Local neobanks tell Revolut “bank hating” won’t work here

Alison Banney 1 November 2018 NEWS

Finance app Revolut is aggressively distancing itself from the banks ahead of its launch in Australia, but local challenger banks say this strategy won't work.

On day one of Melbourne's Intersekt fintech festival this week, Revolut's head of marketing, Chad West wanted to make one thing very clear ahead of its launch in Australia in February 2019: Revolut is not a bank. Instead, it's a technology company and wants to align itself with the likes of Amazon rather than any of the big banks.

Referring to the local challenger banks in Australia including volt, Xinja, Up and 86 400 West said "You can call yourselves a challenger bank, a neobank and all these buzzwords. For us, we are taking a sort of Amazon of finance approach. A one-stop financial shop where you'll manage all aspects of your financial life."

"We are not a bank, and we'll never refer to ourselves as a bank because it has negative connotations to it. Why would you brand yourself as something that people hate? We are a tech company and have always prided ourselves on being a tech company," said West.

But the local digital banks here don't seem to be as convinced that this strategy will work. Co-founder of recently launched digital bank Up, Dom Pym said "I say that bank hating is not going to work. By calling out the big banks and being nasty, you're really being nasty to yourself and your peers. I don't think coming in and saying 'all banks are crap and we're awesome', I don't think that flies."

Up is backed by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and Pym said they'd rather align Up with the banks rather than against them. "I say that we either are a bank or we're working with a bank. In Australia we have the sort of tall poppy syndrome and we love to hate the big banks, but we all bank with them or have banked with them at some point."

Chief marketing officer at neobank Xinja, Camilla Cooke also felt bank bashing was unnecessary. "We don't diss the banks, nor should we," she said.

Cooke also felt that simply positioning yourself as a tech company with a cool app wasn't necessarily going to help win over consumers. "It's certainly not just about digital. Everyone is going digital, it's a given. We're all going to have budgeting, we're all going to have categorisation, we're all going to have those little charts. I'm not convinced that success will come through that. It's going to be more about what we're going to do with the customer's data to help them, not about the technology and features we bring out."

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