What's Next for UK Challenger Banks, According to Auriemma Group

21.05.24 18:45 Uhr

LONDON, May 21, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- The 1990s saw the emergence of the first wave of Challenger Banks in the UK – including Virgin Direct (1995), Sainsbury's Bank (1997) and Tesco Personal Finance (1997). Their intention was to take on the established big banking players. However, as time has passed, they have moved in unintended directions. Auriemma Group has been monitoring this space for years, and provides strategic insights and advisory services to help clients navigate market dynamics and regulatory changes.

With the recent purchase of Tesco Bank by Barclays, the imminent purchase of Virgin Money by Nationwide, and the ongoing process for Sainsbury's Bank to identify an appropriate exit route for its full suite of banking products, the established banking players have taken control of the core original Challenger banks. The ownership of M&S Bank as a wholly-owned subsidiary of HSBC (since 2004) can be added to this list.

Increased regulation—including interchange restrictions, higher capital requirements, the cost of capital, the cost of rewards, and economic turbulence—has made it too challenging for these entities to operate independently. What might this mean for the more recent Challenger banks?

The newer wave of Challenger banks, including Monzo, Starling, and Revolut have taken a very different approach to differentiate themselves from the mainstream. Whilst the 1990s wave focused on leveraging established brand names and existing distribution channels, the more recent wave has emphasized innovation, technology and a digital-first approach.

Slick, digital sign-up processes have attracted significant customer volumes for these players (Monzo with more than 7 million customers, Starling with 3.6 million, and Revolut with over 30 million globally). However, profitability remains a challenge for many.

"If the mainstream players feel they need to compete more directly, there are three possible approaches to consider," says Simon Cottenham, Head of International Partnerships at Auriemma. "Spin-off their own digital banks to compete head-on with the Challenger banks, invest in the digital approaches and apply these to their mainstream products, or ultimately look to invest in or buy-out a Challenger bank and bring their capabilities in-house."

The future of Challenger banks is murky at best. It remains to be seen if the new wave will be able to compete in the long-term with their largest competitors, or ultimately be absorbed by the high street banks like the original Challengers.

About Auriemma Group

For 40 years, Auriemma's mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, visit us at www.auriemma.group or contact Simon Cottenham at info@auriemma.group.

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