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UK Banks: Peculiarities of Opening an Account

How to Start a Small Localised Bank in the UK?

9 min read

The UK, and London in particular, is proved to be a coveted financial hub in the world, and that explains why so many fintech startups continue to appear in this very geo. This also refers to banks, lending institutions, credit unions, and other financial firms that have a way with numbers and technologies. As a result, during the first half of 2021, the investment into the sector has poured $24.5bn into the UK market. Isn’t this fact enough to nudge you in the direction of opening a banking account in the UK? Or even longing for starting your own business on this fertile soil?

If so, place yourself in users’ shoes and consider the online bank in the UK as the first obvious option. Why? First, neobanks provide better transparency to customers. Second, they serve as a convenient financial monitoring tool on the go. Third, digital banks are faster in new features release and functionality updates. Fourth, they offer attractive low/zero fees benefits. Finally, UK neobanks operate on the basis of APIs, which ensures a lesser probability of bugs and reduces costs of ownership (compare outsourcing vs. in-house core infrastructure). By the way, the role of API technologies in 2021 is ever rising, and more companies are rooting for serverless architecture, web-based/database systems, k8s, GraphQL implementation, etc. Who are among the majority of these disruptors? No doubt, the fintech players, with the UK banks being in the lead.

By the way, have you heard that Great Britain’s user share in online banking constitutes three quarters? However, there’s also a considerable part of users who still value and trust the traditional banks in the UK, so a traditional bank conflated with the digital format of service can be a valid alternative too. Thus, let’s compare both for you to pick the best business fit!

How to Start a Small Bank: UK Guidelines

In case your business intention is to set up a banking business in the UK, you need to go to the basics of the question and see how this industry works from the inside. And the first step is to distinguish the difference in ​​how to start your own bank in the UK in a traditional and digital UK bank.

Traditional banks

As a rule, a person who needs to open a banking account in the UK is required to proceed with the two-step process. The first one is identity verification, which presupposes filing such documents as a passport, identity card, or driving license. The second one is address verification, and this procedure is already more pitchy, especially if you’re not a UK citizen. Here you need to collect a wider list of documents, which depends on the exact bank you’ll choose. Anyway, on average, it includes a tenancy agreement or a mortgage statement, a fresh utility bill (no older than 3 months), an original copy of a recent bank/credit card statement (the same date of origin), and a council tax bill. Meanwhile, if you’re already scared of this bureaucracy, wait a sec! Many physical banking institutions have already become more flexible on this point. Actually, to prove your UK address, you can request a letter from your employer (for employed), the jobcentre (for temporarily not employed), or the educational institution (for students). Another alternative is to continue with the UK multi-currency account that frees you from the geo attachment and offline application as all can be done online.

Are you already full of ideas on how to incorporate this knowledge into your future banking product? Would you like to make your customers go through a complicated approval process? Or, on the contrary, do you have a solution to facilitate it? If not yet, read on further!

Digital-only banks

That’s a perfect painkiller! Just imagine that instead of collecting and providing the necessary package of documents to the physical branch of the bank, the user just needs to spend a couple of minutes to cope with the virtual opening of an account. The majority of neobanks don’t demand any specific documentation at all, letting the newbie rapidly go with the online or in-app verification through photographed copies of the ID and immediate selfie function. In terms of basic data, the new user is usually asked to provide a full name, date of birth, phone number, email, and address (geolocation doesn’t create any hurdle here). In some cases, fingerprint or face recognition can be an optional part of the ID verification too, but this matters only for the usage of the advanced financial tools and the increase of user security standards.

So, as you can see, the procedure of opening a banking account in the UK digital bank is much simpler both as the customer journey and a financial solution. And what’s more, you’ll be able to attract a wider target audience as your users shouldn’t be obligatorily living or located in the UK. The rest is entirely up to the types of accounts (in other words, range of services) and business goals your digital bank will be aspiring to reach.

Bank Account Types in the UK

Depending on your needs, the major types of bank account that are typical of the UK include the following selection:

  • Basic account. It’s suitable for users with a poor credit history or experiencing difficulties in opening a current account. The basic account is usually limited to the most essential banking features connected with payments, and you don’t normally have an option of overdrafts, loans, or credit cards. However, after a while of using the basic account, the trust in the user’s solvency (restored/acquired) can allow them to apply for the current account.
  • Current account. That’s the most widely used type of UK bank account — debit cards with the additional credit offer — that works well for covering users’ daily needs, such as wage/scholarship receiving, online purchases, and bills payment. Though it’s more convenient for groups, the individual current accounts are also a frequent phenomenon, and the free or low-cost price for their opening is a significant advantage.
  • Savings account. It generally evokes interest from users unsatisfied with the basic savings and investment functions that the average bank presents and are striving for more. In this case, the higher interest rate is the perk that makes an appeal and drives users’ loyalty.
  • Business account. You’re to inform the bank about your business address, company’s registration number, approximate annual turnover, and contact details, and you’re ready to apply for the UK business bank account. Besides, the mention of foreign shareholders is another obligatory requirement for UK applicants. What will the business account bring for you? An appointed bank representative to address your questions, low monthly maintenance fees (£5-£10 on average), free trial account test, online/mobile accounting, overdrafts, and many other functions (depending on the bank chosen).

