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London, metal and challenger

London is buzzing with Brexit news, smells of blossoming spring, and it can’t stop talking about challenger banks. This city has a very special place in the whole banking and fintech world (and in my heart), probably being the very center of all.

Well, since my very unfortunate travel there a couple of years ago, there are a few new things I noticed. First and foremost, contactless bank cards have won over Oyster card. Oyster used to be the ‘holy grail’ transport card, a great example for all metropolitan cities around the world. And now, well, it is almost gone, in favor of ApplePay, Google Pay, and other Pay.

Not only there, contactless smartphone payments rule big offline and probably online. I have seen notices ‘no cash, cards only’, and they made me smile big. The city is contactless, 100%. Home of Apple Pay team, and all major banks HQ, it seems to finally catch up with the trends, and make itself as a showcase.

Other than that, everyone is talking about StarlingMonzo,N26 and Revolut. Not only within the professional community. Just regular people showed off their Revoluts and their Monzos more often that I would expect. Metal contactless cards made by at least N26, Revolut and Curve, are especially fancy looking, and craved for.

These banks are challenger banks. In the professional community though, apart from Brexit worry, the ‘challenger ’ term seems to not leave the tip of the tongue. It looks like this keyword has replaced the AI/blockchain/big data hashtags for now. What are they?

It is considered that all challenger (and neobanks) are digital, no offline branches, just offices. Many of them are mobile-first, or even mobile-only. Their core systems are mostly completely new, written from scratch, as well as front-end — the apps. They either started anew, as Starling, or sprouted off the traditional banks, incumbent ones. One thing unites them — they are new, fast, flexible, customer oriented, and basically, sexy. Banks — sexy. Never heard that before.

Well, it seems proper that this is happening in the UK, home to the most powerful traditional banks, and now, the blossoming army of digital challengers. These new ones find their bread and opportunities where oldsters can not satisfy. It seems proper that Apple Pay started from here, not from the US. It seems proper that London is still the capital of the financial world (subjective!).


What the Money is a lifestyle channel & show about fintech, ecommerce, business and innovations by Anna Kuzmina. From Russia. With love. Follow Anna on MediumTelegram или на Яндекс.Дзене.


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Anna Kuzmina

Anna Kuzmina



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21 Jan 2019



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