Bosses at the country’s first ‘digital only’ bank will base their new headquarters in Durham, revitalising the region’s financial jobs market post-Northern Rock.
Atom Bank launches in 2015 and will create up to 160 new jobs at its new offices in Aykley Heads with 50 staff in place by the end of September.
From senior financial mangers and customer service staff to graduate trainee schemes, a full spectrum of job opportunities was announced by the bank’s founder Anthony Thomson.
“There’s a big pool of talent. The demise of Northern Rock released a lot of really good people into the market,” said Mr Thomson, who believes branch banking is in irreversible decline.
“This is a great opportunity for people and as the bank grows there will be more opportunities for the people who join us.”
Atom Bank is the first exclusively digital bank to launch in the UK in response to the 5.7m people who currently use their mobile phone for banking.
Telephone support is available to customers but all financial transactions will take place online, including current accounts, savings, credit and mortgage lending.
A six-figure investment from Middleton Enterprises, the firm owned by North East businessman Jeremy Middleton, was handed over earlier this year in a bid to bring high quality national businesses to the North East.
“Branch banking has declined 30% in the last four years and telephone banking is in decline.
“The explosive growth is in mobile banking and the number of mobile banking applications has doubled in the past year.
“We are a regionally based bank but we have been a national bank from day one. We hopefully will have appeal from Lands End to John O’Groats,” said Mr Thomson, who grew up in Newcastle and went on to co-found Metro bank in 2007, the first UK high street bank in more than 100 years.
Despite recent survey results from Accenture that show the use of face-to-face banking has increased since 2012 with both weekly and monthly visitors on the rise, Mr Thomson maintains the ‘tipping point’ of banks having a branch focus has long since past.
“You can pick the survey you like,” he said on Thursday. “The European Financial Management Association says that within four years 60% of all banking decisions will be done on a mobile device. Natwest has seen bank usage decline.
“I’m not saying there’s no future for branches and I accept absolutely that there are times when you need to speak to someone for complex things like mortgages and that’s why our customers will be able to open up a video window to have an online chat.”
After he stepped down from Metro in 2012, Mr Thomson put the wheels in motion to set up Atom bank and after the appointment of Ed Twiddy, a former Treasury director and the ex-head of regeneration body the North East local enterprise partnership, Durham was decided upon as the bank’s headquarters.
The team, which also includes Mark Mullen, the ex-boss of online and telephone bank First Direct, will move into a 10,000 square foot office block at Aykley Heads in September.
The building is currently owned by Durham County Council and they will lease out more space as the business expands, while a five acre site has been set aside to build a purpose built office in the future.
He said: “It was a lot cheaper to be here than in the south east and it’s half the cost of setting up the head office of Metro bank.”
How does the UK's first truly digital bank work?
Digital banking isn’t new but the way Atom Bank proposes to operate will be a UK first.
Paying bills, transferring money, queries on statements, credit card applications and mortgage lending will all be processed online.
Even cheques will be processed by taking a photo and sending an image via a new online application.
Mr Thomson said: “We can pass on our savings by being online to good value products. I’d hesitate to say that we will be a market leader but we will be there, or thereabouts, because of the low cost base that we will have.”
Telephone support will be available if customers come unstuck on how to carry out a transaction, but no banking procedures will be carried out over the phone.
Customer support staff will be among the first to be recruited at the bank’s new headquarters and for complex transactions like mortgage lending where a face to face discussion may feel more appropriate, a video window can be used.
Other banks have extensive online facilities like First Direct, however this is the first bank with no telephone element.
Mr Thomson argues that the notion isn’t just for the younger generation, but it’s about convenience and creating the quickest way to bank as your mobile phone is always in your pocket.
He said: “This isn’t just for hip, young techno-geeks, this is technology that we all use everyday. Iphones and Ipads and tablets and smartphones.
“In 2010 when the Ipad came out I thought what’s the point of that and now there are five in my house. This technology is ubiquitous.”