Metro founder launches online lender Atom

Tim Wallace
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METRO Bank co-founder Anthony Thomson is applying for a licence for an online-only bank Atom, and hopes to launch the lender next year.

He wants to target customers who use banking apps on mobiles and tablets, rather than setting up a branch network to compete with Metro’s high street presence.

“The big banks might be able to build the customer-end of their apps well, but they cannot plug those into their legacy IT systems,” Thomson told City A.M.

He also hopes that without a branch network, Atom can compete on price.

The bank has its IT and management already set up – it has hired First Direct’s chief executive Mark Mullen – and so hopes to power through the licence application process in as little as six months.

The new licensing system is designed to take around one year, but can be accelerated a little if the applicant is already well prepared.

Thomson applied for Metro Bank’s licence in 2008 and believes the process will be quicker this time.

“Back in 2008 it was a very different world, it was very hard to get authorised,” Thomson said. “Since then there has been a sea change in the attitude of the regulator. There is a real desire to see more new banks, more competition, more customer choice.”

Around 20 licences are currently in the pipeline at the Bank of England’s prudential regulation authority.

Recent new licences awarded include Paragon Bank, a new arm of specialist lender Paragon, and private bank Hampden.

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