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UK challenger bank Secco is inviting customers to pre-register for its initial Aura product, an app that enables users to trade data with others within a range of 60 metres; for instance, they could tweet and receive a restaurant voucher in return. Having become frustrated in his role at Lloyds Banking Group, Chris Gledhill, left to build Secco, pitched as the UK’s first ‘blockchain inspired’ bank. Speaking to IBS Journal, for a new entrants feature in our September issue, he says: “I realised I could affect a lot more change in the industry working outside-in rather than inside-out. I could deal with the

frustrations of working for a large organisation because I’d done that for most of my career but I realised if I’m actually going to change something, which was mine and my co-founders’ motivation, we realised the best way to do that is through a startup vehicle rather than through a corporate vehicle.”

Secco cannot be accused of a lack of ingenuity: Gledhill and his team are growing a company that is not only built on new technology but challenges the very premise of banking and the purpose it serves, as well as the currencies it deals in. Like most other challengers, Secco doesn’t have a branch network. It’s a cross between a bank and a social network, where users can earn coupons and tokens from interactions with other users.

It’s not all about money, either. Gledhill is calling on users to become ‘data brokers’, which is where Aura comes in. “We decided to give people the ability to reclaim their information and monetise their data, just like Facebook makes money out of your information. We’re saying if you hold your own data you can make money out of it. Your data becomes a currency on our platform.”

He is currently working on a proof of concept in the fashion industry, “because fashion is so different to banking we thought if it could work in fashion it can work anywhere”. In this trial, fashionistas will be able to earn tokens if other users like items they’re wearing. If they then purchase the item, the original wearer will earn a referral bonus. “Retail stores get a whole new sales channel; every one of their customers is now a walking mannequin for their brand. And the person doing the reviewing gets a discount on the item that they’ve seen they’d like to buy.”

Gledhill says it is easier for innovators such as Secco to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. “For the more generic challenger banks, who are going down the existing well-trodden route of getting a banking licence and becoming a lender, they will find it more challenging to steal customers from the likes of Barclays, Lloyds, Santander and RBS. People are generally a lot more trusting of banks than people give them credit for and it’s going to be difficult for some of the challengers to wean people off of their big banks unless they’re truly differentiating in some way.”

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by Scott Thompson
Scott is Senior Editor at IBS Intelligence. You can follow him on Twitter and contact him at: Scott.Thompson@ibsintelligence.com
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