25+ firms chasing banking licences
Six new banking licences were awarded in 2020, so it has been a quiet year by contrast with just Cashplus being awarded authorised in the first half of 2021.
That’s all changed in the past few weeks with firstly Kroo (formerly B-Social) being authorised with restrictions and this week Bank North, known as B-North until they became the 34th bank to be authorised since 2010.
There’s been a flurry of activity in the sector with announcements from GBB and Recognise of significant fundraises so here’s our run down of those in the process.
There are five key stages to becoming a bank, which I will run through very briefly:
- Early stages – this is where a firm will engage with the New Bank Start Up unit and get valuable feedback on their high-level summary document, outlining their reasons for seeking a banking licence and their strategy
- Pre application – this is where a firm will submit a formal Regulatory Business Plan (RBP) and other regulatory documents (e.g., ICAAP and ILAAP)
- Application – when the regulator is happy with the firm’s plans, a formal invitation to apply will be issued and a full application needs to be submitted. If the application is complete (this is determined by the regulators) then a decision should be provided in six months.
- Authorisation with restrictions (AWR) / Mobilisation – most firms go down the route of getting a banking licence with restrictions which allows them to mobilise to a live environment. There will be several conditions which need to be fulfilled to go live and, until then, the bank can only hold up to £50,000 in total of deposits. This period can last up to 12 months
- Fully authorised – once all the restrictions and conditions of mobilisation have been satisfied, or for firms who do not go through stage 4 but go for ‘straight authorisation’ instead, the firm becomes a fully authorised bank
Stage 4 firms
Led by Mintoo Bhandari, Monument got its banking licence back at the start of October 2020 and completed a series A funding round of £28m in February this year. It plans to target more affluent savers and provide property lending up to £2m. Monument have chosen Mambu to provide its banking platform.
Although it’s website still talks of an early 2021 launch; it’s been very quiet in recent months and has only a few weeks left to get out of mobilisation. That’s not normally a good sign so let’s hope the silence is due to Monument being busy gearing up for a big launch.
Recognise was just behind Monument, gaining its banking licence on 11th November 2020 and a further capital raise of £14m this week as it pushes on towards an expected launch of buy to let loans for professional property investors next month. The bank has Jason Oakley at the helm and will target SMEs with plans to lend £1.3bn in lending over the next five years. It will offer commercial mortgages, bridging, working capital and professional practice loans using Mambu and nCino, with savings being delivered via Newcastle Strategic Solutions Ltd. Expect to see a savings launch in November/December.
Formerly B-Social, Kroo was the 33rd new bank to be authorised. Unlike most of its predecessors, it’s planning on going after the UK current account market like Monzo and Starling. Expect to see it offer other personal banking products such as overdrafts, personal loans and credit cards too. Read more of our thoughts on Kroo here
Commercial & Northern Limited submitted its banking licence application back in September 2019 but has taken longer than hoped to raise the necessary funding. However, Jonathan Thompson and his fellow co-founders have got over the line with LHV Group, LHV Asset Management, Skipton Building Society, Channel 4 Ventures, and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority as main investors, alongside oversubscribed crowdfunding rounds.
Bank North will also use Mambu and nCino as it enters the SME lending market, starting via a regional pod in Manchester with savings believe to be supported by Newcastle Strategic Solutions. The Bank is likely to be one of the first truly regional lenders, focusing its support on SMEs in the Greater Manchester area.
Unfortunately, Vive didn’t get out of mobilisation and the firm, who were authorised in January 2020, have had to surrender their banking licence, and are not expected to re-apply.
Stage 3 firms
Alba submitted its application in January 2020 and is using Temenos as its core banking platform. It launched a £5m Series A funding round in February this year and has Jim McColl, as a founding shareholder and driving force behind it, with former Airdrie Savings Bank CEO Rod Ashley leading the executive team.
It is unknown what is behind the delay in gaining authorisation with restrictions but, with McColl being worth an estimated £1bn, financing isn’t thought to be the problem.
Ashman is thought to have applied in 2019 for its licence but, aside from the high-profile recruitment of Lisa Nowell, Monzo’s former Chief Risk Officer, has been relatively quiet until the past few months. With new recruitment taking place and an increased social media presence talking of a launch in early 2022, expect Ashman’s to announce authorisation with restrictions in the autumn.
The bank intends to offer commercial mortgages, buy to let, development and bridging finance and is another expected to use Newcastle Strategic Solutions to support its deposits acquisition.
Aspinall Financial Services
Founded by Alan Jarman and Ruth Doubleday, Aspinall are looking to target the retail market with savings, personal loans and mortgages and offer lending to SMEs. They submitted their application in September 2020 and were hoping to be authorised next month, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely.
Aspinall intends to build the only dedicated platform lending bank, providing funding support to non-bank lenders and building societies. Rather than serve customers direct, they are looking to support the growth and competitiveness of existing market participants
Backed by the Welsh government, this mutual organisation is building a community bank for Wales, working closely with Cambrian Credit Union. It hopes to secure a banking licence later in 2021 and the last progress update from Ken Skates, Minister for the Economy, was that they were on track to achieve authorisation in 2021.
Founded by Marko Sjoblom, Fiinu is seeking to change the way bank customers get overdrafts by using Open Banking to give them the choice of where they get their financing from, without needing to switch banks. It also intends to use a ‘Fiinu score’ instead of credit scoring to give better results and have less impact on customer’s credit scores.
