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August 17, 2016updated 04 Apr 2017 12:44pm

B Bank: the future of banking?

Launched in April, B Bank already seems to have the potential to punch above its weight. Powered by Clydesdale/ Yorkshire Banks and backed by CYBG’s first-ever UK-wide marketing campaign, the new digital banking sub-brand has big plans and ambitions. Jessica Longley reports

By Jessica Longley


Regular updates to its app, service and product improvements, innovative use of biometrics and partnerships with some of the UK’s best known and loved brands are just part of the new B Bank blueprint.

At first glance, B Bank could be mistaken for a copycat of a typical fintech company trying to compete with big institutional banks by offering digital banking services to consumers. Indeed, B Bank offers conventional banking services such as current accounts and savings accounts via the digital medium of a tablet or compatible smartphone (the new iPhone SE included).

However, take a closer look and delve into the inspiration that brought B Bank to life, and one finds  several perks that make it stand out from the crowd. Opening a B account means customers are equipped with clever tools to help budget their money more effectively as well as having access to Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks’ branch network.

Helen Page, the Chief Marketing Officer at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank tells RBI:  

“As we were developing B Bank, inspiration was taken from brands that were dynamic, customer focused and active on social media. These brands included the likes of Uber, Google, Airbnb and Apple“.

She adds that the core message B Bank wants to bring to attention is that it “does not look like a bank, feel like a bank or sound like a bank.

“B Bank was built on what customers had told us they wanted as opposed to what [B Bank] thought [they] could build for them. B Bank aims to be more visionary and offer the best customer service through its intuitive app that shouldn’t require a lot of thinking”.

B Bank’s innovative app is available to all eligible UK residents, offers competitive interest rates, ensures that funds can be transferred within 20 seconds and is connected to a dedicated 24/7 call centre.

To help the consumer budget and save more efficiently, it tags the consumer’s spending into different categories to give a clear picture of how and where the consumer spends. The app also allows the consumer to open as many “saving pots” as they like, each with a different target amount.

To ensure the consumer does not lose track of its spending, the B app can send alerts when customers are running low on money and, if the “sweeps” feature is activated, money can be transferred from a savings account to a linked current account automatically.

To make sure the customer’s data is secure, B has two factor authentication with a pin code or a touch code on the device followed by a 6 digit pin code on the app (which will become touch ID in the future).

The app doesn’t stop there. With hundreds of prompts in the system, the B app will also show a different tip, insight or story with each log in.

The £2 fee conundrum

One of B Bank’s drawbacks is the £2 monthly fee it currently asks its customers to pay after a grace period of 12 months of free services. Page reveals that the fee is currently under review and a decision on whether to implement it or not will be made before the end of the 12 month period.

“We are genuinely reviewing the fee and we will take a decision shortly. What may be better for us is that as opposed to charging the £2 monthly fee, we would want to build more in-app purchases and in-app benefits for the customers, Page explains.

“So, right now we might decide that we won’t charge the £2 fee. I would like to load a lot more onto B before we start charging the £2 fee”, explains Page. 

She says that B Bank would hope to have an in-app menu offering products tailored specifically to each customer: according to age,  profession, whether they drive, and where they travel.

Customers would be able to pick and choose a service on a one-off basis for a short period of time.

“I don’t like the idea of locking a customer in for long period of times.

“The response to the fee has not been negative so far but there is a possibility that the fee is a blocker to opening an account. However, having taken feedback from our customers, we know that they are willing to pay between £2 and £5 for B’s services.”

Mobile parity in view to ensure customer engagement

Currently, the tablet is richer in functionality than the smartphone service. The m-banking offer currently lacks the following features that are only available on the tablet:

You can't set up and track budgets on the mobile.

You can't set up saving pots on the mobile.

You can't see a breakdown of your spend by tags on the mobile

Financial stories and panels are not popping up on the mobile

“This is the rich functionality of B that we put on the tablet first because the user interface is bigger and easier to use. It is the first time anyone has done that. Although we knew we had to blow up mobile parity, we didn’t want to wait before launching B.”

Mobile parity, to be able to do exactly the same thing on both the tablet and the phone, will hopefully be in place in September, Page comments, as mobile parity is the “top thing that customers told us they want from B”.

