RBS takes on Monzo with standalone digital bank Bó – The Guardian

RBS has launched its own standalone, Monzo-style digital bank, and as is now customary, it comes with a quirky name: Bó.

Royal Bank of Scotland reportedly approached Monzo with a potential takeover back in 2017 but was put off by the price tag (Monzo was recently valued at about £2bn). So the lender has decided to build its own version.

Bó offers a debit card, instant spending notifications and fee-free spending abroad at Visa exchange rates. The app aims to help customers budget, set financial goals and track their everyday spending – features which digital challengers including Starling and Revolut have been developing for years.

But while it encourages users to save their dosh, Bó does not offer interest. There’s another peculiar omission – while RBS calls Bó a current account, it does not meet many of the standard definitions – it is not signed up to the Bacs payments system, and therefore does not support direct debits, or the payment of salaries straight into a Bó account. In many ways, it feels like the first iteration of Monzo, which started as a pre-paid card before it took the plunge and secured a UK banking licence in 2017.

So is it a viable competitor to the digital startups?

RBS could not confirm when Bó will join the Bacs system and support direct debits, and said most customers value the app-based digital startups for their budgeting capabilities and ease of use abroad.

“There are a series of paths we could go down,” said the app’s chief executive Mark Bailie.

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“The fact is, unless you get to what the fundamental need is in society – and we’re really clear what the problem is, which is people have no control of their spending. So let’s get control of their spending and work out what comes next after that.” However, for anyone wary of venturing into the realm of digital banking, a banking app which is backed by one of the big four lenders might have some appeal.



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