Cloud-based ClearBank became the first clearing bank to offer multi-currency bank accounts via API. It will offer clients the ability to move funds between accounts through an API-based connection to JPMorgan, but this is just one step in what promises to be a period of strong growth for the firm.
While pressure to adapt has been profoundly challenging for financial services, ClearBank’s boon is just another slice of hard evidence that this pandemic hasn’t been terrible for everyone. 5,000 or so regulated financial institutions in the UK pushed £82 trillion worth of value through payments platforms in the UK last year, Charles McManus, co-founder and CEO, explains, and of those 5,000 ClearBank currently holds 108 on their platform with another 136 at various stages of onboarding. Since lockdown was announced in March, ClearBank has received a healthy 147 new enquiries, McManus explains that the surge is the result of legacy institutions being presented with a significant conundrum when Covid hit. Those which didn’t have digital channels were forced to close branches, their call centres were shuttered, and they simply weren’t equipped to manage demand effectively at all. McManus comments that another factor spurring digital transformation is the abandonment of “incumbent arrogance” which historically insisted on building tech and product in house. Nowadays, the risk of building rather than buying or partnering has become too great, not only because of the time and cost, but because it weakens system resilience. He laments the lack of choice available for clearing banks (offering agency banking) in the UK, with ClearBank one of just 5 in a tightly held clutch. He furthers that while incumbents had been allowed to get away with such poor service for such a long period, the impressive response of digitally native firms during the pandemic is finally pressuring them to make changes and provide better services. “These institutions found that the easiest way to solve the Covid-19 challenge was to move to digital real time payments as a matter of utmost importance.”