Wednesday 26 June 2019 5:00 am

Regulator steps up scrutiny of fintech banks

Applications to become the next Monzo or Revolut are falling under greater scrutiny, as regulators act on concerns about risk management.

The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) only approved four applications for banking licences in the 12 months to the end of February, down from 14 in the previous year. However the number of applications remained largely flat, dropping from 11 to 10.

The fall in approvals suggests that the PRA is taking longer to approve new applicants for banking licences than in the past, according to financial services consultancy Fscom.

Read more: Regulators place heightened check on fintech in wake of Facebook’s libra

“The PRA sees a lack of genuine banking experience as a stumbling block for an organisation looking to enter the banking sector,” director James Borley told City A.M..

“[It] operates with a presumption towards increasing competition in the banking sector, and is keen to see new banks enter the market. Potential applicants should be aware that none of the regulator’s challenges are insurmountable – the right preparation can ensure the process runs smoothly.”

It follows increased challenges in the sector, after digital bank Revolut was scrutinised by the Financial Conduct Authority over a series of incidents this year including the temporary suspension of one of its sanctions screenings systems.

Read more: Revolut fights back: Nik Storonsky on negative press, growing pains and what’s next

High-street challenger Metro Bank also faced a probe after it said it had misclassified some loans and required additional capital in order to survive. The bank closed a £375m rights issue last month.

A letter from the PRA to chief executives of challenger banks was sent out in mid-June, which outlined the regulator’s concerns about their risk management.

Fintech firms were ordered to tighten up compliance and ensure “overly optimistic” risk projections were accurate.

Borley said budding applicants should ensure board members have enough previous financial experience, an evidence-based business model and sufficient capital to prove consumer demand.