5 Lessons We Can Learn From A UK Startup Unicorn

Greg Miles | October 18th, 2018 | Read Time: 5 mins

Banks are dull.

The letter through the post is always opened with dread. Queues are long. Call centre’s are in a far away land. There are too many terms, too many conditions, nobodies got time to sit here and read all of this, have they?

‘It’s time for a new kind of bank.’

That’s the tagline of Monzo, the UK-based challenger bank that is striving to make you ‘effortlessly financially savvy’. Launched in 2015, the smartphone-only bank is at war with traditional banking and all the things we hate about it. And for the first time in history, young people in particular, are excited about banking.

In just three years, Monzo has amassed over one million customers, built a 300-strong team at its East London HQ, and created a cult-like community that gets excited when they spot a fellow coral card-flasher out in the wild. The brand’s 32-year-old founder and chief executive has even been tipped by Wired to become “the Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg of banking.”

But just how has Monzo achieved such phenomenal growth – and all without blockbuster TV ads? Here’s what we can learn from the UK’s new tech darling.

Have a clear mission

Monzo’s CEO Tom Bloomfield said it best: “Our mission should be something we can measure decisions against. Is this new thing we’re building going to get us closer to the mission? If not, should we be doing it at all?”

Having a clear long-term vision and belief system should be job number one for any brand. Who are you and what are you trying to achieve in the world? Getting absolutely crystal clear about that and making it a shared sense of purpose, something that the team can believe in, is crucial to long-term success.

It means that you can ruthlessly cut away anything that is not supporting and feeding that belief system. In Monzo’s case, that’s anything that doesn’t ‘make money work for everyone’. If an idea doesn’t get Monzo closer to that goal, it gets screwed up and tossed in the bin.


The average bank’s Ts&Cs are just over 20,000 words in length. They’re complicated, stressful and frustrating to read – not that you will have ever tried to read them (just do a quick faux- scan and sign the dotted line).

Monzo’s terms and conditions, on the other hand, are just 800 words long with a reading age of 11.

Convention says that professional writing needs to be formal and as a result it is almost always over-complicated. But no matter how academic your audience might be, they prefer simple, clear and easy-to-read content. Research even shows that companies with clear writing styles are perceived to possess greater transparency and credibility than companies that don’t.

This is especially important in the fast-paced world of today’s web users. If your communication isn’t efficient, key messages will be missed.

Put the customer first, always

A cliché, yes, but putting the customer first is still a practice that escapes most businesses.

“Every bank claims to be customer-centric, and they are invariably not. They’re product-centric,” say Tom Bloomfield. And being customer-centric is something Monzo has embedded into its business model.

The app allows users to manager their money better, by setting spending targets and breaking down what they have spent their money on. It has even rolled out an account for 16-18 year olds, which aims to educate them about money management.

And the approach is working. The company’s biggest growth driver is loyalty, with word-of-mouth referrals being the source of 80 percent of new customer growth. The remaining 20 percent have been acquired through paid campaigns on Facebook and Twitter.

Create a community vibe

From its eye-catching cards to the sense of FOMO created by rolling out new accounts with a staggered, queuing system, Monzo have fostered a real sense of community with its user base.

It often consults with customers when bringing out new features, has built a community forum on its website, and even invites users to invest in the company through equity crowdfunding rounds.

“[The goal] is broadly to get to a stage where customers are referring their friends because they love the product and feel like they’re a part of the mission — you need to take customers away from being ‘standard customers’ to being advocates who are feeling like they’re part of it,” said Monzo’s head of marketing and community, Tristan Thomas.

Sometimes it’s the simple things, like a hot coral debit card, that build a sense of belonging and identification among users.

Do good

Finally, doing good is a lesson we can all learn from Monzo, who have launched an initiative to help immigrants, refugees and the homeless open a bank account.

Some people don’t have an address or official identification, which are both traditionally needed to open a bank account. But Monzo are looking at new ways of improving access to financial services for everyone.

Giving a refugee or a homeless person a basic bank account with low limits and no overdraft isn’t going to make Monzo a fortune, but it is going to move it a notch closer to its overall mission; to make money work for everyone.

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