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Atom is the first of the new UK challenger banks out the gate — sort of

By Steve O’Hear for

Atom Bank, which is backed by Spanish banking giant BBVA, has become the first of the four so-called UK ‘challenger’ banks out the gate — sort of.

Having secured a much-coveted banking license late last year, the mobile-first bank has made its iOS app available to users who pre-registered their interest. However, this is still a very limited launch, restricted to a single product: a fixed term savings account offering an albeit fairly competitive interest rate. In other words, let’s not carried away just yet.

Atom says that by “the end of 2016” it will add current accounts, overdrafts, debit and credit cards, instant access savings and residential mortgages to the list of financial products, all serviced via the app. An Android version is planned too.

The challenger bank is also keen to talk up the technology powering its app, which is said to be based on the Unity gaming platform in order “to deliver a completely new banking experience”.

Face and voice biometrics are used to log-in to the app, doing away with a combination of pincodes and passwords — a reflection of Atom’s target audience of millennials. Business Insider UK has a good run down of the app’s UI, which would undoubtedly make Nathan Barley proud.

In addition, Atom says it will also be using machine learning technology to guide its customer support team. “The software learns which agents are getting the best results resolving customer queries and feeds that learning through to the rest of the team, making sure queries are handled consistently in the best way,” says the challenger bank, adding that the same technology will be used to power a self-service customer service chatbot of sorts.

On the app’s launch, Atom’s CEO, Mark Mullen, said in a statement: “This is the start of a remarkable transformation of the banking landscape for everyone. Atom aims to offer a genuine alternative to the insidious and self-interested banks that dominate the UK banking landscape. Our approach will be to constantly evolve and extend our offering, with monthly updates to our app and a dedication to providing a better value, greater transparency and a much more innovative banking experience.”

The other three new UK challenger banks are Mondo, Starling, and Tandem, with each trying to pull in customers in various ways before a full launch. Mondo is probably best-known amongst the UK tech community, having held regular hackathons and launched a nifty iOS app powered by its pre-paid MasterCard. Tandem, on the other hand, is promising to give away 5 per cent equity to early supporters.

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