Mondo or: How the retail banks were found asleep at the wheel.
Last week I was catching up with old friends over lunch at Zelman’s in Soho. Everyone at the table worked in software and the conversation had been 95% tech and 5% whether the Holy Fuck Chilli Sauce was better than the BBQ.
When the bill came it was time for me to pull out my brand new hot coral Mondo card. The card has a waiting list of more than 60,000 people which gives the allure of an Amex Black, thus, the conversation naturally drifted towards our collective thoughts on the new mobile bank*.
While none of my fellow diners had used Mondo their comments were predominantly positive. Usability obviously scored favourably for the bank, yet everyone (except me) cynically agreed Mondo would flip to another bank when the offer was simply too good to refuse. I want to explore why I don’t think they’ll sell when the offers come knocking.
The Current Account
The current account is probably the only product you use multiple times a day and don’t even realise it’s actually a product. To most, it’s just where you keep your money. You put money in, you take money out, you get a piece of paper at the end of the month. The current account from the perspective of the user hasn’t really changed since the Medici’s started using double-entry book keeping in the 14th century.
Yet it could be so much more, just enriching the metadata around purchases and allowing the customer access to this information can create a very compelling user experience.
However, existing retail banks have competing internal forces maintaining the status-quo. When one banking division will find a way to increase NPS through some UX innovation, another can easily veto the change because of some political agenda.
For example, if a bank were to notify the user of all purchases in realtime via their phone, the likely-hood for repeated fraudulent transactions would be drastically reduced. This is a great UX innovation that should have happened years ago. Yet banks have invested hugely in fraud prevention teams and technology. This infighting along with an archaic technology stack maintains the status-quo.
The API / The Platform
Finally, a bank with a publicly accessible live API.
Ever since the web 2.0 mashups of 2004, I’ve wondered why we could not access our spending data. Banks have a pretty solid reason for keeping this one under-wraps. If every bank had a public APIs then customer mobility would increase dramatically. In 2015 the european parliament adopted the PSD2 directive, which legislates amongst other things that banks will need to open up their APIs. Once/if this is enforced then we can expect to see other banks (within the EU) with public APIs sometime after 2018.
While the established retail banks are dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, Mondo has embraced the developer community from the get go. Like all platforms in the past decade (Apple App Store, Facebook etc) it’s crucial to have early adopter app developers fostering a great ecosystem.
From the basic budgeting applications and commercial payment tracking through to the more social applications like group spending, identification verification and loyalty tracking. A platform for current account applications has fantastic potential.
Here’s a sample integration I put together called Mondo TFL (available on GitHub) it matches your journey information on the London Underground with your transaction metadata.
But what excites me the most and is probably most indicative of what the future holds is the ability to create Feed Items.
Current account transactions have always been a feed of sorts. However by allowing developers to contribute information back into Mondo’s feed solidifies it as a platform for social information flow.
Like Apple’s app store or Facebook, developers will favour only those with the biggest potential for them. At the moment, Mondo is the only one offering any potential at all.
Prior to being Founder & CEO of Mondo, Tom Blomfield was the CTO at rival Starling before “tensions” led him to venture on his own. If there’s one thing above all that exacerbates tensions it’s a diverging vision between co-founders.
Have a read through Mr Blomfield’s blog and you’ll feel a distinct taste for challenging the establishment. Even ApplePay is just a band-aid solution to a sector so entrenched in maintaining the status-quo. Couple this with Starling’s roots in an existing banking system, it may have just been too stifling to allow true innovation to occur.
Why Mondo feels different
It’s clear Mr Blomfield wants to fix a fundamentally broken industry. But equally he’s looking to innovate, and not just by creating a better UX with real-time notifications.
Mondo feels like a platform, one with social information flow at the very core of it’s product. It wants to be front and centre on your home screen not relegated to some financial backwater 3 swipes away. It will sit next to those other feed based apps and become a tool for communicating, for planning, for learning.
Mondo is to be remarkable, and flipping to the highest bidder is anything but.
Ethics: I don’t have background in fin-tech so take my comments as granules in which to further research. I currently have no position in any of the companies mentioned.
All hypothesis are speculative.
* Mondo is currently in the process of applying for banking licences in the United Kingdom, until they are granted Mondo has to refrain from marketing itself as a bank.