An Interview with Anthony Thomson, Chair, 86 400
"The Royal Commission has highlighted what customers already knew – the big four banks have not put customers’ interests first. While the Royal Commission was exclusive to Australia, the issues it uncovered are not – people all over the world are looking for better ways to manage their money."
FST Media: As an industry veteran and founder of two disruptive UK banks– Atom Bank and Metro Bank – what are your views on the current banking industry and how are you looking to shake up Australia’s industry with 86 400?
Thomson: As we’ve seen in other markets, there is a huge opportunity to completely revolutionise the way we manage our finances by making banking easier, simpler, and smarter for consumers. The Royal Commission reinforced what we already know: the customer must come first.
Yet this isn’t a new opportunity; we founded 86 400 on the premise that customer success leads to business success, and that technology could help revolutionise how we manage our finances, making banking easier, simpler, and smarter for consumers. Australians deserve more than just an alternative to the Big Four banks; they deserve a completely new approach to banking, and that’s what we’re building.
FST Media: Why did you choose to lend your expertise to 86 400?
Thomson: It was time for a change, and I’ve always been interested in the Australian market.
When Cuscal – Australia’s leading independent payments provider – told me about 86 400, I was excited to become part of it and bring my experience in founding Atom and Metro banks in the UK to the fore in the Australian market.
FST Media: Australia has seen the swift emergence of several neo-banks – including Volt Bank, Xinja, Judo Capital, Up and Douugh – over the past two years. How can 86 400 stand out in an increasingly crowded and competitive Australian banking market?
Thomson: We are building the easiest version of banking, which provides total visibility of the stuff that matters, proactive help that’s easy to action, and the best possible rates and fees.
There are a few key aspects that differentiate us from other new banks in Australia. We’re reimagining how Australians manage their money. With the combination of our proprietary Customer Experience Engine (CXE) and our relentless focus on customers, for the first time Australians will be able to see their spending and saving patterns in a way that helps them understand what’s happened, what’s happening, what’s going to happen and, importantly, what to do next.
Our team also sets us apart. We have the best people from technology and banking – a team 85-strong with a common purpose to help customers take back control of their money, working to build the best banking experience Aussies have ever seen. Our chief executive officer, Robert Bell, has extensive leadership experience across the financial services sector, and he’s supported by an incredibly experienced executive and board. Finally, unlike others, we made the decision to apply directly for a full banking licence, rather than piggyback off another licence or via the restricted licence route.
FST Media: How do you see the impending rollout of Open Banking, as well as the recently released final report of the Hayne Royal Commission, changing Australia’s financial services industry in the years to come?
Thomson: The Royal Commission has highlighted what customers already knew – the big four banks have not put customers’ interests first. While the Royal Commission was exclusive to Australia, the issues it uncovered are not – people all over the world are looking for better ways to manage their money. It was the case when I launched both Metro Bank and Atom Bank in the UK, and it’s the same here today in Australia.
Open banking will, over time, make a big impact given data will be widely available. However, it will take longer to implement than people think, as we have seen in other markets.
FST Media: Recently, Volt became the first Australian ‘neo-bank’ to be approved as an authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI). Where is 86 400 positioned in its journey to obtaining an unrestricted banking licence?
Thomson: We are progressing well with our full licence application, but it is to APRA to determine the timing. We are in the final stages of the application process and look forward to sharing news on our launch with Australia soon.
FST Media: Strategic partnerships are increasingly important in today’s financial services industry. How has your partnership with Cuscal shaped the development of 86 400? Are there other prospective partnerships currently in the works?
Thomson: Cuscal, Australia’s largest independent payments provider, brings payments expertise and access that is hugely valuable to a start-up such as 86 400. What this means is that we can spend more time building out our customer proposition and less time building underlying payments infrastructure that is complex, time-consuming, and costly.
Cuscal also supports 86 400 from an investor perspective and has been invaluable for building a bank for the future. Cuscal’s technologies and its knowledge of the market have been extremely helpful in building a technology-led bank for all Australians.
We have also established partnerships in the technology and home lending space, which means we can be quicker to market and launch our products sooner. Partnering with other organisations and customising their solutions to meet our home loan proposition also means we can leverage their expertise to help us deliver something unique to the market.
FST Media: How is 86 400 working to leverage emerging technologies such as machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics to personalise banking experiences for customers?
Thomson: The Customer Experience Engine (CXE) is 86 400’s own proprietary technology, which will deliver a better mobile banking experience for Australians by providing real-time financial insights. The engine uses data, AI, and cloud-based technologies to give customers a single view of their financial world and proactive insights to make the most of their money.
FST Media: Nearly all financial services organisations today have embraced customer-centricity as their guiding philosophy. How does 86 400 foster a truly customer-centric culture?
Thomson: We will provide the best customer service and value every second of every minute of every day – all eighty-six four hundred of them. I truly believe that profit is a by-product of giving the customer a better product, service, or experience.
We are focused on building the easiest version of banking, which provides total visibility of the stuff that matters, proactive help that’s easy to action, and the best possible rates and fees. Our customers will have access to all the ‘pays’ – Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay – from day one, a great savings rate and competitive fees, plus contextual insights to help them better understand their spending and savings habits.
FST Media: Inspiration often comes from unexpected places. Which brands or business leaders outside the financial services industry do you look to for fresh thinking?
Thomson: I don’t think anyone has a monopoly on good ideas. Looking around the world for examples of customer centricity and innovation, you can see things from big companies, like Apple and Google, but also some great ideas from companies you’ve probably never heard of. You can source inspiration from both.
FST Media: 86 400 was named after the number of seconds in a day. Where does the bank of ‘one day’ envision itself 86 400 seconds from today?
Thomson: To be a real alternative to banking, to strip the waste out, to give back to customers, and to challenge the status quo of what banking is and how it’s done.