Fintech Deep Dive Reviews: Monzo Bank

The Banking App That Took the UK by Storm

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Illustrated image based on Monzo’s Product Photo available in their Press Pack

I’ll start this article with an introduction to the column, Deep Dive Reviews. Reviews are something of an enigma, people trust them, and they don’t. For some, they provide a much-needed opinion on whatever they are looking at buying, but for others, people feel like manipulated by social proof. Both could happen under one product that I’ve seen personally, but you tend to be able to spot the paid-for reviews after a while.

My purpose here with the column is to provide a more in-depth insight into various Fintech products or services, not just a surface-level review. Naturally, each review will include multi-part 5-star rating system as well as a length of time I’ve been using the product or service.

I thought it would be best to start this series with the service I’ve been using the longest in the Fintech space: Monzo Bank. Full disclaimer in case you haven’t read the About Fintech Central section; I used to work for Monzo as a ‘COp’ (Customer Operations, i.e. Customer Services Advisor).

Though I only worked for them for a few (rather stressful) months, it does give me deep insight into Monzo compared to the average customer. Don’t get too excited though, even if I remembered any of their confidential stuff, I wouldn’t be revealing them. As a general rule of thumb, they are a very transparent company anyway, so anything that the company showed to the staff would be told to customers too, just perhaps with a day or two of delay to help staff prepare for the enquires. But onto the review itself!

Overall: 4.3/5

User Interface (UI): 4.5/5

User Experience (UX): 4/5

Customer Services: 3.9/5

Reliability: 5/5

Time of Use: 2 Years and 5 Months

User Interface (UI): 4.5/5

Nowadays, the Monzo app looks a whole lot different from what it was two years ago. They made one massive design shift sometime in early to mid-2019 (they did a lot of Beta and A/B testing so I can’t be sure when I got the change exactly). I do miss the original UI sometimes, mainly just the spending graph it used to have.

I will admit, it functions a lot better now and looks more aesthetically pleasing than it used to, in my opinion. There’s more whitespace giving it a cleaner feel, and it has a logical flow thanks to the introduction of swipe gestures. The text is also a beautiful, clear font across the app.

The labels are easily recognisable, they don’t clutter the app too much, and they have a uniform design across the app — they’re a light blue, the same as their links. Having the links and buttons the same colour lets you know that what you’re pressing is going to lead you somewhere else in the app.

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Image of Salary Sorter Courtesy of Monzo

The user interactions are also grouped appropriately within the app, but where it falls a little is the multiple-step process to get to the settings. The settings aren’t on the main page. Instead, you have to click on your small profile photo which brings up a view of your account and pots (more on that later). You then click on the settings icon in the corner of that screen.

Granted there used to be more steps than that, so they’ve realised the fall in the design there. Other than that, as a COp for them, I seem to remember one of the most common complaints in terms of UI was the swipe up/down draw on the primary transactions screen. It allows you to see the quick-actions buttons on the account or expand the transactions window. Some people didn’t understand the need for the swiping gesture, which I get, but I don’t have problems with it personally.

User Experience (UX) 4/5

Generally speaking, the UX of the Monzo app was one of the turning points in making it my main bank account versus my traditional high street account. Especially considering the usability of the newer design.

In the newer design, they managed to cram the app full of useful features without making it seem overcrowded. For example, the main USP of their services is their proprietary ‘pots’ system. They function like accounts within your account. Stick with me here.

So say, for example, you wanted to keep a specific budget, or you were saving up for something — you can create a pot within your Monzo account labelled with whatever. Doing this helps you to separate spending money from your off-limits cash without the need of having another current (checking) account.

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Image of Pot Screen Courtesy of Monzo

This system works very well for a lot of people, myself included. At the moment I’m using it to put money aside each month in preparation for the Christmas period. I know people also use the pot system to give themselves a daily or weekly allowance from their salary (by automating deposits from the pots).

Being native to mobile, the optimisation per platform has been a design priority from day one. There are subtle differences between the Android and iOS versions. Still, both work very well, isn’t clunky, and the readability of the text across the app is accessible (which is super important to them).

What could significantly improve this department is the implementation of a web version of the app. Though they already have an ‘emergency web access’ function with limited capabilities, they’ve recently launched a web app for their business accounts which could prove as reasonable experimental grounds for general users.

Customer Services 3.9/5

A rating of less than 4 makes me a little sad about this one considering it was my job there. Still, it’s undeniable from both my experience as well as the experiences of others. I know that Monzo’s customer service levels have dropped considerably since their conception.

When it was my job, it did get a little hectic at times, and they could have done the training a bit better. However, I know they changed the training process around the time I left, but at the same time, they increased the amount of temporary staff.

I realised this when I last sent them a message, and I had to direct the agent through the processes based on my memory of working on the systems myself until that agent gave up and transferred me to someone with more experience.

I also know other people are having similar experiences of being transferred multiple times throughout a conversation which they always said was not what Monzo as a company wants.

I do know that they would like to be able to make things solvable inside the app as much as possible — negating the need to talk to their customer services team at all. They’ve managed this quite well to an extent, but they’ll always be contacted about fraudulent use and for disputes with companies so the function to chat with them will always be there.

Reliability 5/5

This section will be shorter than the others, simply because I’ve never had a reliability issue since using them.

Whenever there was something that I queried, I was always able to solve it within the app or via the customer services. The vast majority of the time, the app works the way it should, it doesn’t crash or get slow, and my payments have gone in and out without a hitch.

I do see a lot of trolling online about how Monzo closes people’s accounts, while of course, that does happen — only a minimal amount of the time accounts freeze for no apparent reason. All banks have to close/freeze accounts when they are potentially violating the terms of service, Monzo is no different here.

Overall 4.3/5

The overall score is a mean average of the previous scores, and I think it’s a fair assessment of Monzo as a summary. For me, it works very well, but there is certainly room for improvement.

In my view, it does the following things brilliantly:

  • Tracks my spending
  • Has useful budgeting functions that can work coincide with their Pots system
  • They are always communicating any changes in the app as well as any service outages
  • I’m also able to get any BACS payments a day earlier than other banks with Monzo, while not essential it can be useful

Here are the things I think could make the Monzo better:

  • Web access. While this does increase the risk to security, it’s possible to require two-factor authentication for signing in on the web.
  • Marketplace function. Starling already does this, and I think Monzo could do it even better because of their open API’s, I’d love for Monzo to be my one-stop-shop for my finances, plus it would be another avenue of income for them.
  • More ability to solve problems within the app, such as raising a fraud dispute (if you know for sure it’s fraud) straight away instead of having to talk to an agent. I realise this could set it up for easy abuse.

So there we go! The first in the Deep Dive Review series. I hope you’ve found this informative and helpful if you’ve been considering opening an account with Monzo. They don’t have any kind of reward or affiliate scheme anymore, so I’m not gaining any benefit from them by writing this review.

I do consider myself as a bit of a brand advocate for them, I loved them before I worked for them and I still do. I think it would take a horrible experience to turn me off from them.

With all that said, they aren’t my only account for a reason. I have several bank accounts, partly for testing features and partly because my original high street account still has an overdraft on it which I need to pay. However, there’s also the ability to have both Visa and Mastercard cards if one of them has a service outage, which isn’t an unheard-of event.

As the adage goes:

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

The saying is especially true when considering financial products.

For the next in the series, I’ll be looking at Freetrade, a company I’ve recently talked about in this article. So stay tuned for updates!

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Written by

Aspiring Polymath | Freelance Writer | Business PhD Candidate | He/Him | alexanderbboswell.com

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