Mondo — First Impressions

Just over two weeks ago I ventured to the Shoreditch offices of a new company looking to disrupt the ancient industry of banking. Mondo wants to build a better bank with their app-only approach and has started their revolution with the current account. I was fortunate enough to get a place on their Alpha rollout, which secured me one of their pre-paid MasterCard’s (more on that later) and an early view into what might me the future of banking.

Now, technically Mondo isn’t a bank, by way of not receiving a banking licence yet. However, this is in process and the team expect to be granted full bank status in the summer. This means that instead of a debit card, I ended up with a pre-paid MasterCard (don’t be fooled by the pre-paid name, it was my money that I loaded onto my card).

Mondo is not alone in their quest to revolutionise the way we bank. Two of these ‘challenger’ banks, Atom and Tandem, have received their banking licence. However, both are yet to show their product. Another, Starling, is also yet to show a product, but like Mondo, also has no licence. Mondo seems to have gone for the first-mover advantage and only time will tell if this was the right decision.

But what Is Mondo. Firstly, there is the card. Nothing particularly interesting here, apart from the bright pink colour, which certainly seems to raise a few eyebrows (and more importantly for Mondo, questions from people who see it). The other part of the product offering is the app. As an app-only bank, this really needs to be a quantum leap forward; otherwise I’m going to leave my money deposited with Halifax, rather than with a handful of developers and designers who have a pool table in their office.

There is no other way to put it, the app looks brilliant. Each transaction shows the vendor, category (groceries, transport etc), location and gives me the option to add a note or receipt. The home screen shows me my account balance, daily spending and chronological list of transactions.

This is the point where every review I’ve read so far includes some musing about the shocking amount spent on a daily caffeine fix. That’s going to be hard for me, because I just haven’t used my Mondo card that much.

The first reason for this is not technically Mondo’s fault — the Alpha cards provided do not work on Apple Pay. This will be resolved — so I won’t dwell on it now. However, even if Apply Pay functionality was in place, I’m still not sure it would have changed my Mondo usage habits.

Apart from P2P transfers (coming to Mondo soon) and standing orders, all my spending is done via credit card for one simple reason; Rewards. While minimal (I’m not at companion voucher spending levels yet), my credit card usage gives me access to various offers and the chance to save on future flights. Also, as a ‘good spender/saver’, the accurate spend tracking isn’t a massive appeal to me, however for those who need that extra tools to manager their budgets, Mondo is a fantastic product.

[On a side note, while I have not yet used my card abroad, I have heard that the foreign exchange rates offered by Mondo have been better than anywhere else, so on some upcoming travels I will be using my Mondo card.]

So the big question — will I use Mondo again? The answer is incredibly simply — YES. As with my existing Halifax current account, I barely use it. Its sole purpose is a place to store my money; my salary goes in and my bills go out. I don’t use it every day for the same reasons that I didn’t use Mondo — I didn’t need to. However, given that Mondo serves the same purpose as my existing current account, but with certain additional capabilities including improved FX, UI and UX, they are a banking licence away from me leaving Halifax.

As with all challenger banks, the obvious roadblock is trust. Ordering some sushi via an app rather than calling a restaurant is one thing, but to entrust a start-up with your hard earned cash is another issue entirely. Overcoming this will not happen overnight and trust will build slowly over time as they can demonstrate the quality of their product to a wide audience. This goes hand-in-hand with the need to build strong legal, financial and customer service capabilities.

Scaling these ‘banks’ will not be easy, but if they can offer the kind of services which have been demonstrated by Mondo already, I will certainly be following their growth as a customer. Now it’s time for the other challengers to tempt me away from Mondo…….