How the cultural conversation around money is forcing banks to evolve

Challenger banks are everywhere. Atom, Monzo, Starling, Revolut, N26 – the list goes on, and that’s just in the UK. They have risen rapidly, offering mobile-first interfaces, instant spending tracking, and (most importantly) cool millennial aesthetics. Challenger banks have raised the floor when it comes to what we expect from financial services – at a time when the cultural conversation around money has been blown wide open. Undoubtedly, there’s never been more choice between brands, and it’s forcing traditional banks to up their game. Hot on their heels, the established banks have updated their own services to include tracking and insights – within an altogether more mobile-friendly experience. For people hoping to understand more about their spending habits, the rise of the challengers has vastly improved their experience of using traditional banks.

Starling Bank

This begs the question: what’s left to challenge?

Perhaps Dozens can answer this question. One of the latest mobile-first banks on the scene, their recent campaign takes aim directly at the stagnating innovation of Challenger banks. #QuestionYourBank argues that regardless of who they are, both establishment and challenger banks make money off people’s overdrafts and loans. Not tracking features, not slick user interfaces, but simply: debt. Dozens claims to offer a new way of doing things – the bank only makes money when its customers do, based on the returns it can generate for them. By helping people save and invest, Dozens takes its share from growth, rather than fines. They’re even claiming to change the nature of banking itself.

#questionyourbank: the new campaign from Dozens

Part of the bank’s story is its makeup. Three-quarters of the staff at Dozens are women, something celebrated by the bank on their website. Hoping to challenge notions of what a fintech startup looks like, while also ensuring that “2008 never happens again”, this feels particularly in line with current cultural shifts around money. Refinery29’s Money Diaries have been at the forefront of this movement – the incredibly popular weekly blog and recently-released book have created a space for women to discuss personal finance. We’ve also noticed disruption coming from elsewhere: Vestpod. This social community (of blogs, videos, Instagram, and workshops) has an upcoming book, aiming squarely to “tackle the last taboo: money”. In contrast to the clean, minimal presentation of Money Diaries, Vestpod takes a more activist, scrapbook-esque approach to managing money – and it’s picking up popularity.

Tackling the last taboo: Vestpod

Within the short birth and growth of challenger banks, a trajectory has already formed. From the tech-first, insights based disruptors to a wholly social conversation of empowerment. It’s clear that these shifts are concomitant, one could not have happened without the other. Established banks should be acutely aware of this. The opportunity no longer lies in merely adopting the visual codes of financial empowerment; that’s old news. To stay ahead, big banks can take a leaf out of Lloyds’ book and address the last taboo head on. Anything less will be left behind.

Charlie Hyde, Human & Cultural Insights


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