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Be brave, think differently

5 min read

What we, and all businesses, can learn from Tesla.

Dave is our Chief Financial Officer.

The more time I spend with Dave the clearer I am that he’s not given to flights of financial fancy (he leaves much of that to me and to Lisa, our Chief Marketing Officer). Not short of scepticism, Dave knows the true value of a pound (and no, that’s not the value ’normal’ people understand it to be).  

Dave is buying a Tesla. Now what’s a Tesla I hear you ask?  

A Tesla is a car. A Tesla is an electric car.

As far back as 2003 a small group of engineers decided to build an electric car, with the idea that eventually they would make electric cars for the masses. Their car uses Lithium Ion battery power, the sort you normally find in your smartphone or computer. At the time, this type of battery, while packing a very powerful punch was deemed too expensive and unstable for use in cars. A couple of years back when Boeing introduced the Dreamliner, they had trouble using their Lithium Ion batteries (since sorted) and, despite one or two incidents involving cars catching fire after hitting road debris (since sorted), Tesla too have made the technology work.  

California has some of the toughest engine emissions standards on the planet, so it’s a logical place to think ’sustainable’ if you’re in the business of making cars. But being environmentally sustainable is like eating low fat food – you know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s just not the same now is it? But for Tesla, building electric is just the right thing to do. This chimes with me because here at Atom, we’re trying to do something similar. We’re trying to change banking for good. For the better.  For our customers.  

We’re interested in understanding how Tesla are persuading customers who have grown up with the internal combustion engine to switch to electric. We think there are things we can learn (and we’re not precious about learning from folk who do things really well). Here’s a few examples of ‘Tesla-thinking’:

  • For those who worry that buying a Tesla might constitute a bad investment, they offer a guaranteed buy-back 
  • For those who worry that the range will be too limited, their cars can travel 310 miles between charges (subject to driving style.) Ask yourself, how may journeys do you make each day of more than 310 miles?)
  • For those who worry that charging might take forever, they offer ‘super-charging’ points around the UK and Europe (40 minutes for a range of 170 miles and 60 minutes for a full charge). Oh, and did I mention that this is free? Free for the life of the car!
  • For those who worry that their car will look and feel ugly; well design is a personal thing but to my eye, Teslas are gorgeous

But it’s not enough to remove objections so Tesla don’t stop there.  Way back in the early noughties, electric cars were full of compromises. In short, they weren’t very good. The people at Tesla don’t believe that electric cars need to be a compromise. They don’t look for something ‘slightly better’. They aren’t interesting in building a faster milk float. Think 5-star luxury with F1 performance and enough tech-wizardry to satisfy the geekiest geek and you’ll get the picture.  

Which set me thinking, how will we persuade people who grew up with big and familiar banking brands and lots of branches to choose Atom, a digital bank? After all, it’s your money so you’ll want to know that it’s being looked after and anyway, why should you compromise? Here are a few examples of ‘Atom-thinking’:

  • For those who worry whether their money will be safe, Atom depositors will have exactly the same protection through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) as they would with any other bank. That covers up to £85,000 of your savings and for the record, whatever they might claim, no bank in the UK offers its customers any more protection
  • For those who worry that they won’t be able to get their money when they want it Atom customers will have debit and credit cards just like any other bank. They will have access to thousands of ATMs here in the UK and around the world. We’re even going to the trouble of making it possible for them to use the branch counter services of a well known bank – who knows, they might be feeling nostalgic!
  • For those who worry that they won’t be able to access their bank accounts if they run out of charge (or heaven forbid lose or even break their precious smartphone or tablet), we will offer customers an ‘all day every day’ telephone customer service team, on hand to help sort out problems and fix things that need fixing
  • For those who worry that their bank will look and feel ugly? Atom really does believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So it stands to reason that if no two eyes are the same, no two banking experiences need be either

Dave is buying a Tesla quite simply because he thinks it’s time. It’s not about compromise, it’s just better all round.

Mark Mullen – CEO Atom

P.S. There’s more to Dave than money, he has a real carbon-conscience so he’s genuinely trying to find ways of doing his bit to help preserve the planet. But he does like fast cars.

(Image Credit: Windell Oskay)