HSBC aims to dodge the iceberg with digital-only banking project

HSBC aims to dodge the iceberg with digital-only banking project

HSBC is reportedly building a stand-alone digital banking startup for small business customers in an attempt to fend off competition from app-based challenger rivals.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the bank has recruited more than 100 people to guide the project to launch.

A "source close to HSBC" told the broadsheet the stand-alone digital bank - known internally as 'Project Iceberg' - could launch as early as this year in beta testing mode.

The bank in June promised to to invest between $15-$17bn in technology-based services as part of a new growth strategy.

HSBC has declined to comment on specific plans, but a spokesperson says: “Technology is radically changing the environment for business, so we’re looking to innovate where this enables us to deliver a better service.”

HSBC is not the only large incumbent rallying to the face off the threat from upstart challenger banks. Royal Bank of Scotland has its own team of developers working on a banking-as-a-service offering in the retail market, aping the approach of challenger banks with the development of a marketplace model.

Comments: (4)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 03 September, 2018, 11:17Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I find it interesting that the traditional banks see the need to compete with the Fintech banks in this way [setup standalone Digital only banks]. Although there are lots of "successful" examples many [Challenger Banks] are reliant on VC investment and aren't actually making money! (yet). Is this a bubble that will burst at some point? Surprised that they don't just invest in an existing start-up and buy the expertise? With Open APIs and PSD2 can't they just partner to ensure they can meet the [still] niche demands of digital customers?



Joss Wilbraham
Joss Wilbraham - WMG Consultants Ltd. - Oxford 04 September, 2018, 06:481 like 1 like

Andrew - It is quite understandable when you look at the state of the legacy infrastructure of banks like HSBC. This approach -also referred to as 'speedboating' by some - will become increasingly common amongst the large, legacy banks. You are right, they could invest in  other challengers but that would most likely not give them enough influence over the functionality and more importantly, more control over customer migration. With regard to Open Banking/PSD2, I'm afraid there is still plenty of room for improvement (just look at rhe debate with the banks and CMA9 in the UK!). 

As a business and retail customer of HSBCs, I am now left wondering how long will it really be before I can jump aboard their new Sunseeker because I now know that they are not  going to invest in their existing platform.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 04 September, 2018, 10:04Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Goldman (Marcus), JP Morgan (You Invest) and ICE (Bakkt) are doing the same. In some cases, it's about self-preservation instincts; in others, partial self-cannibalisation can, in fact, be profitable as the rails and mechanisms are already in place. If you don't take care of your customers, someone else will...

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 04 September, 2018, 13:36Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Neobanks typically have one or two products and 4-5 figure customer counts. While I don't know HSBC's plans, there are other traditional banks who have announced full-feature digital only banks with plans to acquire 10s or 100s of millions of customers. I'm not surprised they've opted for the BUILD route - the difference in scope and scale between neobanks and digital banks of traditional banks is too stark for traditional banks to risk the BUY option, especially at the kind of frothy valuations of VC-funded neobanks.