Battle of the Challengers: Starling vs Monzo

This is the interest over time of the term “Starling vs Monzo” googled in the UK.

Source: Google

As you can see, overtime there have been lot’s of discussions revolving around these two Challengers. Mainly because of the feud between Anne Boden and Tom Blomfield, but nonetheless these two Challengers have been involved in heated debates for a while

Almost every Challenger Bank gets compared to another. The comparisons, for the most part, are about their transaction fees, whether they offer costly international card transactions or not, or their interest rates on their savings accounts.

And for the most part, customers are used to making decisions on who their primary bank is going to be based on such criteria. Or the trust that they have for each financial institution.

Listen to this though, younger generations are more prone to trying out new banking apps and challenger banks in general, in order to find the one that will make banking accessible, understandable and most importantly easy to use! Challenger banking apps often look like the social media platforms, which younger generations are so used to interacting with on a daily basis.

So based on this, I decided to run another comparison, like the one I had made for Revolut vs N26, but focusing on the Features and UX one is able to find in Starling and Monzo.

Two factors of focus for this comparison: 

  • Offered Functionality
  • Offered UX

We are going to start from a higher level of analysis, and move further to unveil the different layers of their digital banking. Kind of how FinTech Insights likes to analyse digital banking offering - starting from a panoramic view and reaching the lowest level of detailed analysis possible.

Throughout this blog, I will be also adding some small snippets actually showing you me using FinTech Insights, and how I get all this data very easily!

MARKET POSITIONING 

I will start by benchmarking these both Challenger Banks in the Market. In this Market I will be also adding the following players : Lloyds Bank, Santander, Revolut, Monese and bunq, since they are Banks either based in the UK, or active in the UK.

As you can see the Banks are positioned in the Marked based on two parameters: The number of Functionalities they offer (across all channels), and the UX they offer (again, across all channels).

MAIN DIFFERENCES - FUNCTIONALITY FOCUS OF EACH 

I am going to start this analysis as I mentioned above, from a higher level of information, and drill down to the lowest level of detail that I can reach, thanks to FinTech Insights. So let’s start by looking at the focus that each Challenger decided to have as far as channels go.

PER CHANNEL

We know that both started as mobile only banks, so both of them originally focused on having the most Functionalities in their mobile applications.

Not that long ago, Starling also introduced their digital banking for the Web. They have to yet encompass the entire range of features they offer in their mobile devices, but it is a good start. 

Monzo is still focusing on their mobile channels, continuously adding new features.

PER CATEGORY

The channel at which they focus on, is not that much indicative though. It just proves the fact that they are mobile first.

Luckily, one more click into these graphs and we can expand to another layer of information, which shows us how they have distributed these functionalities amongst the standard digital banking categories.

For example, when it comes to Starling we can clearly see that they have focused heavily on Money Transfers (50 Functionalities), Accounts (39 Functionalities) and Cards(36 Functionalities).

As far as Monzo is concerned, they seem to be focusing on - well the same - Accounts (55 Functionalities) (e.g Features around Current Accounts, Savings Accounts and Fixed Term accounts), Cards(38 Functionalities and on Money Transfers(35 Functionalities).

Having said that, it is very interesting to see how many features they share in common for each of these categories.

As you can see they share a big percentage of these Functionalities together. The most prominent Functionalities that they share for each category are:

Accounts (Shared Functionalities 27): 

  • Viewing Details of an account (Savings, Current)
  • View/Manage statements
  • Search Transactions via filters 
  • Open/Close Savings Account

Money Transfers (Shared Functionalities 25):

  • Transfers between own accounts
  • Third Party transfers
  • Future/recurring transfers 
  • Transfers’ management

Cards (Shared Functionalities 21):

  • Block/Unblock Card
  • View Card Details
  • Debit Card Activation
  • View Debit Card’s last transactions

MAIN DIFFERENCES - UX FOCUS OF EACH 

Now let’s focus on their UX. I have previously talked about how, using FinTech Insights, I was able to objectively compare the UX offered between several Banks - no matter their nature.

So this time I just focused on Monzo and Starling and saw where they offered the best UX and which implementations stood out.

PER FUNCTIONALITY CATEGORY

Since both are heavily focused on the mobile devices, it makes sense for me to focus on their iOS and Android applications and explore the UX offered in each of them.

