Dear Deidre: Things are getting serious
I’m in a new relationship. It started about 2 years ago, in the late spring of 2016 as the air warmed and the trees blossomed. At first, it was just a bit of fun; a couple of drinks after work, the odd lunch here, the odd present there. To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking about the consequences, I was just going along with it and seeing where it took me. But recently things got a whole lot more serious. In January, a card arrived on my desk… a bright coral pink bank card to be exact.
I am of course talking about the arrival of my new Monzo current account card and the changing nature of my transactional banking relationships (what else?). As many of you will know, when Monzo first launched they didn’t have a banking license so couldn’t offer current accounts. Instead, they offered pre-paid cards that had to be topped up.
I loved the pre-paid card. It offered a low risk, no strings attached way of managing my discretionary spending (read beer money and street food). Every Monday I topped it up and then proceeded to spend with carefree abandon till it was all gone. It worked brilliantly, there was no overdraft so when the money ran out, the fun stopped. It didn’t matter if the service was rubbish or didn’t work, all the important stuff was still routed through my main account (held with a big high street bank). If their systems went down, I might not be able to buy a pint, but no mortgage payments or nursery fees we’re going to be missed.
However, since last summer when they received their banking license, Monzo has been steadily upgrading customers onto their current account and issuing debit cards. This is what arrived on my desk the other week. As ever the moment was handled beautifully, with warmth and wit, everything that I’ve come to expect and love from Monzo. It should have signalled the start of something new and exciting. Afterall the pre-paid card was only ever a stop-gap, whereas the current account would allow them to take the experience up a gear. But despite all this, I was strangely apprehensive.
The reason, well a few weeks before I’d decided to use Monzo as my main account. From that point on my entire life would be going through them. Everything from phone bills, to train tickets, to credit card repayments. In that moment, the nature of our relationship changed fundamentally. It was no longer just a bit of fun, it was serious. If their systems went down, I went down. Like many others who had taken the same leap of faith, I was now relying on them.
In 3 short years, Monzo has managed to generate incredible amounts of goodwill. You only need to venture on to their community forum to witness this (https://goo.gl/xp3ubo). But what’s apparent is that the honeymoon period for Monzo is now over. Even in their forums (which you wouldn’t exactly describe as impartial), it’s noticeable how the tone has shifted. Whisper it quietly, but there’s even talk of switching back to the traditional high street banks! (https://goo.gl/Ee6BMT). God forbid!
The truth is that going forward Monzo will increasingly be judged like all the other banks; on their ability to deliver a safe, secure and reliable banking service. And it’s this – not all the hype that’s come before – that will decide if they’re a success or not. From my perspective, I’ve come around to the idea. As with all relationships you only find out how strong they are when you take things to the next level. Be that moving in together, getting a cat or having kids. And this is no different, who knows where we’ll end up, only time will tell.