“To be able to bank completely remotely and to take additional products: that is the future of us”, Page assures us. “B itself is built on its own platform. Of course, it can be serviced through the branches that we do have or any future branches we open but it is not linked to any branch expansion strategy.”

Who is B Bank tailored for?

To answer this question simply: all of us. According to Page, B Bank is attracting broad market segments because managing money is something that everyone relates to.

“B Bank is perfect for everyone as it gives them the capabilities and functionalities that they need to efficiently and easily manage their money.”

She says that although millennials are not B bank’s only target audience, they are an important segment due to the lack of millennials present in their current customer base:

“The plan was deliberately designed to attract a younger and more affluent target audience without detracting from our existing customers who are also transitioning onto B.

“We have seen in the numbers that B Bank is succeeding in attracting a younger audience.”

Page reveals that B Bank is now looking “to go big with students” and is currently building a campaign targeting them more specifically that is expected to launch at the end of August or beginning of September.

“The last two years has showed that students demand, need and want excitement and change. At B Bank, we are looking at the digital relationship we can have with them, trying to engage them early and actually getting them to use the app so they can see the benefits of it.”

Page believes B Bank would be perfect for students as they are the ones that need the most help and guidance in managing their money, the majority of them being on tight budgets and money conscious. Furthermore, the “funky user interface” and easy functionality of the app attracts students by making payments and transactions both easy and quick.

“B Bank is exactly what students are happy to engage with. They enjoy managing their money in a way they hadn’t done before.”

Page disclosed that B Bank, having asked 10 000 customers including students what they wanted from a bank, found that “it is not financial offers that tend to be the main attraction for [students] but rather other perks.

“The focus group found tagging very useful as it helped them to see quickly where their money was going. Also, the predictive capabilities of B Bank are excellent, letting consumers know for example, they will have no money by Wednesday if they continue spending like this”

One thing that might make students reconsider opening an account with B Bank is the lack of large 0% overdrafts available, offered by many of the big banks.

B Bank already thinking about the future

B Bank plans to roll out new features every month in the form of free upgrades. Page explains that the B app is built in a way that allows it to drop in new features continuously and easily.

“There are improvements to the app happening behind the scenes all the time. As a user, you wouldn’t be able to see these but you would experience a better feel of the app.

“For the user, this actually just becomes something that you are used to seeing. There’s an update. You click on the update, it refreshes and you’ve got new features.”

New features and online products are to be expected this August with improvements in functionality and capability. Page explains that B Bank is getting customers’ feedback and responding to what they are telling B accordingly.

“We are, for example, making improvements to tagging. You will also be able to apply for joint accounts at point of purchase online in a couple of months’ time. You can only do it over the phone or in branch right now.

“Overdraft applications will also be made available on the app soon”.

Apple Pay and the synchronisation of the B app with the Apple Watch having been announced in mid-August, future developments expected include:

Mobile cheque deposits (by taking a picture of the cheque);

A “find a branch” service;

The chance to link the B app to other financial accounts from banks other than Yorkshire or Clydesdale banks;

Partnerships with other brands. B understands that its customers want to hold multiple bank accounts with other brands and are looking to potentially partner with some of these brands. “We are looking at other brands that [consumers] are really keen on using to see if we can link with those”;

The possibility to personalise the B Bank card –B pages can already be personalised, and

Biometrics including Touch ID to enter the app securely.

The response to B Bank

To promote B bank, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks have promoted it through social media, sending large volumes of emails to existing clients and have also launched a national UK wide TV campaign, the first of its kind for the bank.

With branch networks predominantly located in Scotland and the North of England, CYBG is aiming to grow its customer base in other parts of the UK via the B sub-brand.

 “We’ve had a huge response from [the TV campaign] in terms of visits to the website. We seem to have captured the imagination of customers through the brand.”

More advertising is expected in October, especially above the line advertising.

Page concludes: “Social media has played and continues to play a huge role for us. We will continue to push content via social media as it gives us a two way conversation with the customer.

“The response on social media has been tremendous. We have pushed quite a bit of content out and have had huge volumes of people come to the site to investigate B”.

“So far, we are really excited about the hugely positive reaction we've had from customers.”

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