What’s next?

18 April 2016


Mark Mullen
Mark Mullen

What’s next

Mark sums up what we’ve achieved so far and what to look forward to in 2016

Having just started to very slowly and very carefully implement Atom, almost inevitably, attention turns to ‘what next?’. I suppose it’s just how we’re wired. It’s in the nature of building a new business, a new bank. There’s always more left to do and there’s never enough time to get it done.

Way back when we started this journey, we agreed that Atom would always put quality first. It takes a long time to build and test banking systems. It takes time to find good people. It takes time to develop sensible plans. And it’s expensive, albeit building Atom has cost a fraction of what a traditional bank might spend in a year on lawyers to keep them out of trouble. But in the end, we really do believe that quality counts.

That’s why the first version of the Atom App is only available to customers who have already pre-registered and, even then, you’ll need an activation code to open an account. I know, this seems ultra-cautious, but I also know that this isn’t a demo, it isn’t a beta, it’s not a sandbox. It’s real data and it’s real money so we’re treading cautiously.

It’s taken us two years to get to this point. Two years building a team. Six months developing a business plan and a credible banking licence application. Another six months working with our regulators before our restricted licence was granted. A year working with our technology partners and with our suppliers. Nine months mobilising the bank to the point where the regulatory restrictions on our licence have just been lifted. Six months testing, testing, testing and more – bloody - testing. Two years might seem a lot of time but it’s the blink of an eye considering that most of the big banks have had a 150 year head start.

But just like the biggest and the oldest of those traditional banks, our customers’ money is now protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. We have been granted access to the Bank of England Reserve Account. Our technologies run on secure servers in resilient and geographically separate data centres. We have fully tested our Emergency Operating Procedures to make sure that we can continue to provide services if our business is disrupted. We have even tested the production of our Single Customer View (SCV) files to cover the possibility that our customers’ information might need to be transferred to another bank in the event that we ever got into financial difficulty. In short, we have built a complete bank, and not simply a banking app!

In the coming weeks (and I do mean weeks) we will roll out new versions of our banking app. We have started with term deposits and lending to small businesses. The next version of the app scheduled for the end of the month will allow us to ramp up access for iOS customers and then in May we’ll introduce an Android version before adding fingerprint bio at the end of May. By then, we’ll be available to all comers.

The pace continues because in the Summer we’ll introduce our residential mortgages. These will be distributed through intermediaries and will be available all over the UK. Around the same time,we’ll start a public Beta of our Current Accounts and, all going well, that will be ‘alive’ by the third quarter of this year. We’ll round off 2016 with our Credit Card and then in the first quarter of 2017, we’ll add personal loans and ISAs (just in time for the new tax year). Along the way we have a million and one tweaks and enhancements to our app, including integrated video calling and a bunch of other stuff, but I’m not in a hurry to tell the competition too much about these just yet. They say that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery – I think it just plain smells.

Thank you for your ongoing patience and support. Mark

P.S. I love playing the guitar. I read today that the solo on Steely Dan’s ‘Reeling in the Years’ was recorded without rehearsal and in one take! OMG. Here at Atom it’s testing, testing, testing.