Mondo Hack and the bank of tomorrow

I spent this past weekend hacking around with my own bank account, how often can you say that?

In essence, this is what Mondo is all about — they have taken on the still really ridiculous challenge of becoming a fully regulated ‘intelligent’ bank and providing developers with a robust, feature-packed platform to build applications on top of. It’s like an AppStore for your money, and the potential is truly mind boggling.

Attendees of the hackathon were given a vibrant, hot pink Mondo debit card as well as production access to their alpha API. This meant not only could we build cool apps but also go out and test them in the real world with real transactions. It’s quite the thing, and left me sincerely questioning why our current banking experience is so archaic — especially when it forms such an important part of our every day lives.

Mondo cards are zazzy. You definitely wouldn’t lose it in the dark.

Mondo aren’t alone in their efforts to punch banking in the teeth with awesome tech disruption (Atom, Teller) but their focus on open-collaboration is a key differentiator. They genuinely care about this stuff in a way we could only wish existing banks did; the love shows in every inch of their platform. They’re a surprisingly small team of staggeringly bright people, and it was great to meet some of them and hear stories of the challenges they face for things that on surface feel like they should be a doddle in this day and age. But that is banking, and that is why the world needs Mondo.

So let’s build a thing

… in 48 hours D:

The trouble with true innovation such as this is that every idea can spawn 15 others, and I really suffered with that going into Mondohack. With it being my first time attending (the team is hoping to make the hacks a regular occurrence and are proactive in building a strong community) I wanted to create something positive and inoffensive as well as leverage the awesome power of what a banking API could do.

Inspiration struck with an idea I dubbed Penny Change; a way of generating ‘as you spend’ micro-donations towards causes that matter to you. The concept is very simple, for every purchase you make Penny Change rounds up the balance up to the nearest pound — if you spend £1.99, Penny Change collects 1p.

It’s truly amazing how quickly these pennies can add up. Just think, if the 43 million card users in the UK gave just 1p a day in this way, over £150 million would be raised for UK charities every year. Wowza.

The Penny Change prototype in action

There have been several noteworthy attempts at the Penny Change concept floating around for a while. Some banks offer it as an opt-in service, and has been pushing the idea here in the UK with impressive results. The real struggle is in the legwork; you need to get the merchants onboard as well as the Chip & Pin hardware vendors — but what if the choice was solely in the hands of the consumer? With Penny Change, it could be as simple as downloading an app.

Remember, whilst your individual penny contributions might not be huge, the cumulative crowd total and the addition of 25% Gift Aid courtesy of the UK government can quickly equate to real difference.

Plus it’s kinda fun.

The team, and how we built it.

I formed a team with my existing colleague Marco (tech genius) and Richard (marketer extraordinaire.)

After quickly throwing down a Trello board of features and stretch goals, we set to work. The goal was to create a fully functional iOS app that could authenticate users, create a web hook with Mondo and start raking in the pennies.

Marco set about building a simple flask based Python application that could handle user sessions and API interactions. This left me to design and build a rough and ready HTML5 app using Ratchet, Backbone and my tool of choice, Sketch. I also added a neat little penny jar using Matter.js — endless fun.

Whats next?

I’m hopeful that one day the Penny Change vision will become a reality; it’s a really approachable way for us all to be more socially responsible and could obviously scale way beyond what we prototyped this weekend. When Mondo launches to the masses perhaps the project will see a revival.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about better banking and how all this awesome power shouldn’t stop with just consumers — if my time at Growth Street has taught me anything it’s that SMEs get a real raw deal from their banks. I can see huge potential for modern banking in the hands of small business owners.

Mondo already has a pretty sophisticated tagging system, but I’d love to see some two-way integrations with platforms such as Xero and FreeAgent, or real-time tools for better cashflow management, forecasting and borrowing options.

What’s amazing is that the Mondo platform could already support pretty much all of the above, so there is nothing else for it but to go and build more stuff.


Explored the Penny Change concept further at Global Startup Battle with a team of cool people. Here are some animated GIFs that show off the hard work…

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