November 2020 funding round to pursue a UK banking license.
Griffin’s systems are built from scratch and mainly in-house, including core banking ledger, customer information system (CIS), payments integration and API front-end. Its tech is written in Clojure (a general-purpose programming language) and uses Kafka (an open-source stream-processing software platform) to support its event-driven architecture.
Its transatlantic founders are David Jarvis (CEO) in London and Allen Rohner (CTO) in Texas.
Hampden & Co (formerly Scoban)
A new private bank, formerly known as Scoban, opened for business in mid-2015 – the first private bank to launch in the UK in the last 30 years.
Its operations are supported by Oracle FSS’s Flexcube core banking system. It is supplied on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis, with the solution hosted in Oracle’s data centre in Dublin. Initially, the bank was planning to use Temenos’ T24 core system, supplied on a hosted basis by Wipro, but the deal did not go ahead.
The Edinburgh bank’s losses for the year to 31 December 2020 stood at £4.1 milion, down from £5.5 million in the previous year.
Investors in the bank include Xcel Catalin, Drake Enterprises, as well as Standard Life Aberdeen small-cap star Harry Nimmo.
This community-focused banking firm is brainchild of Richard Werner, a professor of banking at the University of Southampton
“We are all fed up with the big banks and their sharp methods. But few people are aware it is possible to build local banks that benefit the local economy,” says Werner. “This is what we are doing with the Hampshire Community Bank.”
The idea of Hampshire Community Bank was first unveiled in 2013. A community interest group – Local First – led by Werner, went public on its plans to set up a locally-owned and run bank.
The fintech firm is modelled on Germany’s local public savings banks and local co-operative banks (Sparkasse and Volksbank). Its offering focuses on credit for SMEs and for housing construction (buy-to-build mortgages).
In August 2020, Bernd Grund joined the board as a director, having led a number of SME lending focused cooperative banks as executive director for over a decade in Germany. That same month, the firm submitted its formal application for a full UK banking licence.
Hampshire Trust Bank (HTB)
Not to be confused with Hampshire Community Bank, Hampshire Trust was created back in 1977.
But it moved into the banking space in 2014, following the arrival of new owners. A new management team acquired Hampshire Trust in May 2014, with the backing of investment firm Alchemy Partners. It also relocated its HQ to London.
The bank provides asset finance, property finance and commercial mortgages to UK customers. It also offers savings accounts to individuals and businesses.
For its technology, HTB has traditionally been a broad user of Phoebus Software’s products, which have supported its savings and deposit accounts, as well as the origination and servicing of its entire asset finance, property development finance and deposits.
In late 2018, the bank signed for the MatsSoft low-code development platform to enhance its digital offerings. And then in April 2021, it adopted DPR’s savings solution for origination and servicing.
Hapi is a London-based challenger tapping adults who want to start saving and investing for their children’s futures.
The firm has obtained Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) approval as an “appointed representative”.
The start-up is backed by Entrepreneur First. It founders include Youssef Darwich, Tide’s former operation head, and Sigurjon Isaksson, a former engineer at Eigen Technologies.
They began building Hapi seven weeks into the Entrepreneur First programme in 2019, which gave the fintech £200,000 in funding – alongside a collection of angel investors.
The long-term plan is to become a fully regulated financial adviser, expanding on its FCA-issued appointed representative status.
A subsidiary of China’s heavyweight, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was granted a wholesale banking licence in autumn 2014.
It claims to be the first bank to issue a China UnionPay debit card in the UK.
China’s ICBC is the world’s biggest bank. Net profit rose 1.5% in the first quarter of 2021, to $13.25 billion.
ICICI Bank UK
This bank is a subsidiary of India’s second largest banking group, ICICI. The bank has been operating in the UK since 2003, offering consumer, business, corporate and investment banking services, as well as money transfers to India.
The bank is authorised by the PRA and FCA.
ICICI Bank UK operates from seven locations in the UK and a branch each in Belgium and Germany. It has around 250,000 customers in the UK.
For its technology, the bank uses Infosys’ Finacle core banking system (as part of a group-wide roll out). On the risk management and reporting side, it uses Wolters Kluwer’s OneSumX solution.
ikigai, which means “a reason for being” in Japanese, launched a flat-fee investment account in the UK in March 2021, having pushed launch back from 2020.
The start-up charges a flat £10 per month fee for all customers, no matter how much they’re investing.
The ikigai platform is two-fold. It offers a basic banking service with a Visa card like many challenger banks. But this current account can then be used to set monthly budgets which automatically push savings into an investment portfolio account at the end of each month.
Co-founders Edgar de Picciotto and Maurizio Kaiser worked at McKinsey & Company together before setting up the start-up.
de Picciotto says ikigai is tapping the middle ground between challenger banks’ “overpriced” metal cards and incumbents’ “clumsy” travel insurance bundles.
ikigai raised £2 million in seed capital in 2020.
In January 2021, JPMorgan Chase said it had hired 400 people to operate its first ever UK arm to rival Goldman Sachs’ UK digital challenger Marcus.
Sanoke Viswanathan, JP Morgan’s chief administrative officer for its corporate and investment bank, leads the Canary Wharf-headquartered digital bank project.
The bank also houses employees in a call centre based out of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital.
In November, The Times reported that JP Morgan was eyeing up UK challenger Starling Bank’s multi-million customer base as a way into the UK market. But these talks were short-lived.
Kestrl is an ethical banking fintech start-up which launched in Q3 2020. It’s designed for those who want to spend and invest in line with their personal values.
The debit card offering allows users to budget, calculate monthly net wealth, track carbon emissions through open banking and donate to charitable causes through an integrated charity donation platform.
The offering is also Sharia-compliant, making it an option for the UK’s Muslim community.
Kestrl was co-founded by CEO Areeb Siddiqui, and chief operating officer Daeng Termizi who met at Cambridge. Siddiqui comes from a robo-advisory background, whilst Termizi previously worked at Bank Negara Malaysia, the country’s central bank, for five years.
The start-up has no intention of applying for a UK banking licence, instead using an e-money licence from a third party. In March 2020, the fintech raised £150,000 from undisclosed investors.
Koto is a credit provider built on e-money, using Prepay Technologies’ licences. It launched at the tail end of 2020, after raising £1.1 million in November 2020.
Users can apply for a free prepaid card, but they can also borrow up to £1,000 in credit.
If customers want to borrow under £400, they can do so in one go by paying 25p each day they use the credit plus a monthly fee which is 1% of the borrowed amount. Or, they can spread out credit of up to £1,000 over a 3-24 month period with a re-payment plan that includes a £10 monthly fee.
Koto was co-founded by Misha Rogalskiy, the brains behind Ukraine’s Monobank, and is headed up by CEO and chief product officer Rob Escott, who comes from an eight-year stint at Vanquis Bank.
Estonia-based LHV Bank entered the UK market in spring 2018, following the regulatory approval to establish a full-service bank branch. This marked LHV’s first foray outside its home market.
The bank’s strategic focus began on fintechs (e.g. TransferWise and Coinbase are on its customer list).
In February 2021, the bank announced its intention to apply for a UK licence to establish a standalone bank serving the fintech market. The firm plans to make a split between its retail client-serving bank in Estonia and the UK business.
LHV Bank was established in the late 1990s, and is a universal bank. It is the fourth largest bank in Estonia, and first tested a crypto-wallet back in 2014.
For its technology, the bank uses an in-house developed core banking system.
Lintel Financial Services
Lintel was formally invited to submit its banking application to the FCA in September 2019.
