Monzo uses customer insights as a powerful disruption tool

In 2015, Monzo arrived on the UK fintech scene with a bang. Everybody was talking about its brightly coloured cards and exclusive waiting list, and everyone wanted in. Having a Monzo card was an absolute must – it was a trendy accessory akin to an oversized pair of headphones or a wearable fitness tracker.

And it’s not like the concept was totally ground-breaking; the prepaid card market was active before Monzo launched, but it was dry and its users were disengaged. So as Monzo hits the 2 million customers milestone, we look at how the business, alongside some of the UK’s other new banking ventures, Starling Bank and Tandem have successfully disrupted the fintech narrative among millennials and challenged the way we budget, spend and save.

Spoiler alert: It all comes down to how well they know their customers!


‘FOMO’ made its way into the Oxford Dictionary in 2013 after being normalised by the media, popular culture and millennials themselves. The fear of missing out experienced by young people is driven by social media and 24 hour digital communities, and it’s increased the value of exclusivity – a fact Monzo, Starling Bank and Tandem all clearly understand and have applied to their customer acquisition strategies.

Monzo’s waiting list got the nation competing, persuading and pitching. With ‘Golden TIckets’ designed to bump prospective customers up the list by referring a friend, those who weren’t already on ‘the list’ suddenly found themselves feeling like everyone’s best friend. As the initial surge in demand softened, Monzo ditched its waiting list, but Tandem has an ongoing waiting list to help it manage demand for products on an ad hoc basis and Starling Bank lets customers join waiting lists for products which haven’t even launched yet. In January it announced that 3,500 customers were waiting for euro accounts still being beta tested by employees.

Generally speaking, we want what other people have, and what we can’t have, so although the very nature of a waiting list barrs customers from automatically opening accounts and ‘buying’ products, this makes those items more desirable. And if waiting lists are managed properly – with countdowns and regular comms – they can drive demand.

Putting customers in control

Living in 24 hour digital communities, millennials are accustomed to real-time news and insights. And they want their own lives to reflect this – they don’t want a paper statement from their bank telling them what they spent in Sainsbury’s two months ago, they want to see a summary of their outgoings there and then so they can adapt their spending accordingly.

Monzo, Starling Bank and Tandem have built app functionality which nudges customers (utilising the best of behavioural theory), empowering them to monitor and control their behaviour. As Richard H Thaler, author of the critically acclaimed book Nudge, said, “A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.”


When Grandparents send birthday cheques, it would be really helpful to be able to visit a physical bank branch, open at a vaguely convenient time. After work, or at the weekends… But for the most part, millennials like to do their banking online. And not just online, on their mobile phones. We’re an increasingly mobile society and want to be able to manage our lives on the go.

Gone are ‘life admin Sunday mornings’ spent making our way through a pile of bills and a cafetiere. We don’t want to spend our weekends budgeting and working out where our money has been spent. It doesn’t suit our lifestyles – we want to be able to see it online, and this is what Monzo, Starling Bank and Tandem offer.

A new story to tell

Finally, Monzo, Starling Bank and Tandem have distanced themselves from the traditional financial services narrative, creating new stories to sympathise with the needs and wants of their target customers – most of whom grew up during the financial crisis and may have a poor view of the UK banking sector as a result. To challenge this, Starling Bank claims to be ‘changing banking in 2019’ while Monzo calls itself the ‘bank of the future’.

Tandem elevates this, almost distancing itself from the banking sector entirely. On its website it says ‘FYI we are a fully regulated UK bank’ – important information, right? Of course, but the use of ‘FYI’ implies that this is an afterthought, so instead of focusing on ‘being a bank’, Tandem is able to prioritise customer experience. The tone is challenging and makes a mockery of traditional financial services businesses who put regulation and authority at the forefront of customer comms. And its customers love it – they want a bank who is going to challenge the status quo on their behalf.

So there we have it – our take on why the fintech disruptors have disrupted so successfully – and why they’ll only continue making an impact. It comes down to exclusivity, convenience, control and storytelling, but this is all underpinned by deep customer insights. Monzo, Starling Bank and Tandem know their customers – they know how they think, feel and act, and this has translated into serious success already.

– Sophie Paterson, Associate Director EMEA