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UK Report: Too many banks?

An A-Z tour of the U.K.’s new wave of banking companies

UNconventional Wisdom is a periodic guest blog where the conventional wisdom is held up for fresh inspection. If you have some "UNconventional Wisdom" to share, email scocheo@sbpub.com. UNconventional Wisdom is a periodic guest blog where the conventional wisdom is held up for fresh inspection. If you have some "UNconventional Wisdom" to share, email scocheo@sbpub.com.

I’m losing track of the number of new banks that have announced they are launching in Britain. I say there’s 40, but there appears to be a new one every day. The latest one is Zopa, the P2P lender, who are branching out … not that they have any branches to begin with.

So, from memory, the list of just UK new banks includes:

Aldermore

Al Rayan Bank (formerly Islamic Bank of Britain)

Atom

Bnk to the Future

Centralway Numbrs

Civilised

Fidor

• Ffrees

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Hampden & Co.

Handelsbanken

ipagoo

Lintel

Loot

Metro

Monese

Monzo (formerly Mondo)

Neat

OakNorth

One Savings

Shawbrook

Starling

• Taqanu

Tandem

Tide

Triodos

TSB

William & Glyn

Zopa

That list is not exhaustive but, even so, it’s a helluva list. Some of these are full banks with branches, some are digital banks, some are just front-end apps, some are emoney firms … but they all claim to be banks with bank in their name one way or other.

My question: How are they going to differentiate? How are they going to get customers? Why so many of them? Can they all survive?

Bear in mind few people ever even change their bank, how are they going to persuade enough people to switch, especially if they have no physical presence?

I’m not being negative, but I’m just trying to say that with 77% of people tied to the Big Four banks—HSBC, Barclays, RBS/NatWest, Lloyds—and many other smaller banks with branches out there already—Nationwide, Clydesdale, Yorkshire, and the building societies—do we really expect there to be a need to have 40 new upstart banks?

If yes, which ones are really going to make a mark, as we’ve had challenger banks for years—Virgin Money being case in point – and none of them have made any real dent yet, bearing in mind that in 2002 the Big Four only had 69% of the UK deposit accounts and now it’s 77%.

Just saying.

This guest blog was adapted from Chris Skinner’s blog, The Finanser

Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner has become known as an international independent commentator on fintech through his blog, the Finanser.com. He is the author of the bestselling book Digital Bank and its sequel ValueWeb. Both books have been reviewed on www.BankingExchange.com and a chapter excerpt of ValueWeb also appears on the site. Skinner chairs the European networking forum: the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand and has received similar honors from The Wall Street Journal and other organizations. Visit Skinner's professional website.

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