Challenger bank Atom acqui-hires northern games developer Grasp ahead of launch to boost digital

Lynsey Barber
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Challenger bank Atom turned to gaming for digital skills (Source: Getty)

Challenger Atom Bank which plans to give the big four banks a run for their money, has bought a northern software developer which specialises in games and virtual reality development in an effort to boost its digital products ahead of its launch.

Atom snapped up Grasp for an undisclosed sum after working with the Gateshead-based developer since 2014 to create its mobile banking app, alongside several other software companies in the area which is a hotspot for games developers.

The app is built on the unity platform, more commonly used for creating 3D computer games and virtual reality. It will also offer biometric identification using selfies and voice recognition.

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Spun off from games developer Eutchnyx, Grasp has worked with the likes of Formula 1, Nascar, MTV and the James Bond franchise on digital projects.

Grasp's developers will join Atom's 35-strong and growing digital development team based in Durham while founder Brian Jobling will become Atom's business development director.

“Atom Bank is one of the most exciting projects in the North East and my passion for the region meant myself and the team couldn’t possibly turn down the opportunity to work with Atom longer term," said Jobling.

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The acqihire - a term used when a company is bought largely for its skilled staff - will bring more of Atom's digital development in-house. Speaking to City A.M., Atom's chief innovation officer Edward Twiddy said that will include more personalisation and accessibility as well as new functionality with new products.

"We're working on more fun with personalisation - something that is uniquely yours. Better accessibility - genuine end-to-end experience and account servicing, from home to hospital bed or beach. We want to serve people, who for whatever reason, don't come into bank branches."

The app will personalise features for each customer when they log in, including the logo, colours and even the name of the bank can be changed, appearing on screen as "John's Bank", for example.

Atom Bank, which has imminent launch plans but has yet to confirm a date, was set up by former bosses of Metro Bank and First Direct to challenge the dominance of the big high street banks. It's backed by Neil Woodford and Toscafund and late last year landed £45m from Spanish bank BBVA for a near 30 per cent stake.