Lintel is the brainchild of Nazzim Ishaque, the owner of private equity firm BriceAmery. He’s also worked for RBS, Lloyds Bank and JPMorgan. FinTech Futures reached out to him in May 2021.
“As a result of COVID-19, our investors pulled out, which ultimately meant we withdrew our application and in August 2020 the whole Board resigned,” he said.
But Ishaque has since managed to secure new funds to re-apply in 2021 and put together a new board. “We are in much better shape as the work is done, capital is in place and tech is being built.”
The fintech’s focus is on migrant workers and students in the UK, offering them paid-for current accounts with money transfers, personal and SME loans, and mortgages.
On the IT side, the company began with off-the-shelf software that could be easily deployed (and easily replaced with a better alternative at a later stage).
Longevity Card began with a focus on the over 60s. But the start-up quickly pivoted, instead broadening its audience out to all ages, with a focus on uniting finance with health.
In May 2020, the start-up landed an undisclosed investment from existing backer Deep Knowledge Ventures and a new, undisclosed early-stage ‘Deeptech’ fund.
CEO Sergey Balasanyan has built Longevity Card on top of agetech and healthtech. Its card is issued by AF Payments.
In February 2021, the start-up went crowdfunding via Seedrs to raise £415,000. As of May 2021, people could still only sign up to its waitlist.
This London-based challenger announced it was waiting for a banking licence in August 2018. As of May 2021, it was still yet to secure its licence.
LQID is the trading name of Shop & Finance Ltd. It combines lifestyle banking and digital commerce.
The fintech start-up is authorised by the FCA as an e-money institution.
LQID deploys everything in the cloud on AWS.
Marcus is the digital finance platform launched by Goldman Sachs in 2016 in the US.
Named after Marcus Goldman (one of the firm’s founders), the platform provides consumer loans. It was created to rival the likes of Lending Club, SoFi and Prosper.
In September 2017, Goldman unveiled its plans to move into the UK retail banking market with Marcus, starting with savings and deposits. Its easy-access savings account has always offered a more competitive rate than the vast majority of UK banks.
In April 2021, the bank decided on Birmingham as the location for its second UK office.
For its technology, Marcus uses Infosys’ Finacle core banking platform.
An established mortgage specialist, Masthaven Finance received its UK banking licence in late 2016.
The bank offers lending and mortgages, as well as savings products to retail customers and SMEs that struggle to get service from mainstream banks and lenders.
For its tech, Masthaven implemented a banking system from DPR Consulting. The bank was among its first takers.
In spring 2019, the bank completed a £60 million equity investment from Värde Partners.
In December 2020, the bank appointed Mark Record to the newly created role of chief information officer. He joined Masthaven from Capita’s financial services arm, having held a range of CIO roles at Barclays, the Co-op Bank, and RBS.
When Metro Bank opened for business in spring 2010, it became Britain’s first new high street bank in over 150 years.
The brainchild of US entrepreneur Vernon Hill, Metro Bank is a full-service banking entity.
At the outset, the bank placed a major focus on physical branches – or “stores”. They are open seven days a week, and have longer working hours than other high street banks. They also have coin-counting machines and are dog friendly.
The model was largely based on a similar venture created by Hill in the US, Commerce Bancorp (acquired by TD Bank in 2007), which gained the nickname of “McBank” as Hill applied his knowledge of fast-food chain business to the bank.
Metro Bank’s co-founder Anthony Thomson left in 2012 to set up rival Atom Bank.
Metro Bank has implemented Backbase’s Omnichannel Banking Platform for its digital banking front-end. It also uses FIS/Sungard’s Ambit Asset Liability Management solution, and outsources its mortgage processing to BancTec.
For back office processing, the bank has been using Temenos’ T24 core banking system from the outset. Metro Bank was Temenos’ first ASP customer in the UK.
In February 2019, it became one of the three recipients of the funds of Pool A Capability and Innovation Fund, set up by the RBS Banking Competition Remedies. It received £120 million. But it later paid back £20 million of this.
Metro Bank saw losses widen considerably in 2020, from £11.7 million in 2019 to £271.8 million.
Mettle is a standalone SME digital entity which was launched in November 2018 by NatWest.
It offers a business current account with a sort code, account number and payment card, instant invoicing, and the option to add receipts to transactions and track expenses from a phone.
Mettle is not a bank, but operates as an agent under an e-money licence held by PrePay Solutions (PPS).
The project was done with participation from consultancy firms Capco and 11:FS.
MoneeMint (formerly Ummah Finance)
London-based MoneeMint (formerly Ummah Finance) was founded in 2016 by Hassan Waqar and Martin Luther Maramba. Wagar was previously a store manager at Domino’s.
Initially, Ummah Finance targeted the UK’s Muslim population (about three million people, or 5.4% of the total UK population according to 2011 census data).
However, it has expanded its scope since to focus on socially responsible and ethical banking, and adopted a new brand identity in September 2018: MoneeMint.
The firm took into consideration feedback from prospective investors and clients, Waqar explains, and felt “there was a need to launch a more modern and fresh-looking brand for us to get the right message out”.
In autumn 2018, MoneeMint secured undisclosed “strategic funding” from Ground One Ventures, a UK-based private investment firm.
For its tech, MoneeMint picked the Digibanc enterprise banking suite from Codebase Technologies.
According to its website, the start-up was still asking people to join its waitlist in May 2021.
Monese was originally launched targeting expatriates and immigrants. As of spring 2019, it had grown to more than one million customers.
It offers low-rate international money transfers as well as the ability to hold a number of currencies in the same account.
The basic account is free. But customers can also apply for premium accounts, priced between £5.95 and £14.95.
The fintech does not hold a commercial licence. It inked a partnership deal with PayPal so clients can manage and use their Monese and PayPal accounts together.
In autumn 2018, Monese secured a $60 investment in its Series B funding round and announced its expansion into business banking. In January 2020, the start-up landed a unicorn valuation at $1 billion.
Monese initially used Contis Group’s white-label infrastructure to provide bank accounts, transfer and card payment services, but has now switched to another provider, PrePay Solutions (PPS).
In H2 2020, it signed for a new core banking system, Thought Machine’s Vault.
Monzo was granted a full banking licence in early April 2017. It offers a current account with a contactless debit card and a mobile banking app. The mobile app’s standout features are intelligent notifications, instant balance updates and financial management.
In 2019, it trialled Monzo Plus, a premium service which charged users up to £13 per month. But the product was scrapped within five months.
In H2 2018, Monzo announced its plans to launch a business current account. The following year, its valuation jumped to £2 billion. It also began its US expansion plans back in January 2019, and has since applied for a US banking licence.
Towards the end of January 2021, Monzo said goodbye to its founder, Tom Blomfield. He left after Monzo’s valuation dipped to £1.25 billion, following a “down round” in 2020 which knocked off 40% of its value.
For banking ops, Monzo decided to build its own platform. Technology used is mainly open source: Linux, Apache Cassandra distributed database (used by the likes of Apple and Twitter), Google’s Go (golang) programming language at the back-end and PostgreSQL relational database.
The infrastructure is hosted on AWS cloud. The bank’s two data centers are for interacting with Mastercard’s systems.
GPS is the processor for Monzo. And it partnered with Thames Card Technology for debit card production and personalisation.
Now launched, UK challenger Muniy offers customers free UK and European IBAN accounts, as well as junior accounts for its users’ children.
The start-up offers both free and paid personal and business accounts which span from £5-£50 a month, with other features including QR payments, instant peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers, real-time transaction notifications, and contactless cards.
Its offices sit in London and Manama, Bahrain.
In June 2020, Muniy partnered with with regtech HooYu for its know your customer (KYC) capabilities. The same month, the start-up raised £200,000 on Crowdcube.
