The neo normal: banking for freelancers and startups

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Neobanks that cater to freelancers, startups and micro-businesses are a key banking trend in 2021. Hassan Waqar, Founder and CEO of UK-based MoneeMint, examines the advantages they bring and the potential they hold.

The neobanking sector is known for innovation. But that innovation comes hand-in-hand with diversification. Neobanking is about offering different, as well as new services and experiences.

In 2021, this combination has really taken off in the SME, micro-business, startup, entrepreneur and freelancer market. Many of the advantages that neobanking offers suit this audience perfectly, addressing common pain points experienced with traditional banks and offering more personalised solutions.

Lili, a neobank built specifically to address the needs of freelancers, gig workers and sole traders, secured $55m in Series B funding in May this year. That followed a doubling of the bank’s US customer base in six months, and a 1,500 per cent surge in usage over 12 months.

Similarly, Coconut, a UK-based neobank targeting micro-businesses and sole traders, raised £2.4m through crowdfunding in 2020, beating its target by 350 per cent. And Revolut completed an $800m funding round in July this year, bringing its value to $33bn and making it the most valuable UK tech startup ever.

Why is neobanking thriving?

Neobanking is digital-first, and often digital-only. Its players are fintech-based, and offer apps, software and other technology solutions on mobile and online platforms that streamline banking.

They are also often called ‘challenger banks’ because their defining characteristic is to disrupt the processes and interactions involved in traditional banking. In the main, the products they offer are broadly similar to those of conventional banks. But the ways that customers access and use those products is markedly different, because neobanks leverage the benefits of technology – speed, ease, flexibility, hyper-personalisation – in ways that traditional banking cannot.

Most obviously, neobanks eliminate the need for branches and paperwork that traditional banks use. But the big players now have apps and digital platforms too, so the real difference is in the way they are used. There are two key factors here.

First, traditional banks still have the same processes and procedures behind the scenes. So, even if a customer is using a digital platform with a traditional bank, they still have to deal with the same process.

Second, traditional banks are frequently saddled with extensive legacy IT systems. These take time and money to change, or to converge with newer systems. The big banks simply lack the flexibility to move quickly. They are the proverbial ocean liner that takes an age to change course and, of course, technology is all about exploiting the dynamic pace of change.

These factors then manifest themselves in areas such as account opening and account servicing. At MoneeMint, for example, we can onboard a new customer in under a minute. There is no paperwork, no branch visit – everything is done through the app.

This kind of solution can also apply to onboarding a micro-business or freelance customer. Typically, a traditional bank would want to see your annual income statements, know about your shareholders, understand whether your customers are international or not – all steps that take time, require paperwork, and that can often disqualify you due to the rigidity of the processes involved, especially as these are often designed for ‘bigger’ business customers.

Neobanks can use technology to accelerate and alleviate all this. They apply the same diligence and are regulated by the same independent bodies and authorities, but they move faster and they understand the subtle differences between a startup, freelancer and gig worker. 

Lili Bank defines its customers as people who are “in between a consumer and a business”, and who have specific needs that reflect the changing nature of the economy and work itself.

And UK neobank Tide uses ID verification apps, address verification software and similar to make onboarding a micro-business simple and straightforward. They market their offer as enabling businesses to start banking in free, easy ways, and have already attracted more than 300,000 customers in the UK.

The value of targeting

This targeting of specific customer groups is helping to power the neobanking revolution. It adds another level of appeal to what neobanks offer, because they can tailor and market themselves to niche audiences in ways that big banks never could.

There are neobanks for children, international students, war veterans – all kinds of areas, including those demographics that are ‘underbanked’ by the traditional banks. At MoneeMint, our specialism is servicing the Islamic banking market, and to potentially also grow into the wider ethical banking market in time. For this market, we provide both regular banking needs and also rewards, wealth management and more.

Some challenger banks are appealing to all customers, too. For example, in the US, Chime had an estimated 12 million customers as of February 2021. Similarly, in the UK, banks such as Starling and Monzo are proving incredibly popular, especially among younger demographics. Starling has now opened more than 2 million accounts and won the Best British Bank Award four years in a row since 2018.

Demand for SME and freelance banking

Among these targeted groups, the micro-business market has real potential, and it is clear why it has become such a key trend.

In the US, it is estimated that 40 per cent of workers are now freelance, and that figure is projected to rise to 50 per cent by 2027. This growth has likely been accelerated by the pandemic, as people have sought more flexible roles.

