Online-only banking is quickly becoming a crowded market. Irish customers can already choose between European giants Revolut and N26, with the latest Bunq player launching last week.
But with the exits of Ulster Bank and KBC set to leave many customers scrambling, there’s still a lot to play for, according to the masterminds behind money jar.
The Dublin-based startup is Ireland’s only challenger bank. Regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and offering Irish IBANs as standard, it hopes to woo customers with its simple, savings-focused current account.
Executive Chairman John Harkin told Buzz that Money Jar will be the “most diverse and functional neobank in the market” in a few weeks. “We saw an opportunity – that traditional banks weren’t offering a very, very good consumer product that we’re now integrating into everyday life.”
CTO Johan Reveillard created Money Jar in 2019 with co-founder Kevin Treacy (who has now returned to his first love of filmmaking). Harkin, a veteran of the Boyne Valley food group, came on board soon after to help the app attract customers.
For startup bosses, the pair are pleasantly hype-free and down-to-earth about Money Jar’s goals — all of which are to help their users spend more wisely.
“All of the company’s DNA” came from seeing friends who still haven’t recovered from the last financial crash, Harkin told Buzz. “People have lost women, families, everything… So we understand that responsible money management ultimately contributes to your mental well-being.”
“It came out of necessity,” added Reveillard. “How can I manage my money better?” How can I lead a more financially responsible life? We took that idea and worked on it in terms of what a neobank can do for financial well-being.
“That’s where it was born, not actively helping people with money, but facilitating tools so people can be better with money.”
Some of these tools will be familiar to users of other challenger banks. Money Jar’s mobile app displays transactions, enables money transfers at the touch of a finger, and sends notifications to keep you up to date on your spending.
The app comes with a Mastercard, supports Apple Pay, Google Pay and Direct Debit, and will soon offer in-app currency conversion.
As the name suggests, it’s built around “jars”: jars of money set aside or even locked away to help budget small and large expenses.
The team is also working on AI-based recommendations that will entice users to save extra money.
For many, one of its big advantages over its rivals will be the ability to deposit money into accounts. Money Jar is adding the feature in the coming weeks through a tie-in with PayZone.
No to cryptography
But in some ways, Money Jar is defined by what it won’t offer. The team has no plans to add overdrafts, loans or Buy Now Pay Later and is scathing about the “so-called investments” being pushed by some mobile banks.
“It’s literally online gaming, but with new tools. We don’t support that,” Reveillard said.
Harkin added, “If you look at some of the other platforms, they allow consumers to effectively lose a huge chunk of their savings by really betting on things that they don’t understand.
“We think all of crypto is going to blow up, and the platforms participating in it remind me a lot of trailing mortgages [scandal] years ago. It’s not sustainable. »
This responsible philosophy, however, means that they will have to make money in some other way and will have paid the fees.
While the first four months are currently free, account holders will then pay €2.99 per month plus transaction fees. These include €0.03 each time you use your card and €0.50 for withdrawing money. There is also no interest paid on money held in your account.
This could be a deciding factor for many. But Money Jar’s “excellent” customer service, with Ireland-based support agents, will make up for that, Harkin said.
Money Jar was invite-only until July 2021 and is now adding customers “rapidly”, with their user base doubling every month, Harkin claims. Unlike other neobanks, 80% see their salary paid into Money Jar.
For now, they are targeting a classic challenger bank customer profile: people who might be new to Ireland and find it difficult to open an account with traditional banks, from students to tech workers.
The company has already attracted the attention of established players. Money Jar is backed by a “leading public bank” (we can safely assume AIB), which also holds its customers’ deposits. Meanwhile, the company has partnered with Ulster Bank to help customers open accounts at its branches.
Amid the Irish banking sector’s rush to onboard an avalanche of new customers, Harkin is confident Money Jar can make an impact.
“If you read all the stories about banks trying to hire 300 or 400 people to recruit KBC customers [and Ulster], we don’t need to do that. Because the whole customer journey is integrated into what we do,” he said.
“Consumer needs are changing rapidly. If you can’t facilitate that, you’re in trouble.