The investment was for its pilots in the UK and EU, and for underpinning its core financial services across key markets in the Middle East.
The start-up connects users anonymously to merchants when they pay, and allows merchants to pay a lower transaction processing cost.
By lowering the cost for the merchants by up to 50%, Muniy thinks it can drive adoption and and eventually partner with brands to develop personalised reward schemes for customers.
Founded in June 2020, UK challenger Neuros set out to help the UK’s neurodiverse population bank, starting with autistic people.
The basic account offering focuses on three features: impulse control, granular personalisation and executive dysfunction.
The banking app allows users to set certain time limits on spending or money access, and it integrates a series of mind-calming games into the banking app, designed to clear users’ mindsets before they spend their money.
Neuros users can change the app’s fonts, colours, and layouts, as well as set up their own budgeting and spending tracks which users can also import from Excel.
The caregiver account feature allows a parent or carer can oversee transactions, and help the user navigate their finances through shared education tools which promote collaboration as opposed to making the user feel out of control.
Founder Soumaya Bhyer planned for an October 2020 launch. But as of May 2021, the fintech start-up still wasn’t live to customers. FinTech Futures reached out to Bhyer for an update.
Challenger banking app Niyah launched in the UK in January 2020 for the Muslim community, combining Islamic banking and ethical finance together.
The platform hinges on its interest-free products, which include digital bank accounts, debit cards, investments, and SME financing.
Its aim is to provide “a lifestyle-focused banking experience to the 3.4 million Muslims in the UK”, a population which the challenger says is “financially isolated” and has “had access to a very limited offering” until now.
The challenger is designed to plug into “existing financial service providers” so it can offer the Muslim community what is available to everyone, but through its own ethical financial marketplace which makes all the services shariah-compliant.
The Glaswegian start-up offers first-time home buyers a savings account. When FinTech Futures checked in May 2021, the Nude app was downloadable via the App Store only.
It intends to apply for a UK banking licence so it can launch its own mortgage products.
The fintech raised £3.5 million in a seed funding in July 2020. The funding added to its £1.7 million growth capital raise in 2019 and its innovation grant from Scottish Enterprise.
The fintech makes money by taking a share of the interest earned on the savings it helps users accumulate.
Nude is also considering a marketplace model and licencing its proprietary tech to third parties as additional revenue streams.
This SoftBank-backed start-up focuses on lending to SMEs. It also has regulatory approval to accept deposits and make savings products available to individuals and small businesses.
The bank uses Mambu’s core banking system at the back-end, as well as the Sage and Almis systems. For the middle office, it has nCino. It also uses Facebook Workplace for internal operations. At the front-end, there is an in-house developed solution.
OakNorth was the first bank in the UK to have its core banking system in the cloud (AWS).
For payments and agency banking, OakNorth signed for ClearBank’s platform in early 2019, starting with utilising the latter’s real-time Faster Payments infrastructure, allowing for instant payments.
The fintech licenses its underwriting technology to foreign banks as large as PNC Bank.
OakNorth Bank landed a £77.6 million pre-tax profit in 2020, improving on its 2019 pre-tax profit by more than £10 million.
This UK-based digital banking start-up was founded by Sergey Rossman in early 2018. Aleksey Zhdanov is chief design officer.
The company underwent a brand revamp, from Galeo Bank to Omega Bank (shortened to #OMG).
Omega is a registered agent of PrePay Technologies Limited, whose EMI licence it uses to operate. It offers a current account, with a promise of up to £1,000 in cashback on average each year.
As of May 2021, the card supported transaction in 54 currencies abroad across 66 countries. Its website also hints to a credit offering, which is “coming soon”.
OneSavings Bank (Kent Reliance)
This bank is the result of a number of financial services businesses owned by US-based private equity firm JC Flowers coming together.
Other OSB constituents comprise of Kent Reliance (residential mortgages and savings products), Interbay Commercial (commercial mortgages), Prestige Finance (secured loans), Reliance Property Loans (property financing) and Heritable Partners (development finance).
United, OSB provides savings, loans and investments. In its 2020 financial year, OSB increased its statutory profit before tax by 25% to £260 million. And the bank’s net loan book grew 4% to £19.2 billion on a statutory basis.
For its tech, the bank uses Phoebus’ lending platform to service mortgages (back office operations) and a DPR Consulting solution at the front-end. Phoebus replaced a bespoke development based on a legacy processing system, Bastion (originally built by IBM).
The Kent Reliance business uses Sandstone Technology’s digital banking and customer onboarding software.
As well as offering savings accounts to the general public and all businesses, the Chester-based challenger says it wants to particularly focus on the British agricultural sector – something it says has never been done before.
Based in Chester, Oxbury landed its banking licence in February 2020. One of its investors is the Duke of Westminster, the world’s richest person under 30.
Oxbury wants to help farms with their cash flow, acknowledging that unlike many other small businesses, the fluctuation of cashflow is far more heavily dependent on the seasons for farms.
Its board of directors includes ex-head of business banking at HSBC, Huw Morgan, and former Bank of England adviser, Tim Fitzpatrick.
This is a banking subsidiary of a well-established specialist finance provider, Paragon Group.
The bank was launched in early 2014. It offers savings and loans (including development and asset finance) to individuals and SMEs.
FinTech Futures understands that the bank’s deposits operations are outsourced to Newcastle Strategic Solutions, the IT and outsourcing arm of Newcastle Building Society.
PCF Bank is a new name for Private and Commercial Finance Group (PCFG). The bank got its licence in early December 2016 and fully launched for business in mid-2017, once it had its banking licence restriction lifted.
PCFG has been around since the early 1990s offering loans to individuals and companies for vehicles, plant and equipment.
In March 2021, the specialist bank sat on a portfolio of more than £400 million.
For its tech, PCF Bank uses Temenos’ T24 core banking system and Sandstone Technology’s digital banking/customer onboarding tools.
Pennyworth was founded by two former Barclays executives, Jeremy Takle and Ben Harvey, in 2020.
It wants to tap the country’s “aspiring affluent” young professionals and middle managers, who are busy “climbing the corporate ladder”.
The start-up sent off its application to become an authorised UK bank in March 2020.
An easy-access savings interest rate at Pennyworth sits at 1.5%, whilst the annual percentage rate on a personal loan sits at 2.9%.
London-based lender Pepper Money was founded in 2015, and is part of Pepper Group, whose head office is in Sydney, Australia.
In 2017, Pepper Group was acquired by global investment firm KKR & Co Incorporated. The parent firm’s IPO was one of Australia’s largest IPOs of 2021.
The UK arm offers residential and buy-to-let mortgages exclusively through intermediaries.
In September 2018, FTAdviser reported Pepper Money was looking to apply for a UK banking licence.
Pepper Money says its mortgages are for “clients whose needs are less straightforward”, such as “those with credit blips, the recently self-employed, a complex income, young credit history, or previous financial difficulties”.
In preparation for the banking licence, in 2018 the company started building its treasury function from scratch, including AML processes, internal liquidity adequacy assessment processes (ILAAP), and internal capital adequacy assessment processes (ICAAP).
In January, mortgage-focused challenger Perenna landed $10 million in funding. The fintech lodged its UK banking application in the last quarter of 2020.
Its investors include Kevin Flaherty, the former head of structured products at Deutsche Bank. And Tony Mallin, a managing partner of Star Capital.
Perenna was created by three co-founders. Former BNP Paribas bankers, Arjan Verbeek and Hamish Peacocke, alongside Colin Bell, who built the specialist lender Interbay which eventually sold to OneSavings Bank.
