Meet Monese: a problem solver and payments pioneer

As part of our digital builder series, Marqeta regularly engages with companies in the payments ecosystem to learn more about the new approaches they are bringing to solving challenges related to financial services and money movement in general.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s certainly proved to be true as far as Norris Koppel is concerned. When the Estonian entrepreneur moved to the United Kingdom, one of the first challenges he experienced was opening a bank account.

Without all the usual details such as proof of address and employment, traditional banks were unwilling to offer Norris even a basic product. This set in chain a sequence of events that gave birth to Monese, an intuitive account which can be opened instantly via an app.

As fintech success stories go, this one’s hard to beat, with awards and recognition from across the industry. To find out a bit more about what lies behind that success and what’s next for this standout innovator, we spoke to Monese’s Chief Commercial Officer Atul Choudrie.

Since launching in 2015, Atul says, the business’s market has evolved considerably. Monese’s early customers were newly arrived in the U.K. and experiencing the same challenges Norris had encountered. Atul says that nowadays, with more than two million sign-ups under its belt and availability in 31 territories, Monese account holders are more diverse and often tend to be people working in the gig economy.

“The problem we’re solving now is wage volatility. Many of our customers will earn a large salary one month and then very little the next. We want to help deliver some stability for them, because whilst income is up and down, their bills remain constant.

“So, what we’re working on is understanding customer behaviour and transactions through data, in order to solve a problem that occurs right across Europe, not just in the U.K. We’re talking about a segment of very hardworking people and they’re often tapping into credit for everyday essentials rather than nice-to-have goods,” he said.

While Monese highlights the importance of basing a new business concept on an identified need, it’s also essential that the tech stack supports continuous improvement. Atul explains that Monese was built from the ground up with the potential to launch in multiple markets in contrast with some peer propositions and traditional banks that are built around a specific regulatory environment or a specific demographic.

Atul says that the outcome is that Monese’s technology is scalable, multilingual, and supports multicurrency accounts. And despite its relatively young age, the underlying platform is already at version 2.0. Atul went on to say that the business has recently revisited its approach to development and is evolving beyond being globally scalable to being globally scalable with partners.

Atul highlights the importance of having an architecture that is ecosystem-friendly and can support partnerships that will help Monese scale globally.

“This involves ensuring our infrastructure is regulation-agnostic and able to integrate multiple partners quickly while maintaining a seamless customer journey. Interestingly, this evolution remains true to Norris’s founding vision of opening a bank account once and not having to repeat the process if you move elsewhere.

“There are lots of banks that claim to be a world bank but in practice the customer journeys are beset by friction. For example, I tried to open a bank account in Australia with a large bank that I’m already with in the U.K. However, my history with them made no difference whatsoever and I was treated like a new customer. Our platform turns banking into a local service wherever you are and performs all the necessary KYC checks and regulatory processes without impacting on the customer journey.”

In essence, it’s the same approach adopted by lots of international websites, which allow visitors to click on the terrority and language most relevant to them. And from Monese’s perspective, where this is leading is to a genuinely cross-border current account that delivers value to people living in one territory but working across multiple others.

Often, Atul said, people served by Monese need a financial management platform that not only understands credit scores but helps them to maintain and improve that score. According to him, this is precisely the direction Monese is heading in — a multi-partner ecosystem that goes beyond short-term solutions to address underlying problems.

Read more in our digital builders series:
Hola innovation: how Spain is becoming a European fintech hub
C’est digital: meet France’s B2B banking innovators
Ich bin ein innovator