2017 promises exciting developments in digital banking. Many of these will come from new entrants – bringing fresh ideas delivered from powerful core digital platforms. Each will offer customers new ways of banking.
Want to design your own account? Or a lower cost of borrowing? Want a beautiful user interface? You'll get all this and more in 2017.
We've picked some of the standout players who we think will push digital banking forward. For customers, it's going to be a great year...
N26: customers flock to great service
In the next in our series on digital banks to watch in 2017, Dirk Emminger singles out N26 in Germany as top of the class, saying it's all about getting the customer experience right.
I think it's fair to say that while Germany is the leading European economy, it does not lead in digital banking. The top countries are the UK, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, with the Scandinavian pair the most advanced in terms of customers.
A recent report by AT Kearney showed that German banks were on the whole undecided about whether to hold on to traditional forms of banking or embrace the new. The same research suggests that neither the banks, nor the market dynamics, nor customers, nor the regulatory environment is ready. This makes what a bank such as N26, formerly Number 26, is doing all the more impressive.
It provides a really cool user experience. Customers are at the heart of the service, so it's no surprise that the tech savvy are flocking to it. The bank has more than 300,000 customers, adds 1000 users a day and is backed by people who know what they're doing – such as Peter Thiel, Horizon Ventures and the guys from Zalando, the online retailer.
Under co-founder and chief executive Valentin Stalf, it has taken on board every criticism of traditional banks – from the need to have a mobile-first strategy and a razor-sharp focus on its mobile app to speedy account set-up (just six minutes). The site looks impressive, too.
But not all the digital banks doing well are new. One of the online pioneers that hasn't lost its way is ING Diba Germany. It was the first online bank in Germany and has only ever had one flagship store. With a customer base 8m strong, it has a solid business. One of the things that strikes me is that despite its age it still has a good user experience and product design. It hasn't become bogged down in tradition and can still move with the times, which is critical today.
Dirk Emminger is a digital banking and fintech specialist working in Germany.