Perenna’s offering hinges on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. The start-up says its mortgages will remain at a fixed rate of between 3% and 3.5%.
This UK start-up is focused on “fintech for good”. Its offering focuses on SME lending platform, banking services and payment cards.
In June 2020, the fintech was raising £5.5 million, intending for £3.5 million to go towards its licence and bank building operations, whilst the remaining £2 million was kept back for SMEs lending.
The lending platform is an unusual mixture of institutional investments and crowdfunding, and rests on white-labelled technology.
The fintech’s advisory board includes former Swift board member, Tony Fish, ex-RBC/Coutts exec, Mark House, and eToro’s managing director, Iqbal Gandham.
Its three account tiers focus on eco-friendly living, overdraft help and debt rebuilding..
Not a bank but a prepaid Mastercard, Pockit has been around since 2013.
It focuses on the “financially excluded” Britons who rely on cash in the absence of bank accounts. By October 2016, it claimed 100,000 customers, with £100 million transacted on the platform. It also added direct debits and remittances abroad at the end of 2016.
By the end of 2020, it claimed to have grown its customer base to half a million. And in December 2020, Pockit secured a £15 million Series B funding round.
The start-up uses GPS for processing and Wirecard for issuing.
Prepaid Financial Services (PFS)
As the name suggests, PFS offers a prepaid account that it markets as “a complete current account offering” – an alternative to traditional bank accounts.
Zimbabewe-born Valerie Moran co-founded PFS with her husband Noel Moran in 2008. As a couple, they own 81.5% in shares of the company.
The accounts come with a mobile app, prepaid Mastercard debit card and an IBAN number.
The company is authorised as an e-money institution and is also a European Payments Council Scheme participant.
It is also a paytech provider, including issuing solutions, e-wallets, prepaid cards, account switching service, merchant accounts and mobile tech/apps.
A subsidiary of France’s RCI Bank and Services (RCI Banque; formerly known as Renault Crédit International), RCI Bank was launched in the UK in 2015. In March 2019, it obtained a full banking licence.
RCI Bank is based in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. It focuses on the savings market and offers two products: a fixed-term savings account and an easy access savings account. It provides its services via digital channels and also has a call/support centre
The bank employs 300+ people and has over 75,000 savings customers.
Its CEO, Jean-Louis Labauge, explains the UK banking licence is an opportunity “to strengthen our roots in the UK” and assures the bank is “committed to being here for the long term”.
Founded in January 2018 and becoming a Y Combinator graduate the same year, Rebank offers a platform which can consolidate real-time money transfers across multiple connected bank accounts held by businesses into one place and be used to initiate payments.
The start-up charges a subscription fee for its business customers to use the service starting at $50 per month.
In December 2019, the challenger secured a $2.8 million seed funding round led by long-term tech investor ADV.
A new bank for SMEs, founded by Jason Oakley, the former MD of Metro Bank’s commercial and mortgages lending business. According to Oakley, the name “Recognise” is designed to “reflect the lack of recognition and dedication to SMEs from the big banks” and “no relationship, no contact, no recognition of the vital role they play in our economy”.
The bank runs a variety of services from cloud banking firm nCino, including biometrics, video conferencing, due diligence checks, and open banking initiatives, as well as the vendor’s Bank Operating System.
It also signed for Mambu’s core banking system, supplied on a hosted (cloud) basis.
The bank applied for a banking licence, and expects to open for business in 2020.
An SME bank challenger that received a banking licence in spring 2017 and opened for business later that year.
The entity behind it is Acorn Financial Partners (AFP), owned by Acorn Global Investments (AGI). AGI is controlled by David and Jonathan Rowland, who have experience in the banking and finance sectors. Its other major investor is a local authority, Warrington Borough Council.
The bank is headquartered in the Hertfordshire county.
It offers secured SME lending products to owner occupied businesses, as well as to commercial and residential property investors. It also provides business deposit accounts.
Redwood runs on a cloud-based core banking system from DPR Consulting, hosted in a Microsoft Azure cloud environment. This is the first instance of such implementation in the UK and the first cloud site for DPR’s tech.
Revverbank is a Manchester-based new bank for regional businesses and savers in the UK.
In July 2019, it selected Finastra’s Fusion Essence in the cloud to power its end-to-end core banking capabilities, underpinned by Microsoft’s Azure platform.
Revolut is a payments and fintech start-up launched in mid-2015. It is based in Level39, a financial tech incubator in London.
The offering is a mobile money app that includes a prepaid Mastercard debit card, currency exchange and P2P payments.
A free current account (with an IBAN) is also available in the UK. It can be opened in three minutes, without a proof of address or credit check, according to the company.
Revolut says it supports spending and ATM withdrawals in 90 currencies and sending in 23 currencies directly from the mobile app.
The majority of its services are free of charge, although it also offer premium accounts and services, which come with a fee.
It’s “the only account for your global lifestyle”, the company says. Revolut is “beyond banking”.
In 2017, Revolut applied for a European banking licence. In December 2018, it received a “specialised” European banking licence, facilitated by Lithuania’s central bank. It also then unveiled plans to receive licences across multiple countries worldwide.
In April 2018, it raised an additional $250 million in Series C funding, which saw the fintech valued at $1.7 billion – a five-fold increase in less than a year. Later that year, it unveiled plans to raise $500 million in a Series D round.
Earlier in 2018, it fully launched its open API – allowing users to integrate Revolut for Business accounts with third party software and in-house systems.
Over the last year, Revolut was rocked by compliance and culture criticisms, and saw a senior management shake-up, including the departure of the CFO and the appointment of a new CRO.
Samie Bank is a London-based challenger with plans to tap South Africa, the US, and wider Europe.
It is currently developing its platform ahead of a far off 2025 launch.
Unlike most challengers, Samie is waiting for a full banking licence instead of operating initially on an e-money licence and partnering with a licensed bank.
Its product suite will address personal and business banking, multi-currency transfers, investing, and insurance.
Founded in 2015 by Luqmaan Samie, the start-up claimed it hit the 500,000 future customer mark in mid-2019. It also claims to have £589 million in future deposits.
Of this half a million, 356,891 will supposedly be personal account holders, 117,217 will be business account holders, and 25,892 will be investment and insurance customers.
Shawbrook Bank was formed in 2011 via the merger of Whiteaway Laidlaw Bank, Link Loans and Commercial First and owned by RBS Equity Finance. It is a specialist lending and savings bank that focuses primarily on SMEs.
It employs 550 people and has a head office in Brentwood, Essex.
It has an asset finance arm, Shawbrook Asset Finance (formerly Singers Asset Finance, acquired by Shawbrook in 2012) and an asset-based lending business, Shawbrook Business Credit (formerly Centric Commercial Finance, acquired by Shawbrook in 2014).
Shawbrook went for an IPO in 2015.
Among the bank’s tech software and services providers are Sandstone Technology for digital banking front-end, Target Group for business process outsourcing (BPO) and Brightstar with its EasySource sourcing and case management system.
For its core platform, Shawbrook uses Sopra Banking Software’s Mortgage and Savings Suite (MSS). At the front-end, Sandstone Technology provides its digital banking and customer onboarding software to the bank.
Silicon Valley Bank (SVB)
SVB came to the UK from the US in 2012 (and was the bank’s first international branch).
SVB, which describes itself as a “high-tech” bank, says its UK business “sits right at the heart of London’s exciting technology community and works with some of the most innovative businesses in the UK and Europe”.
SVB UK has done around $3 billion (£2.3 billion) of financing since its launch, focusing on lending to technology companies (including start-ups) and providing services to venture capital and private equity firms that invest in technology and biotechnology.
