Technological developments have disrupted the banking industry, and the quick adoption of financial technology has become a key competitive advantage for banks worldwide. More and more customers have started looking for online and mobile solutions to conduct operations remotely and save the time needed to visit banks’ physical branches, and challenger banks proved more ready than others in embracing the digital transition. Challenger banks, whose number has grown steadily over the last years , are recently founded companies that compete with well-established and prominent corporations leveraging technology to streamline their operations.

Whom are they challenging?

Challenger banks are named after the significant impact they are having in 'challenging' the large incumbents that dominate the U.K. banking sector and attracting investors' attention . The key to disruptor banks' success is their focus on digital technology, which allows them to lower costs and enhance customer experience. While some challenger banks maintain a physical presence, others rely exclusively on app-based digital solutions. This is the case of the German neobank N26 and the London-headquartered Revolut, both leaders among European digital-only banks . Besides the adoption of financial technology, there are other challenges that disruptor banks in the United Kingdom seem more willing to embrace than traditional ones, such as the transition towards sustainable banking .

Which are the key players?

Large challengers tend to be full-service banks that were divestments from larger banks, such as TSB from Lloyds Banking Group, or wind-downs such as Virgin Money. Other challenger banks include specialist lenders such as OneSavings Bank and Aldermore, or retailer banks such as Tesco and Sainsbury's. While they are typically small to medium-sized organizations, the total assets of some challengers are as large as those of leading traditional banks in the country. After taking over CYBG plc in October 2018, Virgin Money became by far the largest challenger in the country, with a customer base of more than 6.5 million people and total assets worth more than twice those of TSB .


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