Atom, a U.K. mobile-only bank, can be as disruptive to the banking industry as Uber has been to taxis, according to the lender’s chief executive, after it received a £45 million ($68 million) investment from Spain’s BBVA.
And Atom will be relying on word of mouth — just like Uber — to help generate new customers rather than using traditional promotional and marketing tools, the bank’s boss told CNBC.
“I think a lot of it comes down to how good you are. I think if your product or your service is good enough it becomes talked about on its own. I don’t recall Uber doing a great deal of marketing yet everyone knows what Uber is,” Mark Mullen, CEO of Atom Bank, told CNBC in a TV interview on Tuesday.
“I think we have the potential to be as disruptive. Absolutely. Why not?”
The comments come after Spanish bank BBVA announced on Tuesday that it had agreed to invest £45 million for a 29.5 percent stake in Atom and will have two seats on the bank’s board.
Atom was granted a license by the U.K.’s Prudential Regulation Authority last June and is looking to launch in early 2016. It is one of a number of so-called “challenger banks” looking to take on established players in the U.K. Atom said it would be a mobile-only bank, with users able to access traditional banking services via their smartphone.
Eventually Mullen said, users would not have to enter usernames and passwords because access will be via biometric authentication such as fingerprints and eye scans.
“Our intention is that it will be a biometric bank so once you look at it, once you look at the app It will know who you are, you won’t have to re-enter details time and time again. And we’re talking about literally money in minutes when it comes to decision making or when it comes to transacting,” Mullen explained.
‘Vote of confidence’
BBVA’s investment comes as banks look to boost their technology offerings to fend off the threat to parts of their business models from financial technology start-ups as well as the likes of Google and Facebook.
Earlier this year, BBVA acquired design firm Spring Studio and in 2014 bought big data and cloud computing startup Madiva Soluciones as well as U.S. technology firm Simple. BBVA also has its own venture capital fund through which it has invested in companies such as bitcoin wallet Coinbase.
Other banks such as Santander have their own venture funds to invest in new technologies. Earlier this year, Barclays told CNBC it was pursuing technology that could involve users talking to a “robot” computer system to make money transfers.
Atom’s CEO said the BBVA investment shows a “tremendous vote of confidence” in the bank’s business model and will help it get off the ground.
“They bring an immense know-how…They’ve been a bank for 150 years, they’re an enormously experienced bank, they’ve got a great reputation. But they’ve also got very specific knowledge when it comes to digital assets,” Mullen told CNBC.