mobile bank. associated with
Introducing the mobile
bank. Written by Nell Walker Produced by George Tweed
COO of Atom Bank, Stewart Bromley, describes the incredible strides the digital-only bank is making in the financial world
tewart Bromley is the Chief Operating Officer of Atom Bank. Having graduated from the University of Warwick, Bromley began working internationally for Ford Motor Company, moving on after 14 years to help with the rebrand of O2. He then started working independently before being headhunted by HSBC Direct, setting up and running the first central centre of excellence for the HSBC Group. It was at this point that Bromley delved deeper into banking, consulting for Lloyds and Nationwide, spearheading digital projects in the 1990s which were fresh and innovative for the time. “My skills lie in change,” says Bromley. “Whether it’s technological, digital, or cultural – I’ve done the lot.” Bromley was approached by a peer and friend of his, Mark Mullen (Atom’s
CEO), asking if he would help to set up a new bank. Bromley responded that if the bank was digital-only, he was interested: “Having preached the threat of a digital bank at board-level for a number of years, this was too big a calling,” Bromley says. In May 2014, he formally became the second employee of Atom Bank, joining before all but one of the founders. “I started right from day one, and at the time there were six of us in a little room trying to work out how to build a bank.”
A digital challenge That six-strong team had no small task on its hands. A digital-only bank would require a great deal of research, but Bromley soon discovered that the research leaned heavily in Atom’s favour: “Atom is about the absolute recognition that consumer behaviour
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“Digital technology not only enables us to provide superb self service capability within the app, but also enables us to differentiate our customer support capability. Customers that contact us through the app have already been identified; we have contextual information, including their personal details, their device, operating system and where they have been in the app, all provided to the agent to enable them to provide a ‘telepathic’ customer experience.” – Helen Wilson, Head of Customer Services
is changing to be very mobile-centric,” thanks to Atom running at a lower he says. “We’ve been researching cost than other banks. He knew this topic for years. Back then there from his consulting work that banks’ were 8.7 million adults in the country biggest threat was digital start-ups, that wanted to bank digitally-only, and which wouldn’t need to grow new felt disenfranchised. Those people digital capabilities on an existing were underserved by the industry, mess of technology and processes. and the segment has grown at a rate “It’s not that established banks of two million customers a year. don’t want to advance, it’s that they “There was a total physically can’t because of the gap in the market, so technology layers they Atom didn’t do this for already have,” says Atom’s sake – it was Bromley. “You’ve got because there was to either start from an underserved fresh, or sub-brand The year Atom Bank community that which involves was founded wasn’t getting what cannibalising your it wanted. You can own company. Banks argue that other banks have are spending millions some form of mobile banking on digital and marketing, but the access, but they’re not a mobile bank.” amount of actual functionality they’re Creating a digital-only bank includes creating for customers is negligible. the advantage of delivering better You can start a new bank and launch technology geared specifically to the a complete suite of products for a proposition being created, along with tenth of the money, and it’s so much a much lower cost base thanks to it easier to keep abreast of technology’s being a self-service bank. According swift pace. If you can’t keep up, to Bromley, the customer receives a you’re never going to survive. We’re better experience and better value, leapfrogging the high street banks.”
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Innovation Atom Bank had to undertake some serious innovation in order to make it work. “You’ve got to think about how to squeeze the whole of a bank into a landscape of a few inches,” says Bromley, meaning that his team had to decide what a bank needed to be, and the top priority was customer experience. Atom created an animated interface using Unity 3D – a platform used predominantly in the gaming sector – and expanded that into a fully animated experience without any formulaic navigation. The app features real-time information architecture, bringing the contextually-relevant information to the customer’s screen without the need for menus. Atom writes its own code for the app, but the services that depends on are almost entirely bought through partnerships. While most banks will partner with huge global companies like IBM, Atom prefers to form relationships with many smaller companies, ensuring that it keeps ahead with innovation and lowers costs. “Without those
types of partners,” Bromley says, “we would never be able to deliver at this pace. And we will readily create more partnerships to maintain pace and supply best-in-breed capabilities.”
Security As the potential for security breaches becomes an increasing concern, Atom is made an all the more attractive prospect as a mobile-only – and therefore specific to the customer – concept. “You get massive increases in levels of security with mobile-only,” says Bromley. “If all we did was regurgitate what a bank did there’d be no point – we had to completely differentiate. We use either facial, voice recognition, or a passcode, depending on what the customer wants. Soon we’ll have fingerprint technology too. “Most of our customers prefer the facial recognition software, and while some global companies may be using this technology, it’s new to the UK. We do have a support centre for any customers needing help, and it’s integrated into the app with a live
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chat function. Next year we’ll have video and voice to accompany that. There’s a level of intelligence that’s been thought through to deliver the best customer experience.” Atom’s biggest challenge at the start was funding. “We’re a start-up and we don’t have big pockets,” Bromley explains. “Banking is certainly not for the faint-hearted.” It’s a tightly-regulated industry, and start-ups have very little negotiation power. While many companies can launch with only a few hundred pounds behind them, banks require several million just to meet the basic regulations; Atom had to raise £100 million at the very least, and managed £135 million to get started. “That’s before getting a single penny of income. The shareholders want a return as soon as possible, so you
immediately have to deliver at an incredible pace on a shoestring. But we’ve always got over our hurdles and have risen to the challenges of the job. Today we’re doing pretty damn well.” Bromley and his team are deeply passionate about the concept of digital-only banking and its place in a sector that is otherwise outdated, and believes strongly in its mission statement of ‘changing banking for good’. “The future of the digital bank is based on what customers want, and the behaviour that customers are demanding,” Bromley concludes. “Having the speed and agility to stay with the technology that the high street can’t compete with, and a cost-income ratio which makes all the difference – that’s a pretty compelling proposition.”
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