Although it has been very quiet for the past three years, the firm’s LinkedIn page states that it has applied for a banking licence and raised £500,000 in overfunded crowdfunding in March 2018.
Another regionally focused bank, GBB intends to get Britain building by supporting regional SME property developers with development financing. GBB submitted its application in January 2020 but a change in CEO has delayed its approval, with Sue Hayes joining in February to replace Steve Deutsch who left late last year.
Likely to have a northeast focus, GBB is based in Middlesborough and secured another (up to) £28m of investment from Teesside Pension Fund, who have already invested £20m. Expect this to be the final announcement before authorisation with restrictions is granted – possibly as soon as September.
Griffin is very different from other applicants in the process in that it is building the first platform bank. It is building banking as a service so that other firms can use its platform to provide financial services to their customers. Griffin is led by David Jarvis and has former Zenith Bank CEO John Weguelin as Chair. It is believed to have submitted its banking licence application already, but it has not formally announced this. It completed a £6.5m funding round in November, on top of an initial seed round of £3m.
The Estonian bank has been operating in London since 2018 but formally applied for a UK banking licence in October 2020 and plans a fintech and SME focused bank here. Earlier this month, it made three key appointments in anticipation of being authorised. Gary Sher was named the firm’s new CFO, with Assad Kazi and Rebecca Wright joining as CRO and CPO respectively.
Perenna applied for its banking licence back in October 2020 and plans to issue 30 year fixed rate mortgages financed using the Danish covered bond system, rather than traditional deposits used by the rest of the market. It has secured $10m of start-up finance although will need to secure tens of millions of pounds more, to meet its capital needs.
Led by Arjan Verbeek, it is hoping to be authorised later this year and is targeting £100m a month in lending.
Although already a licenced EU bank in Lithuania, Revolut does not hold a UK banking licence. It applied for one in January this year having appointed ex Standard Charterered Chief, Richard Holmes, to oversee the application and act as Chair of the UK entity, if approved.
Stage 2 firms
One of the firms who have spent some time in the process, ActivTrades is believed to be close to submitting its banking licence having appointed Jean-Pierre Flais from Ashman Finance as the Head of its banking application.
Already operating a successful bridging business alongside its highly acclaimed and highly profitable core trading offering, it’s understood to have recently changed core banking platform in a renewed push ahead with the banking project.
Another regionally focused bank, Avon is looking to be a full-service retail bank for the West of England offering current accounts, savings, loans and mortgages to local individuals, SMEs and not for profits.
Avon has raised £1.7m in funding already and appointed former Aldemore and Allica Bank executive Chris Weller as CEO in March this year. Expecting to submit their banking licence application in late 2021.
Hampshire Community Bank
Based on the German model of regional lending banks, Hampshire Community Bank has had significant investment from several local councils and universities, including £5m from Portsmouth City Council and a £10m lending facility.
Bernd Grund took over as CEO in March this year following Baroness Bowles appointment as Chair of the not for profit.
Lintel Financial Services
Another firm which has spent some time in the process, having begun in 2014, and one not expected to make it through.
Ex-Barclays duo Jeremy Takle and Ben Harvey are in beta testing of their app targeting aspiring affluent young professionals with their digital bank. They have yet to submit their banking licence application but have appointed a PR firm as they look to fundraise to support their mobile app and regulatory authorisation journey.
South West Mutual
Aiming to provide the first high street cooperative bank for Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, South West Mutual has submitted its RBP in August 2020 and is moving towards submission of its banking licence application this year seeking authorisation in 2022.
Stage 1 firms
Greater Manchester Mutual
Focused on the Greater Manchester area, this mutual is seeking to start the authorisation process to provide personal and business current accounts, savings and loans for the area with a branch network as well as online and mobile banking. Still in the early stages but has support from several local councils,
Previously Ummah Finance, MoneeMint was founded by Hassan Waqar and is seeking to fundraise in its bid to build a digital smartphone bank.
North West Mutual
Funded by Wirral, Liverpool and Preston City Council’s early this year, North West Mutual is looking to offer community banking in the north west region.
The North of Tyne Combined Authority signed off on £35,000 of funding in August 2019 for a feasibility study with plans for then progress to a banking licence application.
Like Perenna, Vega are seeking to offer 20 year plus fixed interest mortgages using covered bonds
Targeting Gen Z with a banking app and current account, W1TTY has been granted an electronic money licence this month but intends to become a fully authorised bank in due course.
The firm is understood to have abandoned its banking project this summer.
Heyman AI / Yuu
Yuu burst on to the scene in July 2020 when news broke that firstdirect CEO Joe Gordon had quit to join the firm looking to build a digital bank. However, Gordon’s time lasted less than a year as he left. With both Yuu’s and Heyman’s websites diverting to domain providers, it looks like their authorisation journey has run its course.
Orchard Funding Group
Announced on 19th October 2020 that it has withdrawn its application for a banking licence to focus on its core business activities.
NB: There are of course other firms in the process that we are aware of which we cannot name for confidentiality reasons. We believe there are up to another ten firms in the regulatory authorisation process although we do not expect all of those to make it through.
About Savings Guru
Savings Guru is a specialist savings consultancy which works with new entrant and established banks. We support new entrants to help them work through the regulatory authorisation process and build out their savings proposition and operations. We work with authorised banks and building societies looking to replace technology platforms, change strategy in the savings market and improve their savings propositions to savers. Please get in touch if we can help support you.