T he second half of 2019 was a painful period for banking start-up Monzo.
The business has enjoyed rapid growth since its launch in 2015, but a high-profile stumble over its attempt to launch a monthly subscription service risked hurting its reputation.
Now, the company is hoping to make 2020 a banner year for its banking app.
Its CEO Tom Blomfield said the app will have another attempt at launching subscription products by the end of March, according to a new Reuters interview.
The start-up is also planning to hire another 500 employees, bringing its headcount to 2,000 employees.
Can Monzo regain its previous momentum and get back on track?
If it can cut through the confusion over its paid bundles and relaunch its premium cards as a simple and compelling deal, then it certainly has a shot.
Monzo's strength has always been the simplicity of its brand: Monzo is a digital bank, its cards are pink (or Hot Coral, to use the official term), and it's not going to fill the app with cryptocurrency and other confusing features.
I nstead of launching a premium card with a set of extra features, along with an ultra-premium metal card for power users, Monzo decided to launch three different "bundles" of premium features which allowed customers to mix and match perks.
But this bundle approach fell flat. Customers didn't want to navigate the confusing menu of perks, and so they simply didn't sign up to it in any meaningful amount.
Monzo's attempt to get things back on track by doubling the price of the bundles, tweaking what was in them and scrapping its metal cards just served to generate more confusion.
So in September, when Monzo pulled the plug on its premium cards, customers were left confused as to which bundle they had actually signed up to.
There were six different experiments and only some of them were offered refunds.
Even financial technology insiders who have known Monzo since the first days of its existence were baffled: Were they on the early adopter scheme and thus not eligible for a refund, or had they signed up to the supporter bundle which was being refunded?
B lomfield spoke candidly to The Telegraph last year, admitting that Monzo Plus "wasn't polished enough" and calling it "a big learning opportunity for us".
N ow, the company is preparing to get its premium card offering back on track by launching a simpler system similar to its competitors: A free Monzo tier, a premium tier, and another ultra-premium service.
Sarah Kocianski, the head of research at financial technology consultancy 11:FS, is optimistic about Monzo's relaunch plans: "Tom’s comments are exactly what you’d want to hear from them. They’ve learned that what you can do with 50 people, and the approaches you can use don’t work with millions of people."
Monzo tried to be smart, bucking the trend set by its rivals and attempting to launch something different. It failed and led to upset customers publicly complaining that Monzo had mistreated them.
The start-up can now turn back the clock by launching what it should have done last year. The aborted launch of paid bundles was a speed bump for the business, but one it is showing signs of having overcome.
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