Equally, in Europe, a staggering 99.8 per cent of EU companies are SMEs, according to the European Central Bank. Many of these will be the kind of startup, sole trader and entrepreneur that neobanks appeal to.

That appeal extends beyond the features listed above, related to easier account opening and servicing. Neobanks are now also starting to develop specific features and products designed to help small traders and freelances run their business.

Neobanks are also able to link their offering with the wider universe that business users move in. Revolut enables its users to connect and integrate their Revolut business account to other tools and apps, such as Xero for accounting, Slack for communication and Zapier for automation.

For example, the UK neobank Coconut provides specific accounting features, including VAT and invoicing, that aim to cater to self-employed and freelance workers. Lili provides an ‘assistant’ that analyses a customer’s incomings, expenses and budget in order to predict the tax that may be due in the future. It is also looking to expand into offering invoicing, payment management and credit for its customers.

Neobanks are also able to link their offering with the wider universe that business users move in. Revolut enables its users to connect and integrate their Revolut business account to other tools and apps, such as Xero for accounting, Slack for communication and Zapier for automation.

Where is neobanking going?

Looking ahead, four opportunities stand out. The first is smart, proactive targeting, driven by another edge that neobanks possess: the ability to use data, not just collect it. For example, at MoneeMint we use machine learning to analyse accounts. If a customer starts paying more for, say, insurance or utilities, we can then offer them the chance to shop around for better deals.

This is also a two-way street, as it enables us to design future products and services around what we know our customers are doing. Big banks are unable to target customers with anything like this degree of precision and personalisation.

Second, neobanks will continue to innovate products, including white labelling their technology solutions. An example of this is creating payment cards for companies, so they can pay their employees’ salaries onto cards rather than into bank accounts. In some markets and countries, such as India, this has real potential.

The third opportunity is neobanks going global. Wise (previously TransferWise) is leading the way in operating in multiple territories, and others are following suit. In many ways, it is easier for a neobank to open anywhere, because all its systems and technologies live on the cloud. The only requirements are regulatory approval and licensing.

In addition, neobanks can then easily tailor their offering to the needs and preferences of a local market, because it is about adapting technology, not changing processes.

Finally, a number of neobanks are looking to go public. Wise did so in July this year, with a direct listing on the London Stock Exchange that valued the company at $11bn. Starling Bank is targeting 2022–23 for an IPO. This trend could certainly grow across the sector

What does this mean for traditional banks?

Traditional banks are undoubtedly learning from challenger banks. But, ultimately, they will always be held back by existing processes, legacy systems and the cost and time involved in adapting.

As a result, we will likely see several mergers and acquisitions. Rather than trying to compete directly or catch up, traditional banks are more likely to acquire a neobank outright, indicating further disruption from a national, regional and even global perspective in the months and years to come.

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Last Updated December 2021

1. Introduction

This Privacy Policy (together with our terms and conditions and any other documents referred to in it) describes the type of information that we collect from you ("you/your") through the use of our services ("Services"), or the use of our website www.moneemint.com "Website"), how that information may be used or disclosed by us and the safeguards we use to protect it. Our Website and Services may contain links to third party websites that are not covered by this Privacy Policy. We therefore ask you to review the privacy statements of other websites and applications to understand their information practices. We have drafted this Privacy Policy to be as clear and concise as possible. Please read it carefully to understand our policies regarding your information and how we will treat it. By using or accessing our Website or the Services, you agree to the collection, use and disclosure of information in accordance with this Privacy Policy. This Privacy Policy may change from time to time and your continued use of the Website or the Services is deemed to be acceptance of such changes, so please check periodically for updates. Please check back regularly to keep informed of updates to this Privacy Policy. Please read this Privacy Policy carefully and ensure that you understand it. Your acceptance of our Privacy Policy is deemed to occur upon your first use of our Website. If you do not accept and agree with this Privacy Policy, you must stop using our Website immediately. You have the right to make a complaint at any time to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the UK supervisory authority for data protection issues (www.ico.org.uk). We would, however, appreciate the chance to deal with your concerns before you approach the ICO so please contact us in the first instance. It is important that the personal data we hold about you is accurate and current. Please keep us informed if your personal data changes during your relationship with us. If you have any comments on this Privacy Policy, please contact the MoneeMint team using the details below: DPO@Moneemint.com

2. Who We Are

2.1 Here are our details:

- Our Website address is www.moneemint.com

- Our company name is MoneeMint Limited

- Our trading name is MoneeMint

- Our registered address is 30 Churchill Place, London, E14 5EU, United Kingdom

- Our Data Protection Officer can be contacted by emailing DPO@MoneeMint.com

2.2 We respect your right to privacy and will only process personal information about you or provided by you in accordance with the Data Protection Legislation which for the purposes of this Privacy Policy shall mean: (i) the retained EU law version of the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679) (UK GDPR), (ii) the Data Protection Act 2018 and any other national implementing laws, regulations and secondary legislation, as amended or updated from time to time, in the UK and then (ii) any successor legislation to the UK GDPR or the Data Protection Act 2018 and other applicable privacy laws.