It operates as a branch of its US parent, under a full banking licence from the UK regulators. SVB has a full commercial bank offering, including business current accounts, loans, corporate credit cards, foreign exchange, UK/EU payments and so on.
The bank runs Oracle FSS’s Flexcube for its core processing and ACI Worldwide’s software for online banking.
A prepaid debit card (Mastercard) and a mobile app, available in the UK and Italy. It is a multi-user spending account, designed to enable and control the flow of money inside a group of multiple users, e.g. a family or a company.
Soldo is based in London. It was founded by tech veteran Carlo Gualandri, one of the founders of Italy’s first ever web portal, Virgilio.it. The company says it does not intend to compete with banks, but will rather complement their services. It plans to seek formal partnerships with banks and co-branded arrangements.
It runs its own in-house developed technology, which is cloud-based. GPS is Soldo’s processor and Wirecard is the issuer.
Soldo holds an electronic money licence and is regulated by the FCA.
A mobile-only bank targeting “millions of users who live their lives on their phones”. Starling offers a personal current account, a business account and a Marketplace, which provides its customers with in-app access to a range of third-party financial services providers, such as insurers, pension providers, investment platforms and mortgage brokers.
Starling Payment Services provides payment solutions to other banks, fintechs and payment services providers.
Starling received £48 million ($70 million) of investment in 2016 from Harald McPike, an American quantitative trader, and gained its banking licence in summer 2016. The following year, It announced its first international location, Ireland.
In 2019, it unveiled its new product – a dual currency card with allows personal and business customers to spend in pounds and euros through one debit card.
On the technology side, the bank has developed its core banking platform and mobile apps from scratch in-house. It says its systems are entirely cloud-based running in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
It provides direct access to BACS, Faster Payments Scheme (FPS), STEP2 and Target2 payments schemes and Mastercard debit cards using GPS for card processing and Bottomline Technologies for payments operations.
In February 2019, Starling became one of the three recipients of the funds of Pool A Capability and Innovation Fund, set up by the RBS Banking Competition Remedies. It received £100 million.
In June 2019, the bank partnered with PelicanPay and newly launched paytech, Tribe, to provide more businesses with the latest payment services.
By autumn 2019, the bank had raised £263 million in funding/investment, with the latest round of £30 million announced in October. It also said it was nearing a one million customer milestone (of these, around 80,000 are businesses) and £1 billion in deposits.
State Bank of India UK
State Bank of India, the largest bank in India, has had a presence in the UK through a dedicated branch in London – State Bank of India UK (SBIUK) – for many years.
SBIUK works with consumers and corporates, and provides savings/deposit accounts, lending and remittances.
In 2017, SBI formed a new entity in the UK – a subsidiary (rather than a branch) – and received a banking licence for it.
For its core banking software, SBI is a major user of Infosys’ Finacle across its international network, including in the UK.
Strive is a product of Budapest-based fintech ff.next’s acquisition of Australian start-up GoSave, which offers interactive piggy banks for kids.
The fintech is taking on the junior and family banking market in the UK, rivalling the likes of goHenry and Spriggy.
Strive wants to be more than just a debit card. Its savings offering, for example, is designed for adults to open as soon as their children are born.
Other products include an interactive piggy bank – which it acquired in the GoSave deal. As well as a debit card and a marketplace. The latter is home to edtech and toy brands which will reward young users for saving.
A mobile banking app from Thomas Cook Money and Ferratum Group, designed specifically for holidays.
Sumo launched in Sweden at the end of 2017, and will launch in the UK in 2018.
It is a fee-free multi-currency account that comes with an “intelligent” contactless debit card that can automatically identify the local currency at point of sale.
The app currently supports seven currencies (including SEK, GBP and EUR) and allows customers to make four fee-free ATM withdrawals at home and abroad per month.
In addition, Sumo offers a range of savings accounts, an overdraft facility, and customers can send money to friends and family via SMS to cover shared holiday expenses.
Ferratum uses Mambu’s core banking solution to support its SME lending services in Finland and Sweden, while its subsidiary bank in Malta runs Finastra’s Fusionbanking core system.
The start-up is consolidating fintech services such as open banking, cross-border transfers, security and reward-linked current accounts. In addition to the UK, it hopes to tap the entire European Economic Area (EEA).
As well as managing all their bank accounts under one roof, users can also spend via a sync. bank account connected to a debit card. This is powered by Global Processing Services (GPS).
The card’s invisible strip allows users to change their CVC security code as many times as they want. They can also create virtual cards for online shopping, much like disposable card issuer Privacy.com.
Users can send other sync. users – at home or abroad – money for free. There is also a marketplace which offers cashback deals from the likes of Booking.com, linked to users’ sync. bank account.
In August 2020, it revealed a £5.5 million investment from unnamed investors, which counted as both pre-Seed and Seed stage funding round.
Tally, the banking app offering a currency equivalent to milligrams of gold, launched the second version of its app and current account in January 2020. The new accounts are connected to the UK Faster Payments (FP) network.
Initially known as Lionsgold, Tally is a stable coin which is linked to the physical commodity, gold. This means it is not a cryptocurrency, because it’s linked to a tangible rather than a digital asset.
Tally now defines itself as a “reserve banking platform and physical asset currency that operates with the fiat currency fractional-reserve banking system”. The system keeps customers’ savings on its own platform, and says it gives consumers “full ownership and control of their money” because the physical gold attributing value to it is held outside the banking system.
“Tally is money designed to hold its value over time rather than being devalued by inflation, and to be protected from bank lending and systemic risk,” says co-founder and CEO Cameron Parry.
One Tally equals one milligram of gold which is stored in a “secure vault” in Switzerland according to the challenger bank. British sterling and euros can be converted into the Tally currency at the global spot price and customers can spend it through a Mastercard-powered debit card.
The neobank says there are no foreign exchange (FX) fees when using Tally abroad and ATM withdrawals are free. Users can send Tally through peer-to-peer transactions, and it can also be converted back into pounds or euros.
It costs users a monthly fee of 0.1% of the average monthly holding to use Tally. The fintech says the charge covers storage, security, insurance and operational costs.
Tally initially launched its beta app in June 2019, and now hopes to add additional features such as savings “safes”, statements and the opportunity to “gift gold”.
Tandem was founded in the UK in 2013 by Ricky Knox (CEO) and Michael Kent (who now holds a non-exec role; he is also a founder of money transfer company Azimo). In November 2016, it started inviting its community of 10,000 “co-founders” to be its first customers.
The bank’s focus is on helping people manage their money rather than on direct product sales, according to its founders. It offers savings, cards and loans products.
In addition to the digital delivery channels, Tandem has a “brick and mortar” call centre to deal with customer queries and more complex transactions.
The bank’s journey hasn’t been smooth. In early 2017, UK retail chain House of Fraser pulled its planned £35 million investment, resulting in the existing investors pumping £3.6 million emergency cash into Tandem (in return for a hefty discount for Tandem’s shares). Tandem also had to give up its deposit-taking banking licence, which it acquired in 2015.
In 2017/18, it acquired a small UK-based bank – Harrods Bank – which brought £80 million of capital from Harrods’ current owners and a new banking licence. It also bought Pariti, a UK-based money management app with around 95,000 users.
For its technology, Tandem uses Fiserv and its Agiliti platform, a shared Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering, hosted by Blue Chip. It has around 18 Fiserv and partner applications, including Fiserv’s Signature core banking system. However, this is understood to be under review.
In 2019, Tandem announced the migration of its initial IT infrastructure to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.
