Challenger banks in the UK took flight in the mid-2010s, accelerated by legislation from the EU and UK government which welcomed new competition in the industry.
In a two year period, Revolut, Starling and Monzo were launched, with an aim to win customers through better mobile experiences. At the time, mobile banking in the UK was a nightmare, some banks were still struggling with the web.
Starling Bank was the first on the scene in the UK, launched in 2014. Tom Blomfield, the founder of Monzo, was chief technology officer at Starling, but left the position in February 2015 after “tensions” between him and Starling CEO Anne Boden.
Blomfield took a few members with him in the exit to form Monzo, which launched its alpha prepaid debit card in November 2015, 10 months after leaving Starling. By August 2016, over 200,000 people were on a waitlist for the prepaid card, it had broken the record for fastest successful crowdfunding campaign and the FCA approved Monzo’s application to become a limited bank.
Before Monzo, excitement and banking had rarely been uttered in the same sentence. First Direct, Egg and Metro had all drawn interest when first launched, but fizzled as customers began to realise the drawbacks and retreated back to the big four.
And shockingly, Monzo created this buzz without offering a competitive interest rate or cash incentives. The original Monzo app was bare bones in terms of features, but peer-to-peer payments (with emojis) and real-time balance updates resonated well with millennials, who aren’t as interested in mortgages and savings.
Monzo also did away with complex log-in processes and defective mobile interfaces, which are still common on traditional banking apps.
The banking app earns most of its revenue from a process called interfacing, in which it takes 0.2 percent for every debit card transaction. It has been attempting to generate more income through various premium plans, the latest of which offers interest and several types of insurance for a monthly sum.
Monzo has also partnered with OakNorth, Paragon and Charter Savings Bank to facilitate savings through the app.
Even with no physical branches, Monzo has still lost money every year since launch. As many still use Monzo as their secondary bank (only 30 percent deposit more than £1,000 a month) it reduces the amount of transactions on the platform, which is why the company sees growth as the key metric to profitability.
In 2019, Monzo became one of only 16 “unicorn startups” in the UK, valued at over £1 billion. It was a pivotal year for the company: it launched in the United States with Sutton Bank, finally reached a net positive for average customer contribution and tripled revenue.
The coronavirus pandemic has put a spanner in Monzo’s success. It was forced to run a £60 million funding round at a 37.5 percent devaluation on its 2019 round, to keep the business afloat. International plans have been put on hold, while the company waits out the pandemic.
We have gathered data and statistics on Monzo users, revenue and competition. Read on below to find out more.
Monzo key statistics
- Monzo generated £100 million revenue run-rate in 2020
- It posted a £115 million operating loss, 1% higher than 2019
- Monzo has five million users, almost all of which are based in the UK
- It was valued at £1.25 billion in a 2020 down round, but was valued at £2 billion before
|Launch date||March 2015|
|People||TS Anil (CEO), Sejata Bhatia (COO), Tom Blomfield (co-founder), Gary Hoffman (chairman)|
Note: 2020 value is revenue run-rate
* Parentheses indicates loss
Sources: Business of Apps, Monzo
Monzo total transaction volume
|Year||Transaction volume (total)|
Sources: Business Insider, Monzo
Note: Monzo had two “down-rounds” in 2020, where it lost value due to COVID-19.
Monzo average deposit
Source: Sifted, Monzo
Monzo annual user contribution
|Year||User contribution (annual)|
* Parentheses indicates loss
Monzo age demographics (%)
|18 – 34||72|
Monzo vs UK neobanks: users
What is Monzo customer’s average deposit?
Monzo increased its average customer deposit in 2019, from £142 to £359
How many people does Monzo employ?
Monzo employs 1,500 people in the UK and US, although that may have declined in 2020 due to COVID-19
What is the most popular age demographic on Monzo?
Monzo is most popular among people aged 22-37, with 75 percent under the age of 34 (YouGov)