Starling Bank reveals its hand with the launch of Marketplace
Here at Mapa, we shout from the rooftops about the UK challenger banks, regularly telling you all about what Monzo and Revolut are up to. This is fair enough – they update their apps frequently with new and exciting features that incumbents are yet to offer, but it’s certainly the case that neither has introduced anything ground breaking for quite some time. Yesterday, Starling Bank announced the launch of Starling Marketplace, which has the potential to set it apart from both incumbents and other challengers.
Starling Bank took its time to enter the market and when its mobile app first launched to the public in May this year, it didn’t seem to offer anything particularly helpful or interesting for customers. The signs, however, were there. A section titled ‘Apps & Services’ could be found within the ‘More’ menu – though there was very little that customers could do with it.
As the months have gone by, Starling Bank has made incremental updates to add value to its app, introducing spend categorisation, Apple Pay integration, a referral marketing scheme and improved card security, bringing it much closer to Monzo and Revolut. In June, it made its most interesting move thus far when microsavings provider Moneybox announced that Starling Bank customers could transfer transaction roundups over to Moneybox.
The noteworthy thing wasn’t that Starling Bank had done this, but how they’d done it – via an API rather than screen scraping (as Moneybox does with all of the other banks it can connect with). For all the talk of PSD2 and Open Banking and how this would see customers be able to share their banking data with third parties via APIs, this was one of the first obvious real-world examples of this.
Starling Marketplace is built around the same idea, but this time controlled via Starling Bank’s mobile app. Once it is more established, the idea is that customers will be able to view a list of third parties that can add something new to their experience with Starling Bank, including bill management, credit scores and insurance, in a similar vein to German challenger bank Fidor’s ‘Finance Bay’ feature.
At launch, Starling Bank has only partnered with one third party, Flux, which is designed to provide customers with digital receipts, loyalty programmes and rewards. In terms of what value this adds for customers, they will now be able to access much more detailed information about transactions carried out at retailers who partner with Flux in the form of an itemised receipt including VAT. Currently, the only partnered retailers are sandwich shop chain Eat and London-based food retailer Bel-Air, but the list will undoubtedly grow in the future.
The concept of marketplace banking is currently one of the most-hyped ideas within financial services and Starling Bank has stolen a march on its UK rivals by being the first to offer it to retail banking customers. At last, Starling Bank has stepped out of the shadows of Monzo and Revolut and shown what value it can offer its customers through its mobile app. It’s taken four months for it to do this, which has felt like quite a slow process at times, but after all, what’s four months in the life cycle of a bank?!