With Avios and Apple Pay, Monese is fast becoming the digital bank to challenge Monzo and Revolut

By Oliver Smith on 21st February 2019

Challenger Banks

Monese boss Norris Koppel's play to win over global travellers should worry his rivals.

With Avios and Apple Pay, Monese is fast becoming the digital bank to challenge Monzo and RevolutImage source: Monese

Once a mobile bank for migrants, Monese is adapting surprisingly quickly to a world where digital banks are the norm and the land grab for the unbanked is fading.

Its latest features don’t just match those of its rivals, in some ways they position Monese as the best digital bank for global travellers and digital nomads... much to the shame of rivals Monzo and Revolut.

Back in 2015 when Norris Koppel, Monese’s CEO and founder, launched what was then the UK’s first digital challenger bank, he spotted a vast opportunity to help bank tens of thousands of migrants who were moving across Europe, struggling to open bank accounts.

Today instant account opening and modern KYC (Know Your Customer) systems that don’t demand UK addresses are the norm, even among traditional high street players.

Instead Monese is evolving beyond its traditional migrant customer base with the launch features that are starting to put its rivals to shame.

This week that came in the form of Apple Pay—admittedly table stakes for digital banking in 2019—and an exclusive integration with Avios.

Introducing Avios

Avios, for the uninitiated, is a global loyalty points scheme which spans airlines like Aer Lingus, Flybe, Iberia, Vueling and British Airways, and is also used by hundreds of brands like ASOS, John Lewis and Just Eat.

Loved by millions of frequent fliers keen to earn a free flight or discount on the high street, Avios points have become an obsession for many, with entire online communities springing up dedicated to hunting for deals and collecting more points.

Linking Avios with your banking app, as Monese announced this week, along with exclusive offers for Monese customers to earn extra Avios points, is a huge lure for this dedicated audience and frequent fliers more generally.

“We serve a fast-growing and incredibly international audience who travel the world for study, work, family, or retirement,” Koppel said this week.

A shift in strategy?

Monese has been shifting strategy away from its traditional audience of migrants for a while, but Koppel’s latest comments make it clear where Monese is heading. Towards a much larger audience of global travellers.

For Revolut, long aimed at the travel crowd with its concierge service and airport lounge offers, this is a blow.

And for Monzo, which owns millennial mindshare, in the UK at least, Monese’s partnership with Avios is an “exclusive” innovation that they simply cannot duplicate.

Last year Koppel told me Monese already had 400,000 account holders, with 70% having switched their primary account to Monese. Today that figure sits at well over 800,000 accounts.

Whether or not Monese can continue their pace of innovation and capture more of the travel market; what the fightback from Revolut and upcoming challengers like TransferWise will be; and how long Monese’s “exclusive” partnership with Avios will last, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Koppel appears to be outmanoeuvring his digital banking rivals by making Monese the best digital bank around for global travellers and digital nomads, for now anyway.

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