Monobank is the most recognizable fintech project in Ukraine
Uniting exclusively the digital banking experience with cute cat characters was a nice move made by monobank. At least, its 2.4 million customers think so. Of course, the branded cat design is not the only appeal of the most recognizable fintech project in Ukraine.
The history of monobank
At the end of 2016, top managers were forced to leave Privat Bank – the largest Ukrainian bank in terms of assets and the leader of the national retail banking market – after its nationalization. Why did that happen?
In 2014-2016, political turmoil and war caused a banking crisis in Ukraine. As a result, around 90 banks were declared insolvent. Since Privat was one of the largest banks in the country, its liquidation could cause significant damage to Ukraine’s financial sector and economy. Therefore, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) suggested a restructuring plan to the Management Board of Privat Bank. However, the bank’s management and shareholders did not comply with it. Therefore, the NBU declared Privat Bank insolvent and asked the Cabinet of Ministers to transfer it to state ownership.
Change of leadership was one of the main conditions of nationalization. The professionals created a new company called Fintech Band in 2017. This fintech startup is an IT-company providing consulting and web development services to retail banks, as well as services of payment processing, CRM, online banking, risk management, and servicing bank cards.
The team consisted of Dmytro Dubilet, former IT director, his father Oleksandr Dubilet, ex-head of the board, Oleg Gorokhovsky, former first deputy head of Privat Bank, Mykhaylo Rogalsky, responsible for the business of payments and transfers, Vadym Kovalev, who was involved in risk assessment, Volodymyr Yatsenko, deputy head of the bank, and Lyudmyla Shmalchenko, ex-director of the bank’s treasury.
The same year, they created monobank – Ukraine’s first mobile-only bank – in cooperation with Universal Bank. In October 2017, 17,000 eager customers started the beta-testing process. In November, versions for iOS and Android were released to the general public.
In 2018, monobank became the third Ukrainian bank to open access to the Apple Pay payment system. It expanded the range of services and gained new adherents.
In 2019, the number of clients in this mobile bank reached 1 million. Over the next year, the user base doubled due to a lucrative referral program and nice banking features.
Now the company is expanding its operations into foreign markets starting with the UK.
Monobank services and features
Monobank offers its customers a range of banking products:
- Debit account with a personalized credit limit
- VIP member accounts
- Deposits with fixed or flexible terms
- Accounts in popular foreign currencies
- Banka – savings account with a joint top-up possibility
- P2P transfers
- Credit lines and payments on installments
- Business accounts for individual entrepreneurs (in beta-testing phase)
- Bill splitting
- QR-code payments
- Shake to pay
The low fees and smart banking app are not the only factors that draw public attention to monobank. It offers generous cashback on purchases up to 20%. The categories and partner brands change monthly, but most common ones like food and supermarkets bring stable income to bank users.
Moreover, simply keeping money in your basic account earns interest which is only slightly lower than the one used for deposits. The eligibility threshold for this feature is very low – 100 UAH (around $4) of the remaining balance.
Finally, monobank customers can have fun and get bonuses while using bank services. There’s a range of reward badges given for certain activities like using the card in different cities or countries, not withdrawing the cashback for a while, splitting costs, spending in certain categories, etc. Along with the funny badges in their collection, the users earn points. Those can later be redeemed for branded clothing. Moreover, the person who collects all the badges first will get a car from the Fintech Band company. Next lucky users will have their account upgraded.
Shake to pay is another monobank special feature. Imagine that you met someone you should transfer money to. It may be a friend or a seller without a POS. Until recently, it was necessary to ask such a person for a card number, a phone number, or at least a QR-code. However, two monobank users standing nearby can simply shake their phones – their names will appear on each other’s screens and they will be able to transfer money with one tap. It also comes in handy when a person wants to tip the waiter without giving any cash.
UK project Koto
On March 3, 2020, the Fintech Band team started international expansion to the financial market of the UK. Their new Koto project is similar to monobank, but not exactly the same. Namely, Koto is not a fully-fledged bank. It’s a banking app that gives access to simple and competitive loan products to those British citizens with poor credit profiles, who often cannot get these services from traditional banks.
To be able to do that, Fintech Band entered into an agreement with the Experian credit bureau. The Ukrainian IT-team received a large data package on which they could train the algorithms developed in Ukraine. This way, they built models that are about 20% better than those that Experian offers by default.
Surprisingly, Koto had to greatly change the design of the application, although it was not originally planned. According to marketers, bright colors chosen for monobank’s app may be easily accepted in Ukraine, but would have caused an unwanted association with predatory rip-off loan products in the minds of British customers.
The team also had to fight for keeping the traditional mono-cat figure. His so-to-say “facial expression” seemed too cunning to British market experts – as if the cat was trying to sell credit with opaque conditions. Therefore, the team tried to make the brand cat more friendly.