It also works with AI tech start-up Personetics for personalised insights and advice, and with Form3, a UK-based cloud technology provider of Payments-as-a-Service processing for banks and financial institutions.
In 2019, it announced the migration of its initial IT infrastructure to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.
Also in 2019, it unveiled its plans to expand to Hong Kong. This would be the first overseas location for Tandem. The announcement follows from the earlier $15 million investment by Convoy Global, a Hong Kong-based financial adviser.
Thinkmoney is a digital banking services provider based in Manchester. Its main product – the thinkmoney Current Account (which comes with a Mastercard prepaid debit card) – is designed to help customers budget well and stay on top of their finances.
The account automatically splits customer’s money into two separate pots – one for bills and one for spending money. It uses information about customers’ incomes and Direct Debits to ringfence the money they need for bills and other important payments. The money left over is then available to spend on the customer’s debit card.
Thinkmoney released new customer-facing digital services in 2019 in collaboration with low-code provider Outsystems. This allowed the company to launch a new mobile app with 13 more features than its predecessor after just 14 weeks of development.
For its back-office processing, Thinkmoney uses Fiserv’s Signature core system.
Another banking service, rather than a bank. It is aimed at SMEs and is currently in the private alpha testing stage. It aims to open for business this autumn.
Tide will offer a “nimble small business current account”, with a swift set-up and no monthly frees. It claims to be among the “world’s first” mobile-first banking services for SMEs.
Tide’s proposition is a fully featured current account and business MasterCard, plus SME-oriented finance apps, accounting capabilities and interaction with Tide’s community online.
In early 2019, Tide announced a deal with ClearBank (see entry above) for its clearing and payments infrastructure.
In H2 2019, Tide received a £44 million investment from Japan-based SBI, bringing its value to £200 million. By then, Tide had 150+ employees and 100,000+ members.
It also released its first paid plan – Tide Plus – offering SMEs working hour phone support, a 24 hour legal helpline and 20 free transfers a month for £11.99 a month.
The Services Family
This digital bank will cater for the UK military personnel, veterans and their families. It plans to open for business by Q4 2016 and introduce products and services in a phased manner. To begin with, it will commence trading as a mortgage provider. By 2017, it hopes to become a fully licensed retail bank.
On the tech side, it will be underpinned by Sopra Banking Software’s core banking system, Sopra Banking Platform, and digital channels software. The solution will be delivered on a managed services basis.
A new name, but the operations behind it have a 40-year old history. Together Money is a new brand of Jerrold Holdings Group, which unites Auction Finance, Blemain Finance, Cheshire Mortgage Corporation and Lancashire Mortgage Corporation.
Together Money’s focus is on residential and commercial mortgage loans to niche market segments underserved by mainstream lenders.
It is understood that it has applied for a banking licence.
An ethical bank with HQ in Bristol, UK. It is part of a Dutch ethical banking group, Triodos, and had operated in the country under the EU “passporting” regime since 1995. In April 2019, it converted into a wholly-owned subsidiary company, with its own UK banking licence, in readiness for the UK’s potential departure from the EU.
It also relaunched its current account and as a result (as well as due to increasing awareness of climate change), it has seen a 26% increase in its UK customer base in the last three years.
For its technology, the bank uses the bespoke platform developed for Triodos’ operations in the Netherlands. For regulatory reporting, it has Wolters Kluwer’s OneSumX.
Triodos Bank in the Netherlands uses a methodology, Platform for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF), from a group of Dutch financial institutions to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of loans and investment portfolios. PCAF covers a number of relevant asset classes, including listed equity, project finance, mortgages, commercial real estate, project finance and corporate debt.
The group also has banking activities in Germany, Spain, Belgium and France.
TruFin, a creation of independent AIM firm Arrowgrass, started trading on the AIM of the London Stock Exchange in February 2018.
TruFin is a holding company comprising three fintech and banking businesses – Distribution Finance Capital (DFC – supply chain finance), Satago (invoice finance) and Oxygen Finance (dynamic discounting). It has 100 employees, and offices predominantly in the UK and a small team in the US.
In addition, TruFin owns a 15% minority stake in Zopa, a UK consumer P2P lender, which operates independently (see the Zopa entry below).
U Account started off as a prepaid card business, operating under the name Ffrees Family Finance Ltd and targeting those who are under-served by traditional high-street banks.
In November 2016, it evolved into U Account, a current account that aims to help its users to improve their financial wellbeing, offering direct debit payments, budgeting tools and more.
U Account was launched in partnership with Wirecard, Global Processing Services (GPS) and Bottomline Technologies.
Union Bank of India (UK) Limited
A subsidiary of one of India’s largest banks, now with a UK banking licence.
For its tech, Union Bank of India (UK) uses Infosys’ Finacle. Its parent is already an established user of the Finacle core banking system across its international locations.
United Trust Bank
United Trust Bank is a specialist bank offering a range of secured funding facilities for individuals and businesses and deposit accounts for individuals, businesses and charities.
It describes itself as “an entrepreneurial and pragmatic specialist lender”, providing asset finance, professional loans, bridging finance, development finance, specialised mortgages and structured finance.
The bank’s history dates back to 1955. It was bought out in 2003 when it had just ten staff and a balance sheet of around £20 million. Today, it has a balance sheet in excess of £1 billion and nearly 200 staff.
For its technology, the bank uses the Aurius core banking system supplied by local vendor Sword Apak.
Unity Trust Bank
Birmingham-based Unity Trust Bank provides specialist banking services to trade unions, charities and other organisations that operate in the not-for-profit sector in the UK. It also services profit-with-purpose businesses.
The bank was founded in 1984, with a vision “to enrich society as a whole”. Historically, it was majority owned by individual trade unions and federations (73%), and Co-operative Bank (27%). It became a fully independent bank in December 2015, when it bought back the share from the Co-operative Bank and raised £8 million in new share capital.
In 2012, it committed to a new “double-bottom line” strategy, assessing sustainable financial returns alongside social impact.
The bank states it remains true to its founding principles and its ambition is to become the bank of choice for socially minded organisations in the UK.
For its technology, Unity Trust Bank is a long-standing user of Sword Apak’s Aurius core banking system.
A challenger based in Manchester, set up in 2017. The bank does not have a banking licence yet and is not operational.
Once launched, it will focus on business banking.
The bank looks to “humanise” its operations rather than focus on complete automation. It explains: “We have seen more and more banks treat business customers like numbers instead of people. We have seen more and more automated messages, automated decisions, automated rejections.
“At Ursa, we feel that when you pick up the phone, you should be answered by a person who knows your name and understands your business. We feel that decisions should be made by people, with both numbers and relationships in mind.”
A start-up based in Wales. Viola Black is not a bank, it’s a money management app and a prepaid Mastercard card.
It is expected to launch in early 2019. It will offer the usual money management app features – such as tracking day-to-day budgeting, send funds overseas and digitally store receipts.
There is a monthly fee of £4 for using the account.
Viola Black is part of the Viola Group, a privately held company that was first established in Vienna in 2012. Now it has offices in the UK, US, Dubai, and India, with planned expansion into Brazil, Canada, South Africa and Australia.
Also in the group is ViolaCard. This has a separate website and offers a prepaid debit card for money transfers, currencies, and money management. The card is issued by AF Payments.
Virgin Money UK (formerly CYBG)
Virgin Money UK is a holding company that owns the Virgin Money banking operations in the UK, plus Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank and the app-based banking service B (together comprising CYBG). Following CYBG’s acquisition of Virgin Money (a £1.7 billion deal) in summer 2018, the entire group embarked on an enterprise-wide rebrand under the Virgin Money name.
