A number of "neo-banks" or "challenger banks" have sprung up in the UK, some of them focusing on the retail and business sectors. We talk to a bank that is concentrating on mass-affluent clients.
There’s a major gap in the UK’s banking market: the mass-affluent segment.
As firms have either focused on digitally-driven retail models or chased ultra-wealthy clients, the opportunities for those somewhere in the middle have been mostly overlooked, so a new entrant into the industry argues.
“That [mass-affluent] segment has been watered down,” Ian Rand, chief executive of Monument, told this news service in a recent interview. “Our view is that we can do better than this.”
There are, Rand said, about five million UK people who have trillions in wealth but aren’t quite at the level to be onboarded into private banks.
Monument aims to change the game and a lot of that involves technology. A “neo-bank,” the firm specialises in catering for those wanting to finance buy-to-let residential/commercial investments and who own between £500,000 ($648,385) and £50 million-worth of property each. In terms of gross mortgage lending, £30 billion will need to be refinanced in the next year according to UK Finance (1), Rand said.
Monument intends to provide solutions for borrowers who have idiosyncratic collateral – such as an office sitting under a residential block – or the kind that won’t necessarily be liked by more rule-driven lenders at the established large banks. In an environment of rising UK interest rates, such considerations have urgency.
Getting its Financial Conduct Authority clearance in November 2021, Monument has launched a range of services since then. In January this year, Dubai Investments PJSC, the investment company listed on the Dubai Financial Market, bought a 9 per cent equity stake in Monument Bank. The firm said that an important element of its property investment lending and range of savings products is its advanced “in-app capabilities.” Tech is a big part of the equation.
Rand comes to the conversation with plenty of experience, as do his senior colleagues. He has worked in finance for over 20 years, most recently leading business banking at Barclays. The founder and head of global institutional relationships, Mintoo Bhandari, worked for almost 12 years at Apollo Global Management as a senior partner and managing director, working in New York, London and then setting the firm up in India. Bhandari has also worked at large university endowments (Harvard University, for example,) as an investor and served on the boards of more than 20 companies across three continents. Wasim Khouri, who is chief commercial officer, spent most of his career at McKinsey before joining Monument.
Most recently, Craig Blackburn was appointed chief of staff in April this year. A former Royal Navy officer, he has worked at Estel Property Group Limited as COO. Yesterday, Monument said regulators had approved Fiona Pollard as successor to Niall Booker as chair of the firm. Pollard has been an independent non-executive director of the bank since September 2019 and chairs its remuneration and nomination committee.