Meet Bella, a new challenger bank launching on November 30th. The company is trying to differentiate itself with two distinctive features. First, you can interact with the app using keywords and text commands. Second, Bella is trying to build a community that helps each other to differentiate its product from soulless monolithic banking services.
Let’s start with the basics. When you open a Bella account, you receive a rainbow debit card that works on the Visa network. You get a checking account as well as the ability to create savings accounts. Behind the scenes, Bella works with nbkc bank for the banking infrastructure. Accounts are FDIC insured up to $5 million.
Your card works with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. There are no foreign transaction fees and Bella reimburses all ATM fees. There are no account minimums and service fees either.
But the app doesn’t look like your average banking app. There’s a text field at the bottom of the screen at all times. If you tap that field and enter a keyword, you can do all the interactions you’d expect to do. That feature is called Socratex.
This isn’t a chatbot, it’s more like a command line interface. For instance, if you type “Send”, it’ll suggest “Send money”. You can then enter an amount and hit next. After that, you can type the name of a contact, or add a contact, and then hit send.
You don’t have to find the right menu and hit the right button. The app tries to guide you so that you can construct a full sentence describing your intent. Bella uses LivePerson for that text-based interface. LivePerson is also Bella’s strategic backer.
And then, there is the Karma account. Over a hundred years ago in Naples, people started ordering two espressos and drinking just one. The second one would be a caffè sospeso. A poor person could ask for a caffè sospeso later that day and get a free coffee.
Bella is basically doing the same thing with its Karma account. Users can deposit up to $20 into a personal Karma account. Another user could use its Bella card and get a notification saying that their purchase is covered by someone else’s Karma account.
Similarly, Bella is introducing a randomized cashback program. The company randomly picks purchases and sends you back 5 to 200% in cashback.
When it comes to savings accounts, you can open as many savings accounts as you want and set some unconventional rules. For instance, you can set up a rule that puts some money aside when it’s sunny, when your sports team is winning, etc.
As you can see, Bella wants to introduce some randomized events so that you get surprised by your own bank account. The company wants to give back $1 million in cashback over the first four weeks on the market. Let’s see if that could turn the financial service into a viral experience.