What is a Neobank and Why Should You Make the Switch?

November 27th, 2019

In its simplest form, a neobank is a bank that operates on digital and mobile platforms, and not out of a ‘brick and mortar’ front. While the traditional banks have had online banking portals for years, neobanks go one step further by providing new banking technology to their customers. New and improved technology is always a positive in an increasingly digital world, however it is the services that neobanks provide that should encourage individuals to make the switch. From improved practices and a business model that gives you access to a bank without leaving the house, the principles of neobanks revolve around ease of use and increasing banking efficiency. 

What is a neobank?

The term neobanking emerged less than a decade ago in 2013, particularly in the UK, with a business model revolving around building a bank with and for customers. An example neobank would be N26 – during their beginning in 2017, their app was downloaded 300 times a year. Fast forward to 2019, and the app experiences downloads of at least 3000 times per day. 

A neobank is a bank that is built to operate on digital and mobile platforms. Meaning that there are no brick and mortar locations or branches that customers need to visit. Instead, everything related to your banking experiences can be accessed, in essence, wherever your smart device is. 

The idea of a neobank might seem similar to the online banking portals that traditional banks have been offering for years. However, they couldn’t be more different. Built using existing legacy systems, these portals are just an extension of a traditional bank, whereas neobanks run on technology that has been developed from scratch. 

Neobanks and traditional banks 

Neobanks and traditional banks have different business models, despite the fact that they both deal with money. In fact, the only similarity between the two is that they make money on the margin between lending money and creating revenue.

The first difference is the fact that neobanks operate online, whereas traditional banks run out of branches. This in turn leads to another difference – the fact that customers never need to make a trip into the bank when wanting to open an account or apply for a loan with neobanks. 

This allows for customers to be flexible, and cuts down on interference factors that may cause an individual to take their banking needs elsewhere. If everything is at the touch of a button, the time between deciding on a neobank and registering as a customer is quite short.

Due to the online nature of neobanks, there are little to no overhead costs when compared to traditional banks. This means that neobanks can pass on these savings to customers in the form of high interest rates for deposits and low rates for borrowers. 

Benefits of neobanks 

Neobanks are a promise to revolutionise the financial industry through the use of world-class technology and digital services. As such, there are a range of benefits when signing up to a neobank. 

Thanks to the artificial intelligence used in neobanking – and now also in traditional banks – individuals’ spending habits can be tracked by recognising the businesses where they swipe their card. This then allows for individuals to receive a fortnightly report detailing where money is being spent and how this compares to the money coming into the account in terms of salaries, for example. 

Artificial intelligence also allows for processing times to be virtually slashed, meaning that neobanks can and do action long and complicated processes like loan applications virtually straight away. This is done through the intelligence technology assessing an individual’s creditworthiness through their banking history while also determining income and assessing their spending habits. The result? An outcome on a loan application in a matter of seconds without even having to leave the house. 

Banking should be about providing ease to customers, be it through the different types of loans (such as a cash loans, fast loans, small loans etc.) or simplified and time efficient banking practices. 

Neobanks need to have the same banking licences and approvals as all existing banks. Meaning that when using a neobank, individuals can feel just as secure as when they banked traditionally. Regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, neobankers have the peace of mind that their money is safe. 

Examples of neobanks 

Neobanks are only just being established in Australia, however there are already a few notable examples such as Up, Xinja and Volt. Presently, only Volt has received the new restricted Authorised Deposit Taking Institution Licence. 

Neobanks like Up offer customers spending insights, as well as bill detection and reminders. This ensures that individuals can easily keep track of their money. However, you should always ensure you educate yourself on any fees or charges that may be part of any bank’s terms and conditions. For example, if there are international ATM fees.

Xinja is another neobank that is proving beneficial to the modern day banker. At the touch of a button users can access their spending analysis and categorisation. A positive of Xinja is their travel support, however, users should note that services like Apple Pay are not supported. 

Neobanks: why you should make the switch 

Banking processes with traditional banks can prove to be quite cumbersome. Enter neobanks. Making everything from signing up to applying for loans more efficient, neobanks are a new banking initiative designed with the customer in mind. 

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