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NatWest pilots digital bank for SMEs

App-based banking platform offers small enterprises other business tools on top of a current account

NatWest Bank is testing an app-based business banking platform aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which combines banking with other business services.

The app, known as Mettle, offers an SME current account as well as tools for invoicing, payment chasing and book-keeping. Customer SMEs will use the mobile app and have an associated debit card.

Mettle, which will run independently from NatWest, is being piloted with customers whose feedback is expected to influence how the platform is developed.

“Being able to engage with our customers and to get their direct feedback, at this early stage, is extremely important to us,” said Alison Rose, CEO of commercial and private banking at NatWest.

The app will provide customers with data they can use to make business decisions, she said. “The premise for Mettle lets our customers focus on forward-looking finances, combining technology and proactive insights so that SMEs can make better decisions and run their businesses more successfully.” 

Mettle was developed in partnership with 11:FS, which consults on building banks from scratch, and management and technology consultancy Capco. Non-NatWest customers as well as existing customers can apply for an account.

As awareness and acceptance of fintech (financial technology) increases, traditional banks are diversifying their offering, and setting up standalone platform-based banks is one such approach.

Read more about fintech

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  • Global financial system stability group FSB will take a closer look at financial technology companies.
  • Consumers are quickly adopting fintech products and services, with young high-earners leading the charge.

Another approach that NatWest took back in May was to launch a fintech lending platform, also aimed at SMEs, which aims to cut the time it takes to apply for a loan to just 10 minutes. The project is intended to help NatWest fight off competition from peer-to-peer lenders.

Esme Loans, as it is known, makes it easier for SMEs to apply for loans by using the latest technology, including application programming interfaces (APIs). The entire process is online and paperless, with customers able to make an application in less than 10 minutes.

As with Mettle, NatWest tested out the Esme Loans platform with customers before launch.

Read more on IT for financial services

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