Business

Monese is Changing the Financial Services Industry

UK-Based Startup Offers Banking Services to Expats, Immigrants and Travellers

14.08.2018 | by Kezia Parkins
Photo by monese
Photo by monese
With the FinTech revolution sweeping across the world, a number of challenger banks and easy e-payment solutions companies have emerged across Europe. Monese is a financial services startup that has tapped into the vast consumer base finding it difficult to open an account at high-street banks.
When Monese launched as Britain’s first mobile-only bank in 2015, rather than targeting millennials or early adopters, as Monzo and Starling Bank later would, Monese did things differently.With the European migrant crisis in full flow, hundreds of thousands of smart, educated migrants were struggling to recognise their university degrees, confirm their employment histories and, most crucially, open bank accounts.

“It was important for us to start with the people where the pain was the biggest, and for us that was people moving to the UK and struggling to start a life”.
Noris Koppel, Founder of Monese

Therefore, Monese lets migrants (or anyone) open a UK bank account or receive a European IBAN in a matter of minutes without needing a UK address, something no major high street bank would do at the time.

Today, after expanding the app to 20 countries and translating the app into eight different languages, Monese has nearly 400,000 account holders.

Monese’s breakthrough technology can validate the identity of customers in real time. This enables the company to offer accounts to the hundreds of thousands of expats and migrants who find it slow and painful to open bank accounts in major banks across Europe. Monese’s fully-featured UK account comes with cheap global payments and a contactless debit card.

Koppel founded Monese after his first-hand experience of the hassle involved with opening a bank account in a new country.

Koppel says that Monese is building a more inclusive banking system as there are more than 2 billion people in the world with inadequate access to financial services.

First, clients need to submit a snapshot of their passport. “We analyse the image and extract not just the name and all the data from the passport, we’re also able to look at the image and evaluate pixel by pixel”, Koppel explained in an interview with Tech.eu, adding that the company’s image recognition tech is “multiple times better than the human eye”.

This is followed by verifying email and phone number information. “We already know the customer’s geo-location because they obviously hold their phone in their hands,” he added. “The next step is the video selfie where we are asking customers to look into the camera and read back certain words and sentences.”

While Monese says that it wants to build an inclusive banking service, it does not classify itself as a bank. It is regulated by the FCA in the UK but does not have a banking license. “We fall in the electronic money category,”  Koppel said.

Monese has raised $16 million in funding and may raise more, but Koppel asserts that the company will not rely on that capital in the long term.

Monese has built a vast loyal user base, with more than 70% of its users using the app as a primary banking service. Whether Monese can continue to retain such a loyal base as it expands in size and transcends Europe’s boundaries still remains to be seen. In any case, Koppel believes that the company is fulfilling a crucial role in the lives of many.

“We have almost no competitors because we are serving people that are denied by not just mainstream banks but also all these new challenger banks,” he explained.

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