So the top 3 Functionality categories in which each Bank scores the highest in terms of UX are the following:

  • Starling
    • Cards - specifically the User Journey of Blocking/Unblocking your Debit Card is executed greatly!
    • Accounts - Starling users are lucky because they can very easily close a savings account (with or without remaining balance). Starling received an overall very high UX score.
    • PFM - While Starling achieves pretty high UX scores in most User Journeys, they do score pretty low (for a Challenger Bank) when it comes to the User Journey where a customer wants to set a savings goal.
  • Monzo 
    • Alerts - Managing your alerts in Monzo is as easy as it gets.
    • Accounts - Monzo UX score does not fall under 800 for all User Journeys. Impressive!
    • Cards - Blocking/Unblocking your Debit Card is actually better implemented in Monzo than Starling. The difference is s smidge, but still; differences lie in the smallest of details.

HEAD TO HEAD COMPARISON  (Mobile Devices)

Something very odd happens when we look at the UX offered for each channel. 

Overall Monzo provides a bit of a higher score for UX, when it comes to the mobile devices than the UX score of Starling. And this happens for almost every category, from Online Account Opening, to Accounts, Cards and PFM User Journeys.

MAIN DIFFERENCES - WHAT ARE THEY ARE MISSING FROM EACH OTHER ?

Deep diving into the last layer of comparisons we are going to run, we will execute a Head to Head comparison between these two challengers.

Fun fact: it takes 4 clicks (yes, 4 clicks) in FinTech Insights to compare any Bank/fintech with any other Bank/fintech.

Here is the information we can find by running this comparison:

  • Which Functionalities are unique to Monzo, that Starling has not implemented yet
  • Which Functionalities they have both implemented - they share in common
  • Which Functionalities are unique to Starling, that Monzo has not implemented yet

Of course these are actually quite a lot as you can see from the graph. But below you may find a list with the most prominent ones, which I think are worth for each Bank adding into their digital banking.

Starling Bank 

Features that they are missing (in comparison to Monzo) - worth adding

  1. Authenticate via Biometric 

Monzo allows you to finish a money transfer, and authenticate yourself, via using your biometric authentication e.g FaceID, TouchID. Starling prompts you to write your password (most specifically they prompt you to do so when you add a new beneficiary in order to use it for a money transfer). 

  1. Open new Term Account, Open Joint LCY Savings Account, Search Account’s transactions via various filters (tags, money amount, date range)

  1. Send money amount by payment link
  2. Virtual Cards (Issuing a new one, Management)
  3. Open Banking features (Adding accounts, Viewing details of accounts) - sidenote, Monzo offers these Open Banking features in the Monzo Plus account they offer, not the standard account.
  4. Budgeting their transactions
  5. Mobile/Gadget Insurance, Loan applications  

Monzo Bank 

Features that they are missing (in comparison to Starling) - worth adding

  1. Retrieve/Reset your password
  2. Deposit checks via taking a photo
  3. Open foreign currency account
  4. View estimated Transaction arrival
  5. Transaction splits (request, approve, reject)
  6. Replace your damaged Debit Card
  7. Edit the accounts with which your Debit Card is linked
  8. Unblock your PIN/CVV
  9. Kid’s Accounts

*Important feature to watch out for* During their analysis of Starling Bank, the FinTech Insights team encountered this very nice feature Starling offers, which is innovative and very useful!

Starling users can issue a Debit Card in the name of a third person. For example, if I were to have a Starling account, and wish to let a friend spend some money from my account, I can give them a Debit Card, linked to one of my Starling pots! Then I can set the limit of this Card, and they will be able to use it in any physical store. 

Both Challengers have a prominent presence in the UK, and a lot of potential as well.

The comparison between them is highly interesting, not only for the potential customers, but also for the teams behind these digital banks. 

The end goal for both of these banks remains the same: get a lot of customers to use them as their primary bank! Well in both cases, in order to become competitive, digital banking teams, from product development and UX, to board members, need to be able to understand the competitive landscape.

Do you really know what your competition is offering? Are you getting quality analytical information, or is your information restrained to what your co-worker knows about a Bank because they happen to have an account at another Bank?

Are you staying up to date with the innovation in digital banking that is going on around the world? Or is your news feed covering only news from your region, and you are unaware of what is going on in the rest of the world.

Sometimes, you need to broaden your horizons and seek solutions to the problems you might be having from places in the world you might have not thought of. 

I was able to make this comparison within minutes, and got all the data from FinTech Insights. You can see the product live in action and perform your own comparisons as well here

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