The evolution of the bank account –The Digital Age in the EU

Part 2

We take a look at how rapid developments in mobile technology and the EU’s regulatory landscape helped the bank account adapt to the challenges of the digital ageMeredith Popolo from Trustly outlines the major changes that the digital age brought to the industry.


Anti-bank sentiment: a perfect storm

The PSD and the smartphone created the right conditions for a new kind of banking. But it was the state of banks after the crisis that turned it all into the perfect storm. The banking system had faced public image problems before, but the situation had never been this bad.

People didn’t just distrust banks in 2008. They hated them. Of course, this was quite understandable. Thousands of people had lost their life savings or their homes, largely because of banks’ cavalier attitude towards risk. To add insult to injury, they had to pay to save those very banks from financial ruin. Meanwhile, senior bank executives got bonuses and jetted off to luxury resorts for a spot of R&R.

In this climate, customers were more willing to give emerging banking alternatives a try. In turn, many companies used anti-bank sentiment to their advantage, setting themselves apart by challenging the status quo.

Transparency and education became the cornerstones of these new companies’ marketing strategies. Some companies — such as Tink — even made it their whole business model, offering a service which let customers compare different banks’ interest rates and fees straight from a mobile app. This made people feel empowered and helped them regain a sense of control over their financial lives.

Different strokes for different folks: the bank account goes niche

As “challengers” gained traction, new companies were faced with the problem of standing out in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Companies started looking at areas where they felt traditional banks failed customers and swooped in to fill that need. Many also specialized, focusing on only one aspect of banking such as current accounts, savings, lending or investing.

This development resulted in a new kind of banking experience. Your bank account was now tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. In fact, you could probably find a banking product that solved a problem you didn’t even know you had. Monese, for instance, is a bank account for people new to the UK. You can open it from your smartphone in less than five minutes. By contrast, traditional banks require proof of a UK address, which most newcomers don’t have. Another FinTech company, TransferWise, was founded to combat exorbitant wire transfer fees and now handles transfers between more than 50 countries at a fraction of what banks charge.


Banks and fintech: from competitors to allies

By the end of 2013, the world economy was bouncing back and banks had started to rehabilitate their image, allowing them to start focusing their resources on innovation.

Unfortunately, FinTech companies were now way ahead, which left banks with a lot of ground to cover. But FinTech companies also had a problem of their own: While they were more flexible and innovative, they had trouble achieving growth. Well, partnering up proved to be the solution.

A case in point, Avanza Bank’s partnership with Trustly reduced the time it took for customers to top up their accounts from over four hours to less than 10 seconds, leading to a 7% increase in Avanza’s activation rate. Similarly, multi-currency payment provider Revolut’s partnership with Lloyds has allowed it to start offering its own specialized bank account without having to become a full-blown bank itself. Other banks, like Nordea, have started accelerator programs, which let them share their business and financial expertise with new startups while staying abreast of new innovations.


2016 and beyond: the bank account’s future

By the end of 2016, the bank account was far different from the storage rooms of the early days. It was now more relevant than ever; essentially a full-blown virtual wallet you could carry with you anywhere on your smartphone and use to make real-time transfers or pay for goods online.


But this is hardly the end of the line.

As mobile payments become more widespread, we’re increasingly moving towards a cashless society. This will make security and fraud prevention more important than ever. Companies like Behaviosec are leading the way here, using advanced biometrics and machine learning to provide enhanced security continuously in real time.

Elsewhere, advances in artificial intelligence and the rise of bots will make payments even faster and offer an unprecedented level of customer service. And access to better data will give us more control on our money, helping us spend, save and invest more intelligently.

Stay tuned for the fifth and final instalment of the Evolution of the Bank Account series for a glimpse into the future of FinTech.



About Meredith Popolo

Meredith Popolo is the editorial strategist at Trustly, where she reports on trending topics in FinTech. Prior to Trustly, she wrote about consumer technology for and about adtech for Google.