Patience pays for neobank schemers

Ian Rogers Authorised deposit-taking institutions
Robert Bell, CEO of 86 400 - 'Everything we do is ask, how do we win versus one of the four large banks.' 
Robert Bell, CEO of 86 400 - 'Everything we do is ask, how do we win versus one of the four large banks.' 

Two fully fledged new banks are sweating out the days until the election of a new parliament, after which a new treasurer will presumably finalise terms for their long anticipated entry into the industry

Firstmac, a leading non-bank, and 86 400, a spin-off from Cuscal, are the two hopefuls raring to go.

Both of them are proceeding more or less on the assumption that APRA has completed its assessment of their respective applications, and trust that either Chris Bowen or Josh Frydenberg as treasurer will readily concur with any APRA brief recommending approval, with conditions as yet mostly to be guessed at.

Queensland credit union MCU Ltd and Firstmac have postponed until June 10th a final hearing in the Federal Court to endorse (or not) last week’s vote by more than 98 per cent of members to support a scheme of arrangement for the takeover of their tiny ADI by the ambitious Brisbane-based mortgage funder.

Firstmac is seeking to rev up its loans.com.au brand and its owners have for years craved to deploy genuine banking and deposit products alongside their low-price home loans.

MCU and its suitor need to fully brief the court on satisfying all conditions behind the scheme. Firstmac will buy MCU for A$7 million, with $2 million paid to the MCU Charitable Trust.

The unknown in the case of Firstmac is the scope of the group’s business or subsidiaries that will be covered by any banking licence and thus APRA’s prudential regime.

86 400, meanwhile, the genuine neobank of this coupling, have begun to add detail to their own medium term plans.

In a media release yesterday the company said it is “seeking to add new shareholders towards the end of 2019.

“The capital raising is in line with its business plan, which requires more than $250 million of capital over the first three years of operation to fund its growing balance sheet.”

Morgan Stanley Australia are assisting with this process.

Robert Bell, CEO of 86 400, told Banking Day that following “the current business plan, over this period of time we’re looking to get to a $2 billion mortgage book.”

86 400’s as yet unknown co-owners won’t be asked to chip in until the start-up is dashing from test phase to customer acquisition.

“We’re not asking anyone to put capital in until we have the licence and are live in market,” Bell said.

A “family and friends” exploration phase will be kick into gear once this banking hopeful gets the green light. So far around 65 staff are using its brand new apps and making payments, out of 80 staff in total.

The core banking system for 86 400 is supplied by Data Action, one of the mutual ADI sector’s workhorses.

The DA system “is the general ledger of record, the nuts and bolts basics,” Bell said.

“The customer experience engine” is home grown. This “deals with data and account opening, and there’s the mobile app.”

What’s nifty and distinctive about the app, we asked.

“Individual features; we’re holding those close to our chest until launch,” Bell said.

Sharp pricing will play its part in getting 86 400 underway.

“Everything we do is: how do we win versus one of the four large banks. We’re focussed on that,” he said.

“A transaction account, a savings account.

“From day one we will be working through mortgage brokers.

“We’ll be very competitive on rates and very competitive on fees as you’d expect.”