There has been a lot of talk in recent years about “challenger banks” taking on the big players. Metro Bank was launched in the UK as a fully fledged high-street bank in 2010, while various app-based start-ups have received their banking licences and are currently making their way to market, including Atom, Monzo, Tandem and Starling. But all of the focus has been on providing front-end, consumer-facing services. Now Nick Ogden, founder of payment processor Worldpay, has created the UK’s first new clearing bank for almost 200 years, says Emma Dunley in the Financial Times.
ClearBank calls itself “a bank for banks”. It won’t be open to the public, but instead will provide services to institutions such as banks, credit unions and fintech start-ups. ClearBank’s clients will be able to make use of all of the UK’s major payment schemes, including Bacs, Chaps, Visa and MasterCard. That will make it the UK’s fifth principal clearing bank – up until now, any company making or taking payments has had to go through Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds or RBS for at least part of their services.
However, Ogden doesn’t see ClearBank as a rival to the big four – instead he aims to serve smaller firms that the big banks “struggle to serve profitably”, says Oscar Williams-Grut on Business Insider. The company, which hopes to open for business in August, will also enable the likes of credit unions to offer banking services such as current accounts or debit cards via an “off-the-shelf” product, rather than having to spend a fortune on setting up their own in-house systems, says Williams-Grut.