The combined bank offers banking products and services to consumers and businesses. It has six million customers and a balance sheet of almost £70 billion. It is the UK’s sixth-largest bank by assets.
All operations are being moved onto CYBG’s existing core platform, FIS’s Profile. The migration is phased over three years.
A bit of CYBG’s history: it was formed by National Australia Bank (NAB) in February 2016. The two banks’ individual histories date back over 175 years. B was launched in mid-2016, becoming the first major product launch by CYBG since its demerger from NAB.
CYBG was floated on the London Stock Exchange and Australian Securities Exchange in early 2016 and was valued at £1.6 billion (approximately 40% of book value). NAB paid £420 million for Clydesdale Bank in 1987 and £900 million for Yorkshire Bank in 1990.
Vive says it’s helping those with poor credit scores “revive” their finances. It secured a restricted banking licence from the Bank of England in January 2020 and plans to open for business in the course of the year.
Vive will offer personal loans, a fixed rate savings account and an open banking-based money manager app. Note the lack of a current account offering.
“We want to address a different segment of the market,” CEO Nick Anthony told Altfi. “It’s just not difficult to get a current account, so we want to focus on serving our customers with what they really need”.
Anthony is an ex-Royal Marine officer who went on to spend a year in the Ministry of Defense before joining Barclays as one of its chief operating officers. Before heading up Vive, he also spent years specialising in investment banking and risk advice.
Purposefully “kept very quiet”, the bank was founded back in 2017. Two investors have funded the challenger so far: Turkish businessman Kasim Garipoglu and British financier Robert William Hanson.
Russia’s second largest banking group, VTB, is looking to launch a retail banking business in the UK and has applied for a UK banking licence, to enable it to take retail deposits.
VTB is not new to the UK – the bank has been operating in the country via its multinational investment banking arm, VTB Capital. However, it hasn’t been involved in retail banking.
For its technology, it opted for Sopra Banking Software’s Sopra Banking Platform, supplied on a hosted basis.
A peer-to-peer (P2P) currency exchange platform founded in 2010.
WeSwap enables customers to swap currency directly with other travellers. While banks and bureaux buy their currency from a wholesaler/broker/etc and then pass on the costs to customers, WeSwap says it “matches up people travelling in opposite directions, which cuts out the middleman”.
It offers a flat rate of 2% on 18 currencies.
It comes with a mobile app and a card that has “some clever tricks up its sleeve” on the spend side. It will detect the correct currency based on where users are spending, and attempt to draw on the funds from that particular wallet; if no funds are found, it’ll then draw on the user’s balance from their home currency, and complete the swap as part of the transaction.
Users can swap currency in-app. The firm’s swapping tech analyses all incoming swaps and ensures they are fulfilled at the best time for the customer, based on their swap type (instant, three-day or seven-day). It also groups and aggregates swaps to maximise the possibility of a P2P swap, remove the impact of market fluctuations where possible and increase operational efficiency, WeSwap says.
The company is now building a data-driven budget planner – using data from its users, the planner calculates how much money individuals would need to take for their holiday and provide a bespoke budget for that destination and user.
The start-up selected Oracle Financial Services Software’s (FSS) Flexcube as its core banking system in November.
The fintech focuses its offering around current accounts and payments. It offers domestic and international transfers, peer-to-peer (P2P) payments. Its customer focus is on retail consumers and “agrarian” – agricultural – businesses
According to one of its employees’ LinkedIn pages, the fintech is seeking an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) licence in both the UK and the EU.
The fintech is headed up by CEO Ammar Kutait. The founder previously spent eight years leading the Socar Aurora Fujairah Terminal (SAFT) as its CEO.
Wyelands Bank is small entity previously known as Tungsten Bank and before that as FIBI Bank.
FIBI Bank was purchased by Tungsten Corporation from First International Bank of Israel in mid-2014 for £30 million. In late 2016, it was sold to Wyelands Holdings (part of Gupta Family Alliance/Liberty House Group) also for £30 million.
It relaunched in 2017 with a new identity and focus as a specialist provider of financial solutions to commodities, steel and engineering enterprises. Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of Liberty House Group, says the acquisition is part of the group’s strategy to support the UK manufacturing.
Wyelands Bank also implemented a new core banking system – ERI’s Olympic – to replace its legacy Misys’ Equation core.
Xace claims to be the first gaming friendly digital bank to land a licence from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The fintech offers a banking account linked to casinos, bookmakers and gaming operators.
This account link means users can send and receive payments directly, hence bypassing traditional banks in the transaction process.
Active in both the UK and wider Europe, the start-up uses Faster Payments for GBP transactions, and named IBANs via SEPA for Euro transactions.
Xace also provides account solutions for casinos licensed out of Curacao, adding a business-to-business (B2B) element to its offering.
Yolt is ING Bank’s UK-based smart money app offshoot, set up by the Dutch bank in June 2017, and had 900,000 registered users by H2 2019.
It is works with simplesurance, MoneySuperMarket, Anorak, Wealthify, Pensionbee and Raisin. The latter partnership was signed in autumn 2019 and links Yolt’s app with Raisin’s pan-European savings marketplace – providing its users access to saving deposit rates from Raisin’s partner banks, directly through the Yolt app.
Additionally, Yolt also announced support for Payvision, a Netherlands-based global acquirer and payment processing platform (in 2018, ING bought a 75% stake in Payvision), and Funding Options, a UK-based small business funding comparison platform (there is also an ING connection as Funding Options launched in the Netherlands in 2019, following investment by ING Ventures).
The world’s first peer-to-peer (P2P) lender, Zopa, made an application to the PRA and FCA for a banking licence in H2 2016. It was granted the licence in late 2018.
Zopa’s bank offers deposit accounts and overdraft alternatives to borrowers, in addition to the lender’s existing suite of investor and borrower products. It describes itself as the “world’s first hybrid peer-to-peer and digital bank”.
It is understood Zopa’s core banking solution is an in-house development, which took around 50 developers and 18-20 months to complete.
According to Zopa’s CEO speaking at the 2019 Sibos conference, the homegrown solution enabled the bank to do multiple releases a day if required and provided flexibility to launch new products and features “in days rather than months”. The solution is based on microservices architecture, cloud-based (AWS) tech stack, and is mainly on Java and “a bit of .NET”.
The firm received £140 million in funding on the eve of its licence expiring in December 2019, enabling it to continue operations as a bank by meeting the minimum capital requirements.
Amicus Finance was set up in 2009, with its HQ is in London. The specialist lender provided short-term property loans, SME lending and working capital solutions.
It planned to become a bank, and submitted a banking licence application to the FCA and PRA in H2 2016.
In advance of authorisation, Amicus converted £30 million of the debt currently used to fund its lending activities into equity – to form the capital base of the bank’s operations.
David Fisher, Alex Shapland and Paul Stevens were non-executive directors to the board. Fisher is the former CEO of Sainsbury’s Bank, Shapland was previously a partner at PwC and Stevens is the former head of Investec Private Bank in the UK.
Amicus entered into administration in December 2018. Specialist Lending Solutions reported that Amicus had been forced to cease its property lending operations after a deal for further investment could not be reached with shareholders.
Amicus Asset Finance continues to operate under Amicus Wealth, which focuses on offering consumers financial planning support ahead of retirement.
Axis Bank UK
A subsidiary of India’s Axis Bank, it got a full banking licence in mid-2013.
The bank implemented Infosys’ Finacle core banking system, which is already in use across a number of Axis’ locations worldwide, including India.
In April 2021, Mumbai-based Axis Bank informed the stock exchanges that it had entered into an agreement to sell its UK subsidiary to OpenPayd.
