What are neobanks?

  • Neobanks, also known as digital or online-only banks, operate entirely online without physical branches.
  • Neobanks represent a significant shift in the banking landscape, offering a fresh, customer-centric approach to managing finances.
  • Neobanks function either independently with their own licenses or in partnership with traditional banks, using their licenses to avoid regulatory burdens.

Neobanks offer a more convenient, adaptable, and cost-effective experience compared to traditional banks. Customers can now meet all their financial needs simply by using their smartphones or computers. However, due to concerns about cybersecurity and the sensitivity of financial information, it remains challenging for digital banking environments to fully earn the trust of customers.

–Jinny Xu,BTW reporter

In recent years, the financial industry has witnessed a dramatic shift with the rise of neobanks. These digital-first banks are challenging traditional banking norms, offering streamlined services, lower fees, and enhanced customer experiences. But what exactly are neobanks, and why are they gaining such popularity?

What are neobanks?

Neobanks, also known as digital or online-only banks, operate entirely online without physical branches. Unlike traditional banks, neobanks leverage modern technology to provide banking services through mobile apps and websites. They offer a range of financial services, including checking and savings accounts, payment processing, loans, and investments, all accessible through a smartphone or computer.

Also read: Neobank Bunq eyes UK market reentry, seeks banking licence

Key features of neobanks

User-friendly interfaces: Neobanks prioritise user experience, offering intuitive, easy-to-navigate mobile and web interfaces. Their apps often include features like instant notifications, budgeting tools, and financial insights.

Also read: Nubank enters Neobank market and launces eSIM services

Low fees: By eliminating the costs associated with maintaining physical branches, neobanks can offer lower fees and higher interest rates on savings accounts. Many neobanks do not charge monthly maintenance fees or require minimum balances.

Fast account setup: Opening an account with a neobank is typically quick and straightforward, often taking just a few minutes. The process is entirely digital, requiring only a smartphone and a form of identification.

Innovative: Neobanks are known for their innovative approach to banking. Features like real-time spending notifications, automatic savings, and virtual cards for secure online shopping are common.

Customer support: Despite the lack of physical branches, neobanks often provide excellent customer support through in-app messaging, email, and phone.

How Do Neobanks Operate?

Neobanks typically operate under one of two models:

Independent neobanks: These neobanks have their own banking licenses and operate independently. They are regulated by financial authorities and offer a wide range of banking services. Examples include Chime in the U.S. and Monzo in the UK.

Partnered neobanks: These neobanks partner with traditional banks to offer their services. They do not have their own banking licenses but leverage the licenses of their partner banks. This model allows them to offer banking services without the regulatory burden of maintaining a banking license. Examples include Simple, which partnered with BBVA, and Moven, which partnered with several banks.

Advantages of neobanks

With everything accessible via a mobile app, customers can manage their finances anytime, anywhere. Lower fees and higher interest rates make neobanks an attractive option for budget-conscious consumers. Neobanks often provide clear, upfront information about fees and charges, reducing hidden costs. Many neobanks use data analytics to offer personalised financial advice and insights, helping customers manage their money better.


Jinny Xu

Jinny Xu is an intern reporter at Blue Tech Wave specialising in Fintech and AI. She graduated from Chongqing Institute of Foreign Studies.Send tips to j.xu@btw.media.

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