Growth Wars: Driving Monese Growth

Lex Gillon
Frontira | Product Insights
4 min readJan 31, 2020


So we’ve been talking about growth, looking at the Revolut growth drivers and running N26 through the VRIO competitive advantage framework. Now, we’re going for a change of pace as we look at Monese.

In the Revolut article, we looked at the 7 million user challenger bank’s growth engine and the factors that accelerated their growth worldwide. N26 was a different beast. In that article, we introduced Jay B. Barney’s VRIO framework, a tool that allows the user to answer the question, “does this resource offer a temporary or sustainable competitive advantage?”

In this article, we’ll look at the role niche targeting played in Monese’s growth, answering the questions:

  • What is driving Monese’s continued growth and what can we learn from the “expat” bank?

Let’s jump right in.


The Power of Niche: Monese Origin Story

The UK is a competitive market for financial innovation, with players like Revolut, Monzo, and Starling bank arising from the ecosystem and new entrants joining the fight regularly. In a saturated environment how fintechs differentiate themselves is paramount.

Instead of trying to create a bank for everyone, Monese, founded in 2015 by Norris Koppel, addresses the challenge expats face when creating bank accounts in the UK as new arrivals. This demographic enters the country with no local credit history, residential address, or other required materials to open a traditional bank account. As a “mobile money account” designed for expats by expats, Monese offers features for the “Borderless Generation.”

The Niche: Expats

Monese solves expat problems by waiving the proof of residency requirement and allowing customers to open bank accounts in minutes.

In May 2019, Monese hit 1 million subscribers with roughly 75% of users using Monese to house their salary payments. A month into 2020, the company is now boasting close to 2 million, with nearly 9,000 new subscribers daily.

So what’s driving growth? According to Yannis Karagiannidis, Head of Growth at Monese, 40% of growth is organic and 35% is referral driven, leaving 15% for other paid channels. Karagiannidis goes on to say the company has almost no churn, implying the users who sign up are loyal to the product.

With that in mind, let’s focus on loyalty, organic growth, and referrals.

Question 1: What is driving Monese’s continued growth and what can we learn from the “expat” bank?

Driver 1: Loyalty

Because Monese has more than 75% of users making them their primary account, these customers are quite sticky, using the platform daily. This is a function of the niche demographic Monese has chosen.

We mentioned earlier that Monese is targeting expats. However, more specifically, the company is targeting those who have gotten rejected by legacy banks. This means they’ve been burned before. Recognizing this true pain point, Monese’s offering makes it easy for that same group to successfully get an account, to seamlessly send money abroad, and to access cash globally. This creates a reliance on the product that’s more visceral because trying to change accounts may mean getting rejected again and staying means their needs will be met.

Lessons for You:

  • By targeting a specific niche, Monese focuses their marketing and features to a specific population, making the customers loyal to their platform despite having many other options.
  • Consider focusing your target group. Sometimes depth is better than breadth.

Driver 2: Virality

When we look at virality, we’re looking at two catalysts: word of mouth and paid referrals.

Word of Mouth

The idea that people talk is nothing new. That said, Monese targets a group that talks more than the average group i.e. migrants to new places tend to go to other migrants for advice and recommendations for everything from the right barber to the right phone plan. By catering to this group and doing it well, Monese catalyzes the natural referral engine and gains new users without having to pay for them.

Paid Referrals


Because Monese understands their referral engine is so strong, they make it easy for the community to benefit from sharing. The app itself has an ‘Earn’ section, where users can easily share a referral code to friends and receive money directly into their account.

Lessons for You:

  • Choosing the right community, one that will promote you, and giving them the tools to promote is a great way to create growth
  • This can cut both ways, however, so understanding your customer and delivering unique value will ensure that positive word of mouth happens.

What’s Next?

While we’ve been talking about what makes these challenger banks great, there are many challenges and barriers that threaten that growth. In our next article, we’ll discuss barriers, answering the question:

  1. What obstacles stand in the way of Revolut, Monese, and N26’s continued growth?



Lex Gillon
Frontira | Product Insights

Lex is CEO and Founder of Modality Group, a sex product market research and business intelligence firm.