According to the bank’s filing, its UK arm contributed less than 1% to its net worth. The sale includes a a fixed premium of $5.5 million.
Bank and Clients
Bank and Clients (B&C) was formed in 2014, as a result of a merger of Church House Trust and Ocean Capital (a direct lender to corporates).
Prior to that, Church House was owned by Virgin Money for four years (purchased for £12.3 million), and known as Virgin Bank for two of those (2010-2012).
When Virgin Money acquired another UK bank, Northern Rock, in 2012, Church House was given its old name back and the Virgin Group attempted to sell it to SAV Credit (the sale fell through).
Church House was founded in 1978, but its origins can be traced back to 1792, when Edward Batten formed Messrs. Batten & Co.
Ocean Industries purchased Church House for £13 million in 2014, and merged it with its Ocean Capital business to create B&C. The bank offers savings, business loans, commercial property financing and mortgages.
In mid-2018, B&C teamed up with Raisin UK to launch two fixed-term deposits. The bank joined Raisin UK’s marketplace and these two products are exclusive to it.
In April 2019, the bank temporarily withdrew its mortgage products from the market. Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait concluded a full acquisition agreement for the private bank in January 2020. The deal appears to have stalled, with Bank and Clients no longer offering mortgages or savings products.
Then in February 2021, Tandem Bank acquired the £100 million mortgage book of Bank and Clients.
This London-based community bank was the brainchild of Duncan Law at Transition Town Brixton. The initiative looked to new ways of dealing with climate change, and energy and financial issues.
“Each month lots of money in salaries swills into Lambeth and most of it disappears again without much benefit to local banks. It’s held by banks ‘too big to fail’, who invest in fossil fuels but still won’t lend to local businesses,” Law said.
Transition Town Brixton’s New Economy Group wanted to create a “community of community investors” and looked to inspiration from Community Savings Bank Association (CSBA), another UK challenger still in operation.
Bank of Lambeth intended to be part of CSBA and said it would like “the first branch to be in Brixton”. Discussions with CSBA started in 2017.
According to CSBA, the bank was a “group of activists” who did not plan to form a company to seek a banking licence. The bank’s Facebook page has been discontinued.
FinTech Futures reached out to CSBA to understand whether it merged with or bought Bank of Lambeth. “In answer to your question, no we didn’t do either,” a spokesperson said.
Bexhill UK, a firm which provides insurance premium funding to brokers under the Orchard Funding Group, applied for a UK banking licence in May 2020.
But in October 2020, Orchard Funding Group said it had withdrawn its applications for a UK banking licence, citing the “current uncertain economic conditions due to COVID-19”.
Instead, Orchard will continue to focus on its core business activities in insurance premium finance and the professions funding market.
Founded in 2000, Bexhill UK works with roughly 250 British insurance brokers providing them with both an in-house finance facility, and a more traditional finance model.
The Luton-based firm’s CEO Ravi Takhar said the firm’s activity during the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic meant Bexhill UK was set up to “robustly” deal with the lending market.
Takhar is also a board director for property development financer Urban Exposure, and sits on Honeycomb Investment’s board as a director too, a firm which invests in credit assets originated by non-bank lending platforms.
Previously, the CEO worked at Investec and at Japanese investment bank Nikko. Bexhill UK’s chairman was the former CEO of two banks – Heritable and Hampshire Trust Bank.
Following a period of beta testing by its owner RBS – now renamed NatWest, digital challenger Bó was launched in November 2019.
But the bank-birthed fintech start-up struggled to ever gain momentum. In February 2020, it had to re-issue 6,000 cards to customers due to security issues in conflict with the extended Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) deadline.
Then in May 2020, NatWest’s CEO Alison Rose announced its official wind down.
In total, it accumulated 11,000 customers, most of which were “friends and family”.
In February, RBS announced the appointment of Mettle’s CEO Marieke Flament as CEO of Bó, signalling the start of its official wind down. Bó’s chief product officer, Ollie Purdue, also left the digital bank in April 2020.
Rose told Yahoo Finance UK the greater “opportunity” is in the small business market at the minute, and points out that Bó was always more of a test for the bank than a target-driven venture.
This challenger was backed by specialist motor finance and bridging lender, S&U plc, which has been in business since the 1930s.
S&U is run by the Coombs family – including now deceased Derek Coombs, a former British Conservative politician who later chaired Prospect magazine and failed to buy the film rights for the first four James Bond novels.
It was understood that Coombs Bank chose MSS from Sopra Banking Software as part of its technology system.
The URL for Coombs Bank has since been repurposed for ‘Aspen Bridging’, which offers bridging and light development loans of up to £5 million across England & Wales. This firm is directed by Jack Coombs.
This challenger bank was founded and is backed by Danela Ventures Partners Limited, a London-based advisory firm set up by Michael Rossman.
According to Michael Rossman’s LinkedIn, Copernicus Bank is still “under construction”. He envisioned the start-up to “run an open ledger/balance sheet available daily and not engage in deposit-based maturity/risk transformation”.
Rossman began building Copernicus Bank nearly ten years ago, in 2012. FinTech Futures has reached out to Rossman to understand if he is still working on the venture. But it seems to have taken a backseat to his new venture, EnergyBillKill.co – an aggregator finding the lowest business gas and electricity prices.
Rolled out en masse in 2018, Esme Loans operated under the leadership of Richard Kerton. Kerton spent 14 years at then-named RBS prior to the bank’s decision to create Esme Loans.
The fintech issued unsecured small business loans backed by personal guarantees, ranging from around £5,000 to £150,000 over 1-5-year periods. Limited companies with at least two years’ trading history could take out the loans.
Funding for Esme Loans, which enjoyed a London Tube advertising campaign for a time, came in part from Pollen Street Capital, a London-based alternative investment management company.
NatWest had lent around £100 million to businesses via Esme Loans by December 2019. The bank had plans to double this in 2020, but made a U-turn on such plans.
In March 2021, the bank shuttered three-year-old Esme Loans.
UK-based start-up Gravity was founded to serve SMEs with lending, credit card and deposit services. Gravity’s chairman, Tim Brooke, intended to offer them micro-level support.
In August 2019, the company chose Finastra’s core banking system, Fusion Essence, which is built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.
But since then, Gravity seems to have disappeared. There is no website or social media pages under the name. And Brooke, a former JPMorgan Chase and Monzo director, has eliminated any evidence of the start0uo venture on his LinkedIn. FinTech Futures has reached out to Brooke to learn more.
This banking start-up from the US described itself as the “Apple Store” of banking. It targeted millennials with a digital and “brick and mortar” banking proposition.
Its products were set to include micro-loans, micro-investments and cashback. For the latter, Iam Bank intended to create 21,000+ partnerships with retailers.
In spring 2017, it announced its intention to roll out free learning and therapy-based financial workshops across the UK (and also the US).
Around the same time, it was also looking to buy a small UK bank, building society or a credit union with a high street presence.
But since July 2017, the company hasn’t posted anything on its Instagram page. And its URL generates an error page.
Pingit, launched in 2012, managed to accrue more than 1.2 million downloads in its first year of operations.
The payments app allows customers from a range of banks to transfer their money into an account in the UK.
In April 2021, Barclays sunsetted the long-serving payments, telling staff the project had “run its course”.
Sifted sources indicate the app had failed to capitalise on its early innovation. Others claimed the app’s development moved at a “glacial pace”, and that it missed a chance to become a UK version of ING’s successful spin-off Yolt.
The last update to the Pingit service occurred in August 2019, when the bank launched an accessory shop on the platform.