It’s always great to start off with a new title and so getting my first article in The Fintech Times is an exciting development.

What nobody could know from reading the article is how much effort it took to put it together. It had long been my belief that the challenger banks (Starling, Monzo and Revolut et al) were just secondary institutions. People with a challenger account may use it for the cheaper deals on travel currency, but for salaries and paying everyday bills, it’s a high street bank account that still does the heavy lifting.

It’s common sense really. But you try finding the figures to back it up. I got a very well-known title interested in me pursuing the figures to back this up but when COVID happened, all seemed lost. Any journalist will tell you, as soon as lockdown happened, papers only wanted to write about PPE, social distancing and R rates.

Journalism is built on data.

So, it was great to stumble upon a contact from years ago who was now working with Curve who could get his hands on the valuable data. Curve’s a platform that you can store several cards on. Whereas only 10% of the average population has a challenger bank account, around 60% of Curve customers have an account with a new bank. So it’s full of early adopters who have a choice in cards.

The big finding was customers use a traditional bank for four in every five transactions and when they do use a challenger, the purchase is normally 50% smaller than when they use their high street card.

A bit of digging and it turns out that Moneyhub is seeing people developing new behaviour. As expected, people get paid to a main traditional account but then, interestingly, they will load up a challenger card with enough money for a few drinks and a meal out. It’s a way of setting some money aside for a night out on a card that, if they have one to many and drop it, won’t have too much of a balance for a thief to get their grubby hands on.

Fortunately, Curve’s data showed that spending on challengers went down by 90% the moment we went into lockdown, and pubs and restaurants shut, while traditional cards saw a 60% drop.

With that, hey presto, we had a really gripping story. It was a shame none of the challengers took the repeated opportunities to comment on the article, even if just to refute the figures I was willingly sharing with them.

Like all articles that really tickled my fancy, and hopefully the reader’s too, it lead to another story idea. What happened to the challengers under lock down? That one’s being researched right now. So watch this space.

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