Battle of the Challenger Banks: The Intro

Welcome to the Battle of the Challengers!


When the first challenger banks hit the market in the early to mid-2010s, nobody had experienced anything like them before.

Account open in under 48 hours? No queues or paper forms to fill in? Instant payment notifications on your phone?

Woah! Where do I sign up?

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The landscape is very different in 2020.

In the UK, one in four people under 37 now uses a challenger bank. And the global challenger bank market is on its way to becoming worth $578 billion (approximately £455 billion) by 2027.

But like traditional banks, not all challengers have progressed at the same pace or meet the high bar the trailblazers set almost a decade ago. So we started asking ourselves: who are the leaders? And, more importantly, what has propelled them to the front of the pack?

Our Battle of the Challenger Banks series is an attempt to answer these questions.

Every third Thursday of the month, we’ll be using our market intelligence platform FinTech Insights to look into a different aspect of how challengers do what they do and reporting our findings.

Ready to dive in?


But, wait a second.

Who are these challengers we speak of? What makes them “challengers” as opposed to traditional banks?

We had a pretty heated discussion at Scientia HQ. But we finally settled on a few criteria.

For us, a challenger bank is

  • Digital-only, with no physical branches
  • Small to medium in size
  • Tech-first and focused on removing as much friction as possible from the user experience
  • Fun, approachable, and maybe a dash quirky - just like their Debit Cards

Challenger banks do what traditional banks do, except they promise to do it better, faster, and more transparently. They’re more accessible and offer a smoother user experience. They have clear fee structures. And their savings and investment products tend to have higher interest rates than what you’d get from traditional banks.

In short, challenger banks work hard to make banking a pleasure, instead of an experience you break out in a cold sweat just thinking about.



We’ve picked six prize fighters to kick off our battle of the challengers. They are:

Monzo — the UK’s most popular challenger bank and home to over 50% of the UK neobank market’s customers

N26 — Berlin-based challenger founded in 2013

Revolut — best-known for its incredibly low exchange rates, Revolut now operates in the EEA, Switzerland, Canada, the US, Australia, Japan, and Singapore

Starling — the only challenger on this list to offer both personal and business bank accounts free of charge

Monese — Founder Norris Koppel created Monese in 2015 when he learned he couldn’t open a bank account because, as someone new to the UK, he didn’t have local proof of address

bunq — Billed the “bank of the free”, bunq lets you invest money in ethical funds and plant trees to offset your carbon footprint

We'll be adding more Challengers to our list as we go.


We’ll be running our challengers through FinTech Insights to analyse their digital platforms, features, and overall user experience to uncover their strengths and weaknesses.

We’ll focus on:

→How easy it is to sign up and open an account

  • →How they’ve digitised compliance processes like know-your-customer checks
  • →Unique features and innovative implementations
  • →Friction points in the user journey
  • →Use case score — an evaluation of how easy or hard it is for a customer to carry out typical online banking tasks like sending money to a contact or ordering a new card


So here we are.

The stage is set, and the contestants are all lined up and raring to go. It’s time for the first round: customer onboarding and e-KYC checks.

Who is going to snag the win?

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Up for the challenge to go into battle?

Click here to find out.

The Author

Erenia N. Kontolatou
Erenia holds the position of VP of Business Development at Scientia, and is in charge of partnerships and international expansion. With a vast fintech knowledge and an addiction to data analysis, she is driving Scientia to success while making partnerships that bring value.

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