Reviewing Disruption – number26
Earlier on this year, my interest was drawn towards a new online banking service. number26 is Calling itself “Europe’s most modern bank account” and is looking to cash in on the lucrative market of personal banking.
The online bank claims that its possible to open a bank account in less than 8 minutes. I spend a lot of my time in Europe and have a catalogue of banking horror stories to recall. I’m also a sucker for anything billed ‘the future’, so I decided it could be worth a try. The company recently announced it had passed the 100,000 customer mark, so I figured they must be doing something right.
The initial sign up process is as easy as signing up for any web service. Fill in a few details, verify your email address and you are in. After that, it’s time to verify your identity.
I remained curious about how this process would translate to digital, but it was painless. Like the sign up, the ID verification system is a doddle. To confirm you are a real person, you’ll need your face and some ID. I used my passport, and I opted to do the verification through the mobile app. To begin, you tick a few simple checkboxes before you’re connected via a video call with a rep from IDnow. First, the rep asks you to confirm your name then takes your photo (so make sure you’ve done your hair). Then, they turn on the rear facing camera to verify the details of your ID. You’ll need to confirm a few details from the ID with the cover closed, just to make sure it’s yours. Finally they use the rear camera’s light to ensure the ID is genuine and untampered. I wasn’t expecting this level of diligence, but it’s reassuring.
ID confirmed you’re ready to verify your phone number and pair your phone with your account. Once that’s done, the set up is complete, the account is ready for use, and your new card is on the way. The ID verification call took me less than 10 minutes, even though I had to restart the call due to bad wifi. I was even able to send a couple of emails mid-call. Frictionless.
Quick turnaround aside, number26 is an incredibly attractive proposition. The account and all transactions are free, refreshing compared to the high transaction costs on my Spanish account. The app segregates payments by type, to allow for better budgeting. You even have full control over card limits and usage via a few check boxes in the app. This feature is something I was deeply impressed with. I can now move money to my number26 account with Transferwise and it doesn’t cost the earth.
I’ve often found that new players in established markets come with drawbacks or limitations. The launch and pivot process can mean playing catch up with industry standards. MVPs are great for finding your feet, but not always great for the end user. As far as I can tell number26 is starting off on a level playing field with the major banks. Future features include overdrafts, credit cards, savings, and insurance. All designed to compete with high street banks to become a fintech ‘hub’ for its customers.
Perhaps the only ‘downside’ is that the account wouldn’t be able to support my UK direct debits. That’s the UK banking industries issue, something to be resolved by upcoming EU regulations. I’d rather pay my sterling transactions from my UK account anyway. So for me, the future of banking is here and it looks great.