Monese looks overseas as Brexit affects demand in Britain

The founder of mobile-only bank Monese has revealed plans to expand its global footprint as he warned Brexit was already taking its toll on demand from overseas workers in the UK.

Norris Koppel – who founded Monese in the UK in 2015 after first-hand experience of the difficulties involved with opening a bank account in a new country – told PA the UK’s impending exit from the EU has “definitely had a negative impact” on its market in Britain.

But the firm’s expansion to 31 countries across Europe has meant the Brexit impact is just a “minor speed bump” for the firm, with more than half of sign ups now from mainland Europe, according to Mr Koppel.

The Estonian entrepreneur said the group is also planning its first launch outside Europe in the next 12 months, with six major markets in its sights, including Asia.

Monese targets customers who struggle to get a traditional bank account, often because they have recently arrived in a country.

Mr Koppel criticised Brexit for going against everything the firm stands for but stressed Monese was taking it in its stride.

“Monese is all about openness and people are meant to roam the world freely – Brexit is moving in the opposite direction,” he said.

New customer growth in its mainland European operations surpassed that of the UK for the first time last November and Mr Koppel said Brexit had played its part in that shift.

“Incoming migration has dropped significantly, but being an international business… the UK has lost its importance for us, because the majority of the traffic is coming from Germany and France,” he said.

Monese was Britain’s first mobile-only banking service when it first launched and now has more than 1 million people signed up and more than 3,000 new customers joining every day.

It said 580,000 of these signs ups are across mainland Europe, where it has grown rapidly, but Mr Koppel has always had global ambitions.

Having completed a major fundraising round last September, which saw it secure 60 million US dollars (£47.2 million) in capital, Monese is now putting the cash to “good use” with plans to extend its reach internationally.

The group is still “fine tuning” which markets it will launch into first outside Europe but has been building teams, products and know-how in preparation for the move.

Some of this expansion will also be through partnerships, it added.

Mr Koppel said Monese will look to complete another funding round next year, bigger than the last, as it continues expanding rapidly.

The group’s workforce has tripled since it started, to 300 people now across four offices – in London, Tallinn, Lisbon and Berlin – and Mr Koppel interviewed every candidate until the 150th hire.

Monese is part of a rapidly expanding UK fintech sector, whose recent explosion has caught the eye of the regulators, with the Bank of England recently cautioning over weaknesses among challenger banks in stress tests that showed some firms are cutting corners in pursuit of growth.

Mr Koppel stressed “not all fintechs are alike”.

He said Monese spent two years before launch making sure its systems were robust and enabled easy access, without cutting corners.

But he said the fintech sector is ripe for a shake-out, given the raft of new start-ups.

“Only those with a unique offering will do well in the long run,” he cautioned.