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Mobile bank Atom opens to customers

New mobile-only bank Atom Bank opens doors to users, ending “invitation only” phase.

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Atom Bank, which claims to be the UK’s first bank built exclusively for mobile, is now declaring itself fully open for customers. The bank was previously available only to customers who had registered early interest in the service online, while Atom continued to refine the new offering.

Atom was granted a restricted banking licence in June 2015 and now holds a full unrestricted licence, allowing it to offer both personal and business banking services. The company has raised over £135m to date from backers including BBVA, Woodford Investment Management and Toscafund Asset Management.

The now-live app can be downloaded for free for both IoS and Android devices. For now, the app allows users to access fixed savings products, while further products and “a full banking proposition” are in the pipeline. Face and voice biometrics can be used to access Atom’s banking services, and accounts can be opened in a few minutes with neither branch visits nor paperwork necessary. Atom offers a 24/7 customer support service.

In addition to two fixed savings accounts, Atom also offers SME lending via “a panel of specialist business intermediaries”. The bank declined to reveal the identity of these intermediaries, but said that the intermediary network will essentially act as its front line – and that it will only be engaging with companies that add value to clients. It’s for this reason that Atom has used the term "intermediaries", as opposed to “brokers”. Given the vast range of business funding solutions that are encompassed by the UK’s alternative finance sector, we wonder whether there may be some overlap between the industry and Atom’s intermediary network.

Atom says that it will look to launch residential mortgages, current accounts, debit cards, overdrafts and instant access savings in the not too distant future.

“We are creating an entirely new way to bank; a system that is based on what the customer needs and wants, rather than being focused on bank balance sheets,” said Atom chief executive Mark Mullen (pictured above). “We’ve been steadily growing our business to date and this is an exciting new phase where we can offer our Fixed Saver rates to anyone who wants them. We’re already working on our current account, so there’s much more to come.”

Starling Bank, a digital bank with $70m in backing from a single investor, is set to go live within the next few months. Meanwhile Monzo, another competitor, raised around £1m via equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube earlier this year. Tandem Bank is another big name in the emerging digital bank space.

Atom Bank has been in the works since 2014. The company now has a headcount of over 200. “Building a bank in the right way takes time,” said Atom founder and chairman Anthony Thomson, former chairman of Metro Bank.“What we’ve achieved to date is fantastic, but the key to providing our customers with the best banking experience possible is to continue to build the bank piece by piece, listening to customers. We do not want to rush simply to say we were the first. We remain fully committed to delivering an innovative, engaging and transparent way to bank.”

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