Proposed by Ed Cotton.
Is it harder to be a challenger in some categories than others? We don’t really see it that way, but in the recent post Lehmann era there has been an awful lot of talk about ‘challenger’ and not much to justify the claims. The recent UK 'challenger banks' simply seem to be smaller versions of their bigger brothers and sisters – less challenger than younger sibling. They have been a useful distraction for governments and regulators to laud while they quietly return the old big banks to health. But perhaps that is about to change with the imminent launch of Atom Bank.
It’s a bank that will have no bricks and mortar - helping to save money it can plough into better rates and services – and it will offer these through online and mobile platforms only. Atom is not alone in seeing the opportunity for a tech bank freed from the burden of branches. We will likely see a flurry of these newer banking entities. So, what sets Atom apart? Well, for a start, they are very focused on 18–34 year olds – a generation completely at home with technology and fans of disintermediation of every category. These are all Uber’s children.
Atom plan to offer a highly personalised and intuitive experience - which they describe as ‘telepathic’. It also hopes to attract people with its new kinds of security – gone are traditional passwords (apparently we have an average of 19 passwords each) to be replaced by your voice, face, eyelash flutter and other layers of biometric wizardry. It’s the same technology used at the best border controls. The teething problems one witnesses at airports with this kind of technology has apparently been ironed out, and the repetition of your personal catch phrase will give you access to your personal millions – and yours alone, we hope.
You can also play with several elements of the Atom Bank design livery to create your own interface and bank name – although sadly changing your account name to ‘The Bank of Bill Gates’ doesn’t guarantee a balance of similarly epic proportions.
Atom is in the final stages of beta, due to go live this spring: it has attracted significant funding, coverage and interest for a bank that is yet to launch. Its founders have impressive pedigree coming from Metro Bank and First Direct – two banks that can genuinely claim to have made a difference in the world of UK finance – and they are hell bent on challenging the old guard.
"Banks are trying to be cool and hip and build super cool digital front ends and say they will compete with Atom"' Says co-founder Anthony Thomson. "But it’s like putting lipstick on a pig - ultimately it’s still a pig and the new front end is still running into an awful digital back end." So, we hope that Atom can sort it’s own back end out and be a success, because the banking category does need some true challengers…it doesn’t need any more pigs.
Thanks to Ed Cotton, director of Strategy and Innovation at Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners for suggesting Atom Bank. Ed is curious about all things relating to brands, marketing and culture. Follow Ed on Twitter @cotton.
Hugh Derrick is the eatbigfish partner for UK and Europe. He is an expert on challenger thinking and has worked with brands in every category from cleaning products to luxury cars. He is never happier than on a ski-slope.