3. What we may collect

3.1 Personal data, or personal information, means any information about an individual from which that person can be identified. It does not include data where the identity has been removed (anonymous data).

3.2 We may collect, use, store and transfer different kinds of personal data about you which we have grouped together as follows:

    • Identity Data includes first name, last name, username or similar identifier. When you email, phone, live chat or otherwise, we may collect information such as your first name, last name, email address and phone number.
    • Contact Data includes billing address, invoicing address, email address and telephone numbers.
    • Financial Data includes bank account and payment card details.
    • Transaction Data includes details about payments and other details of our Services you have purchased from us.
    • Technical Data includes internet protocol (IP) address, your login data, browser type and version, time zone setting and location, browser plug-in types and versions, operating system and platform and other technology on the devices you use to access this Website.
    • Profile Data includes your username and password, reservations made by you, your interests, preferences, feedback and survey responses.
    • Usage Data includes information about how you use our Website and Services.
    • Marketing and Communications Data includes your preferences in receiving marketing from us and our third parties and your communication preferences.
    • Interaction Data includes any information that you might provide to any discussion forums on the Website.
    • Cookies Data like many websites, we use "cookies" to enhance your experience and gather information about visitors and visits to our websites. Please refer to the "Do we use 'cookies'?" section below for information about cookies and how we use them and what kind.
    • Third Parties and Information we receive from other sources. We may receive information about you if you use any of the other websites we operate or through the Services we provide. In this case we will have informed you when we collected that data that it may be shared internally and combined with data collected on our Website. We are also working closely with third parties (including, for example, business partners, suppliers, sub-contractors, advertising networks, analytics providers, and search information providers) and may receive information about you from them.
    • Analytics includes third-party analytics services (such as Google Analytics) to evaluate your use of the Website, compile reports on activity, collect demographic data, analyse performance metrics, and collect and evaluate other information relating to our Website and internet usage. These third parties use cookies and other technologies to help analyse and provide us the data. By accessing and using the Website, you consent to the processing of data about you by these analytics providers in the manner and for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy.

3.3 We also collect, use and share Aggregated Data such as statistical or demographic data for any purpose. Aggregated Data may be derived from your personal data but is not considered personal data in law as this data does not directly or indirectly reveal your identity. For example, we may aggregate your Usage Data to calculate the percentage of users accessing a specific website feature. However, if we combine or connect Aggregated Data with your personal data so that it can directly or indirectly identify you, we treat the combined data as personal data which will be used in accordance with this Privacy Policy.

3.4 We do not collect any Special Categories of Personal Data about you (this includes details about your race or ethnicity, religious or philosophical beliefs, sex life, sexual orientation, political opinions, trade union membership, information about your health and genetic and biometric data). Nor do we collect any information about criminal convictions and offences.

3.5 Under UK GDPR we will ensure that your personal data is processed lawfully, fairly, and transparently, without adversely affecting your rights.

We will only process your personal data if at least one of the following basis:

    •  You have given consent to the processing of your personal data for one or more specific purposes;
    • processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which you are a party or in order to take steps at the request of you prior to entering into a contract;
    • processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which we are subject;
    • processing is necessary to protect the vital interests of you or of another natural person;
    • processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller; and/or
    • processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by us or by a third party such as our financial payments, except where such interests are overridden by the fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject, in particular where the data subject is a child.

3.6 If you provide personal information to us about another data subject, you are responsible for ensuring that you have their consent to provide that data for the uses set out in this Privacy Policy and for bringing this Privacy Policy to their attention.

4. How we may collect and use your data

4.1 We (or third party data processors, agents and sub-contractors acting on our behalf) may collect, store and use your personal information by way of different methods to collect data from and about you including through:

Direct interactions. You may give us your information by filling in forms via our Website or by corresponding with us by post, phone, email or otherwise. This includes personal data you provide when you:

    • present Website content;
    • use any of our Services;
    • create an account on our Website;
    • subscribe to our Services or publications;
    • request marketing to be sent to you;
    • enter a competition, promotion or survey; or
    • give us some feedback.

