Zopa, the U.K. peer-to-peer lending company that wants to become a bank, has been awarded a bank license by the U.K.’s financial regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). The company wants to expand beyond P2P loans and investments to offer things like savings accounts and credit cards.
Technically, however, this is only regulatory part one and Zopa’s bank licence comes “with restrictions,” meaning that it can’t launch fully just yet. Known as the “mobilisation” phase of the license process, Zopa should eventually be granted a full licence once it meets various conditions set by the regulators.
In a statement, Zopa CEO Jaidev Janardana says acquiring a banking licence is the starting point that will see the company become a “major force” in retail banking. “When we pioneered the peer-to-peer lending model globally in 2005, we did so by listening to customers and creating a better product for them. We will bring the same focus to our banking products – drawing on tech innovation, our values of fairness and transparency, and better customer service,” he adds.
Once launched, Zopa’s bank will sit alongside its existing business, creating what the fintech says will be the first hybrid peer-to-peer and digital bank offering. It will roll out a money management app, and various financial products.
When the bank-to-be announced the second part of a £60 million funding round last month, a spokesperson told me this will include FSCS-protected savings accounts and P2P investments (including Innovative Finance ISAs) for investors, and personal loans, car finance and credit cards for people looking to borrow.
Zopa also says it will steer clear of hidden fees and charges, and is placing a lot of emphasis on customer service, delivered via its app or over the phone.
However, whether or not any of the above will be enough to stand out from an increasingly crowded challenger bank space in the U.K., which includes Monzo, Starling, Tandem and many others, remains to be seen. With that said, a fintech nerd can never have enough new banking upstarts.