There’s also the list of the narrower bank accounts for the specific category of users:

  • Offshore account. If your first association is ‘something illegal’, it’s time to challenge the meaning of this concept. The offshore account is targeted at serving the needs of expats living or working overseas, and its core gist is convenient finance management in different currencies, which gains more power in case of attractive tax conditions.
  • Non-resident account. It’s based on the same principle of operation, but the reverse target audience — international users lured by the UK banking proposals. The ones for whom the address verification is the deal can benefit from this option.
  • Joint account. Here’s the best option for those who need to share payments, savings, and other financial procedures with other people: spouses, family members, co-tenants, etc.

In this light, as a business owner, you’d better build your small localised bank in the UK with a narrow scope of features as supporting all the account types for a fintech startup isn’t the smart approach indeed. Start with a little and grow gradually by adding some more!

Criteria to Choose and Start Your Own Bank in the UK

What is the best bank in the UK? To find an answer to this question, it’s necessary to determine the filters that will allow you to estimate the bank’s performance and find out the moments to learn to implement in your own banking product. So, what are they?

To distil the best banks in the UK from the rest, Dashdevs recommends paying attention to the following top-5 check-up parameters:

  1. Variety of services. This determines the actual product value of the bank and its business strategy. For instance, if the newly-fledgling bank offers too many functions from its birth, it should stir your suspicion whether they’re all delivered at the best quality and the processes go smoothly. Be critical and find the middle ground!
  2. Costs. The banks can differ in this point immensely: some offer free usage, others require monthly payments for a membership or may charge the user for certain services or the full set of perks to use. Compare the rivals on the market and make implications only after this analysis!
  3. Flexibility. That’s the degree of the bank’s adjustment to the current needs of users and the frequency of updates/changes made in its product and service offerings. Does it move with the times? How does it address the concerns of the target audience on a daily basis? Is it digital-friendly? Ponder upon these questions for a start.
  4. Scope of marketing influence. Is the bank purely localised and serving the needs of the UK customers solely? Or does it give access to its services to international users? Does the bank present multi-currency options for money transfers and other transactions? Here’s the list of things you probably need to mind in the first place while speaking about the character of services spreading.
  5. Extra perks. This is all about which steps or initiatives a bank takes for conquering users’ trust and promoting its brand. Which welcome bonuses does it offer for newcomers? How well does it work with customers’ retention? That’s definitely part of its competitive advantage, so don’t ignore it while learning about a certain bank at the very start.

You can also translate these criteria into the framework of business planning. What should your brand-new United Kingdom bank have at its disposal? Or how should it compete with the rest to win users’ attention? To lead you in the right direction, let’s move to Dashdevs’ prominent case to get inspired and have food for thought.

Banks in the UK: Learn from Dashdevs

If you google the best UK banks in 2021, you’ll primarily come across the following names:

  • HSBC — the largest European bank in terms of market capitalisation, which stems from its active representation in 64 countries;
  • Barclays — a perspective UK-based bank notable for a wide range of financial services and an attractive business account offer for start-ups;
  • Monzo — the fifth-ranked bank in a number of customers in Q1, 2021, which isn’t much surprising when considering its onboarding of young users, ease of use, and educational blog development;
  • Revolut — the popular UK neobank that now expands its boundaries to the US market and is remarkable for 28 currencies supported, unlimited accounts, and low-fee international bank transfers;
  • Starling Bank — one of the UK mobile-only banking leaders providing in-app 24/7 customer help, setting no monthly obligatory payments, and allowing quick sign-up with photo/video ID.

Meanwhile, the Dashdevs company has its own case to be proud of — the Dozens app. That’s the digital-only bank that was created in 9 months through the full-cycle software development process: from the product vision to the post-release maintenance. Overcoming the difficulties, we’ve finally succeeded in creating the Dozens challenger bank with the exclusive 5% interest rate, split the payment function, international payments support, investment feature, and many more.
So, if you need our expertise to build a new successful neobank in the UK, drop us a message! We’re ready for the new challenge with no hesitation!

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