4.2 In addition to the above, we may use the information in the following ways:

    • To personalise your Website experience and to allow us to deliver the type of content and product offerings in which you are most interested.
    • To administer a contest, promotion, survey or other site feature.
    • If you have consented to receive our e-mail newsletter, we may send you periodic e-mails. If you would no longer like to receive promotional e-mail from us, please refer to the "How can you opt-out, remove or modify information you have provided to us?" section below. If you have not opted-in to receive e-mail newsletters, you will not receive these e-mails. Visitors who register or participate in other site features such as marketing programs and 'members-only' content will be given a choice whether they would like to be on our e-mail list and receive e-mail communications from us.
    • Present Website content effectively to you
    • Provide information, and services that you request, or (with your consent) which we think may interest you.
    • Carry out our contracts with you.
    • Provide the relevant Services to you
    • Tell you our charges.

4.3 If you are already our customer, we will only contact you electronically about things similar to what was previously sold to you.

4.4 If you are a new customer, you will only be contacted if you agree to it.

4.5 We may keep a record of those links which are used the most to enable us to provide the most helpful information but we agree to keep such information confidential and you will not be identified from this information.

4.6 In addition, if you don't want us to use your personal data for any of the other reasons set out in this section in 4, you can let us know at any time by contacting us at dpo@moneemint.com, and we will delete your data from our systems. However, you acknowledge this will limit our ability to provide the best possible services to you.

4.7 In some cases, the collection of personal data may be a statutory or contractual requirement, and we will be limited in the services we can provide you if you don't provide your personal data in these cases.

4.8 We will only use your personal data when the law allows us to. Most commonly, we will use your personal data in the following circumstances:

    • Where we need to perform the contract we are about to enter into or have entered into with you.
    • Where it is necessary for our legitimate interests (or those of a third party) and your interests and fundamental rights do not override those interests.
    • Where we need to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation, for example compliance with health and safety, tax or other statutory obligations.
    • Generally we do not rely on consent as a legal basis for processing your personal data other than in relation to our marketing communications or sending third party direct marketing communications to you via email or text message. You have the right to withdraw consent to marketing at any time by contacting us at dpo@moneemint.com, and we will either delete your data from our systems or move your data to our "unsubscribe list". However, you acknowledge this will limit our ability to provide the best possible services to you.

4.10 As already indicated above, with your permission and/or where permitted by law, we may also use your data for marketing purposes which may lead to us contacting you by email and/or telephone with information, news and offers on our Services. We agree that we will not do anything that we have not agreed to under this Privacy Policy, and we will not send you any unsolicited marketing or spam. We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that we fully protect your rights and comply with our obligations under the UK GDPR and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, as amended.

5. Cookies

5.1 All Cookies used by and on our website are used in accordance with current UK Cookie Law.

5.2 We use cookies to distinguish users and improve our Website. Please look at our Cookie Policy https://moneemint.com/cookies-policy/ for more cookie information

6. Where we store your data and security

6.1 We may transfer your collected data to storage outside the UK. It may be processed outside the UK to fulfil your order and to receive our Services and deal with payment. If we do store or transfer data outside the UK, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that your data is treated as safely and securely as it would be within the UK and under the UK GDPR. Such steps may include, but not be limited to, the use of legally binding contractual terms between us and any third parties we engage with and the use of approved Model Contractual Arrangements. Your acceptance of this Privacy Policy shall be your consent permitting us to store or transfer data outside the UK if it is necessary for us to do so.

6.2 Data security is of great importance to us, and to protect your data we have put in place suitable physical, electronic and managerial procedures to safeguard and secure data collected through our Website. In addition, we limit access to your personal data to those employees, agents, contractors and other third parties who have a business need to know. They will only process your personal data on our instructions and they are subject to a duty of confidentiality.

6.3 We have put in place procedures to deal with any suspected personal data breach and will notify you and any applicable regulator of a breach where we are legally required to do so.

6.4 By giving us your personal data, you agree to this arrangement. We will do what we reasonably can to keep your data secure.

6.5 Any payments made by you, will be encrypted.

6.6 We have implemented security measures such as a firewall to protect any data and maintain a high level of security.

6.7 Notwithstanding the security measures that we take, it is important to remember that the transmission of data via the internet may not be completely secure and that you are advised to take suitable precautions when transmitting to us data via the internet and you take the risk that any sending of that data turns out to be not secure despite our efforts.

