The rise of innovative technologies has made it possible for challenger banks to shake up the market in the last decade. With customer needs changing and expectations increasing, there is a growing trend for smartphone banking; branchless, mobile-only banks with centralised services, ready to compete with established institutions.
by Vince Graziani, CEO, IDEX Biometrics ASA
The term challenger bank is used to describe any banking service provider looking to take on and win customers from the big corporate, or traditional banks. And now banks such as Monzo, Revolut, Chime and Papara, established in 2015, are maturing garnering praise and followers, putting established banks under increased pressure as they battle for the next generation of customers.
US-based start-up Chime is now valued at $14.5 billion and is IPO-ready. In the UK, Revolut— which has more than 14 million customers—is worth more than long-standing high street bank NatWest. Meanwhile Papara, a Turkish banking challenger has grown to eight million users, and is gearing up for European expansion in 2021, with Germany as its first growth market. Also in Europe, Swedish financial service challenger Rocker has received €48 million in equity funding just 18 months after launching. This presents some serious competition to traditional banks around the world.
Monumental changes in consumer payment habits
Meanwhile, the pandemic has impacted the world’s financial habits. Today consumers are using less cash, making more contactless payments and want to keep a closer eye on spending patterns. As more people move their lives online, digital challengers have been well placed to take advantage of this trend.
According to Ipsos Mori’s personal banking report, challenger banks are cementing their position ahead of some of the biggest financial brands in customer service, showing that innovation and modern ideas are revolutionising the market.
For a new generation of tech-savvy customers, challenger banks also offer something a little more fashionable, with strong branding and messaging, meeting banking needs with a customer-friendly service that fits around them, not the other way round.
Can big banks catch up?
Big banks have been playing catch up over the past few years. They were late to the game and have retroactively started backfilling their account offerings with spending trackers and notifications. But chasing the features of more agile, mobile-focused competitors isn’t enough to help them thrive in a changing banking world.
In particular, these challengers gain competitive advantage by creating new payment options that reflect customer demand for additional security and convenience. As studies show that payment cards will dominate the banking scene for at least the next decade, bank players need to revolutionise their own payment card offerings to respond to consumer needs.
New and emerging payment options
With consumers concerned about security, convenience and speedy payment options in an increasingly cashless world, big banks must embrace new biometric technology if they are to win their business.
A smart fingerprint authentication payment card already far exceeds the security of PIN authentication. This new generation of on-card fingerprint recognition technology has shown to be more than twice as secure as traditional card payment transactions requiring a four-digit PIN.
Fingerprint data is held securely on the card, not in a shared database, meaning personal biometric data never leaves the card and cannot be hacked, recreated or breached. By linking the user to their card via the unique properties of their fingerprint, banks and retailers can create a payment process that is safe, speedy and highly secure –while demonstrating innovative thinking and future proofing themselves.
Fingerprint authentication is also more inclusive. It removes barriers for those with literacy challenges or memory difficulties because biometric payment cards simply allow consumers to be their own authentication. They can be used in any corner of the world, even in the most remote locations with limited cloud connection.
Biometric cards can also be used to provide direct and unequivocal identification to help the financially excluded open bank accounts and improve their credit scores.
Why embracing new biometric innovation can help gain top-of-wallet status
With the economy slowly bouncing back to pre-Covid levels, fingerprint biometric payment cards offer a safe, secure, hygienic method of payment authentication, providing an additional layer of security and trust in a cashless world. The rising wave of fintech’s and challenger banks is forcing traditional banks to focus on product and service differentiation as they try to compete against more agile entities and retain brand loyalty. Therefore, it’s important now more than ever for banks to embrace new biometric technology to provide their customers with an enhanced customer experience and deliver essential security to their payments.
Biometric payment cards enable challengers as well as incumbents to compete for and gain top-of-wallet status, protect users from fraud and build trust with the consumers of tomorrow. With technology evolving at lightning speed, now is the time for the banking sector to embrace cutting edge innovation and win the fintech play.
 Independent field trials commissioned by IDEX Biometrics in 2021 demonstrate the likelihood that a fingerprint biometric payment card incorrectly accepts an unauthorized user was less than one in 20,000, compared to a one in 10,000 chance of correctly guessing a user’s four-digit PIN.