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The sincerest form of flattery? All the times big banks nicked ideas from fintech

Big banks are often told to innovate or else, so what features have they pinched from their more agile, digital-based counterparts?

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Fintech has long been billed as disruptive and innovative so it’s no surprise that big banks have adopted some of the most popular changes.

Since the mid-2010s high street banks have raced to match the customer service of fintechs and challenger banks who have done what was thought to be impossible and added millions of customers in just a few years.

Big banks, now on a mission to digitise and attract the customers they are losing to challengers, have ‘adopted’ features pioneered by the likes of Starling,Monzo and others.

So, without further ado here is a (by no means comprehensive) list of features big banks have pinched from fintechs.

Card Freezing

First on the list is probably one of the most prominent features that big banks have adopted from fintechs.

When digital bank Monzo burst onto the scene way back in 2015 it didn’t take long for big banks to adopt some of its best features—one of the most notable adoptions was that of card freezing. 

Both Starling and Monzo introduced the ability to ‘freeze’ your card if you suspected it lost or stolen and it only took the big banks two or three years to do the same.

In July 2019 it was announced that Lloyds Banking Group was to roll out the new feature for its Halifax and Bank of Scotland customers, with its Lloyds Bank and MBNA customers to follow shortly after. 

By AltFi’s count nearly, if not all, high street banks have now introduced card freezing for both debit and credit card customers.

Starling’s Connected Card

Early on in the coronavirus crisis, Starling Bank was one of the early standouts as it seemed like it was rolling out products left, right and centre to help those in need.

Two weeks after lockdown was first introduced, Starling launched a ‘Connected Card’ that was aimed specifically at helping those needing to self-isolate because of the ongoing pandemic. 

The new card had a £200 limit and was connected to an existing Starling bank account and could be controlled through the app.

This time it took the big banks less than three weeks to roll out a similar product.

RBS introduced its ‘Companion Card’ that very much mimicked Starling’s coronavirus lifeline.

The bank was linked to an existing account and had a limit of £100 and was only to be used to help buy essential items for those most vulnerable to Covid-19. Sound familiar? 

However, it’s not just big finance that has adopted versions of Starling’s idea.

Last month, banking-as-a-service provider Contis launched ’Carer Banking’ aimed at helping its clients provide solutions for vulnerable customers affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Cash flow forecasting

Yesterday, high street banking giant HSBC announced the launch of a fully-automated cash flow forecasting tool to help businesses paint a better picture of their finances.

The new tool follows in the footsteps of fintechs such as Fluidly and QuickBooks who have already been offering cash flow forecasting to their customers for some time.

Cheque scanning

Cheques may be dying a slow death but that hasn’t stopped fintechs from accommodating them.

This time, however, the shoe is on the other foot as digital banks have been slow to adopt cheque imaging technology, likely as their main demographic aren’t the most cheque-heavy users.

However, big banks, who do have a much broader (and older) demographic introduced cheque scanning a few years ago.

But it wasn’t until April 2020 that digital challenger Starling announced that it was rolling out mobile cheque scanning for all of its users.

Back in March 2019, Monzo revealed that it pulled out of plans to introduce cheque scanning owing to its younger users who have little use for the service. 


Big banks were shocked to their core when fintech first burst onto the scene and made things they had tried decades to do seem so easy overnight. 

Caroline Plumb OBE, CEO of Fluidly, who has herself found her fintech’s ideas poached by the big banks told AltFi: "When incumbents move into your niche it actually helps to create and validate the category - in our case intelligent cashflow management - and ultimately raises awareness. Consumers are more likely to shop around as a result.”

“At face value, an outsider might think we’d be concerned [with imitation], but it’s likely to be fairly shallow and partial, not representative of the whole piece.”

“Incumbents don’t have the capacity or focus internally to create something as unique, so in that sense, startups retain a healthy advantage,” she added.

So there you have it, while we might find the adoption of fintech products by big banks a little strange, fintechs aren’t at all bothered, rather they welcome it.

Now big banks are fighting back, picking the best features, etc, even big tech like Apple is getting in on the game. Have we missed any? What features would you like to see big banks borrow from challengers? Let us know @AltFiNews

Update 02-06-2020 - Article was updated to remove an incorrect statement about Metro Bank not offering its customers card freezing.

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