6.8 If we give you a password upon registration on our Website, you must keep it confidential. Please don't share it.

6.9 We will keep personal data for as long as is necessary which is usually the life of our relationship and up to a period of seven years after our relationship have ended. We may however be required to retain personal data for a longer period of time to ensure we comply with our legislative and regulatory requirements. We review our data retention obligations to ensure we are not retaining data for longer than we are legally obliged to.

7. Disclosing your information

We are allowed to disclose your information in the following cases:

7.1 We are allowed to disclose your information in the following cases:

7.1.1 If we want to sell our business, or our company, we can disclose it to the potential buyer.

7.1.2 We can disclose it to other businesses in our group.

7.1.3 We can disclose it if we have a legal obligation to do so, or in order to protect other people's property, safety or rights.

7.1.4 We can exchange information with others to protect against fraud or credit risks.

7.2 We may contract with third parties to supply services to you on our behalf. These may include payment processing, search engine facilities, advertising and marketing. In some cases, the third parties may require access to some or all of your data. You may obtain a list of third parties we may have access to your data by emailing DPO@moneemint.com.

7.3 Where any of your data is required for such a purpose, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that your data will be handled safely, securely, and in accordance with your rights, our obligations, and the obligations of the third party under UK GDPR and the law. Any third party that we share data with will not be permitted to use it for any other purpose than fulfilling their contract with us.

8. Your Rights

8.1 When you submit information via our Website, you may be given options to restrict our use of your data. We aim to give you strong controls on our use of your data (including the ability to opt-out of receiving emails from us which you may do by unsubscribing using the links provided above in this Privacy Policy.

8.2 Under the UK GDPR, you have the right to:

    • request access to, deletion of or correction of, your personal data held by us at no cost to you;
    • request that your personal data be transferred to another person (data portability);
    • be informed of what data processing is taking place;
    • restrict processing;
    • to object to processing of your personal data; and
    • complain to a supervisory authority.

8.3 You also have rights with respect to automated decision-making and profiling as set out in section 11 below.

8.4 You have the right to ask us not to process your personal data for marketing purposes. We will usually inform you (before collecting your data) if we intend to use your data for such purposes or if we intend to disclose your information to any third party for such purposes.

8.5 To enforce any of the foregoing rights or if you have any other questions about our Website or this Privacy Policy, please contact us at dpo@moneemint.com.

9. Links to other sites

9.1 Please note that our terms and conditions and our policies will not apply to other websites that you get to via a link from our Website. We have no control over how your data is collected, stored or used by other websites and we advise you to check the privacy policies of any such websites before providing any data to them.

10. Changes

10.1 If we change our Privacy Policy, we will post the changes on this page so please check this page for our current policy.

11. Automated Decision-Making and Profiling

11.1 In the event that we use personal data for the purposes of automated decision-making and those decisions have a legal (or similarly significant effect) on you, you have the right to challenge to such decisions under UK GDPR, requesting human intervention, expressing their own point of view, and obtaining an explanation of the decision from us.

11.2 The right described in section 11.1 does not apply in the following circumstances:

    • the decision is necessary for the entry into, or performance of, a contract between the you and us;
    • the decision is authorised by law; or
    • you have given you explicit consent.

11.3 Where we use your personal data for profiling purposes, the following shall apply:

    • Clear information explaining the profiling will be provided, including its significance and the likely consequences;
    •  Appropriate mathematical or statistical procedures will be used;
    • Technical and organisational measures necessary to minimise the risk of errors and to enable such errors to be easily corrected shall be implemented; and
    • All personal data processed for profiling purposes shall be secured in order to prevent discriminatory effects arising out of profiling.

12. Terms and Conditions

12.1 Please also visit our Terms and Conditions section https://moneemint.com/terms-and-conditions/ establishing the use, disclaimers, and limitations of liability governing the use of our Website.

13. Your agreement

13.1 By using our Website and by way of acknowledgment, you agree to our Privacy Policy.

14. Dispute Resolution

14.1 We will use our best efforts to negotiate in good faith and settle any dispute that may arise out of or relate to this Privacy Policy or any breach of it.

14.2 Any dispute shall not affect our ongoing obligations under this Privacy Policy.

14.3 This Privacy Policy and any dispute or claim relating to or connected with it (including non-contractual disputes or claims) shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and the courts of England and Wales are the only place where disputes or claims relating to or connected with this Privacy Policy (including non-contractual disputes or claims) may be decided.

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