The Curious Quick Life of RBS Brand “Bó”

The Challenger of Challenger Banks Only Lasted Six Months

Illustration by Author — based on the image from this article

If you have read any of my older finance-related pieces, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of digital banking and finance. After all, that’s pretty much why I started this publication — Fintech Central.

I’ve had a digital bank account with Monzo for a little over two years now and I also have an account with Starling. Despite that, I do still have a traditional bank account with Natwest, owned by RBS. It holds my worldly debt of £800ish.

So when Natwest launched the sunshine yellow “Bó” six months ago, I was slightly amused as well as curious. “What’s with the name?” I thought. I guess it was their idea of trying to distance the corporate parent brands.

I wasn’t shy about the colour scheme though, yellow is my favourite colour. But their main value proposition was being a ‘spending’ card to separate from your frequent bills as well as being attached to their high street parent coffers.

I suppose I’m not surprised, being a spending card was the VP Monzo and Starling built their brands on more than five years ago. However, things moved forward, the challengers became fully-fledged banks while the high street brands were left choking on techie dust.

But only six months in, they have pulled the plug

It’s a good thing I decided to wait for a bit to see how the brand would develop — because they haven’t. On the last day of April 2020, the showers brought with them the news that RBS is “winding down the customer-facing brand” to focus instead on its business banking challenger ‘Mettle’.

There are a few important reasons for the swift rise and fall of Bó, not the least of which are cuts to costs due to the Coronavirus.

Back in January, only three months in, their biggest advocate CEO Mark Bailie stepped down due to some pretty intense-sounding internal politics with RBS CEO Alison Rose. I guess it wasn’t so… Rosey up there in the board meetings (sorry I had to).

Beyond that, one of the main reasons I didn’t sign up for an account in the first place (besides taking another 15 points hit on my credit score — no thanks) was the glitchy as heck nature I heard about. Bad reviews were (and still are) front and centre of the play store at a worrying 2.3-star rating:

Screenshot by Author

On top of that, they were also forced to re-issue around 6000 customer cards after not complying with new SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) rules.

Quite an oversight which I imagine caused a few heads to roll.

While it seems Bó’s spark didn’t shine as bright as they’d hoped, it looks like RBS has decided to merge the brand resources into Mettle since business banking seems to garner more user engagement for them.

Regarding this, Rose told Yahoo Finance UK:

“We’ve always said that we will look to innovate. Clearly in the current situation we’ve had to make prioritisation choices around where we should invest and what we should do to support our existing customers.”

This blow to the traditional banking industry is another example of how customers are beginning to favour independent challenger brands. As well as that, this is also a larger lesson which teaches the industry it’s not so easy to emulate the success’ of the digital bank darlings.

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

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