We have witnessed the entrance of a couple of new, mobile-focused banking startups within the past year in British startup Atom and German startup Number26. And now it seems that you can add one more to that list with the launch of Monese, which maintains a similar mobile focus, but also caters to the unbanked.
Monese is appealing to potential customers with the ability to quickly create an account (setting one up takes less than 3 minutes, they say) and to be able to create a bank account in the United Kingdom, regardless of citizenship, address, or good credit history. Setting up an account requires users to take a snapshot of their passport and then a selfie, the completion of which allows their computer to quickly decide whether or not the person is a good candidate for an account. Having set-up an account, users have the option of maintaining the account in multiple currencies, can obtain a contactless VISA card, and cheaply transfer money abroad, all of which can be accomplished through their Android app. They have decided to monetize the service by offering customers a batch of free credits each month, which customers can use in place of ATM fees, international-transfer fees, or other services. Once each credit has been used, customers are required to pay a fee of 50 pence and 0.5% (the latter while abroad). A full list of prices can be found here.
It is worth noting that Monese is not officially a bank, but is licensed as a Electronic Money Institution, which means that it cannot reinvest its customers’ funds or offer credit. The company was founded by Norris Koppel, himself an expat to the the United Kingdom, who decided that he wanted to create a bank upon seeing the frustrations that others like him faced in creating an account. The service only launched a few weeks ago, so it is a bit early to talk about traction. But Monese reports that they tested their platform over a 3-month period with users drawn from a waiting list that sat at 50,000 strong. Monese, which was founded in 2013, interestingly maintains offices in London and Tallinn, Estonia. They have already obtained external backing, taking in $1.8 million in a seed round earlier this year from a group that includes Seedcamp, early Spotify-investor Shakil Khan, and other angels.