Banking entrepreneur to launch first digital lender

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THE entrepreneur behind Britain’s first new high street bank in more than 150 years has unveiled plans for the nation’s first truly digital bank.

Anthony Thomson has recruited Mark Mullen, the chief executive of Leeds-based First Direct, to lead the new lender, which will be called Atom.

The national retail and business bank will be headquartered in the North East and is expected to open for business in 2015.

Mr Thomson, who launched Metro Bank in 2010, told The Yorkshire Post that Atom will be “the first real alternative to the traditional high street banks”.

He said he has raised enough funding from private investors and institutions to build out the bank.

Mr Thomson added that bank branches have seen a massive decline in footfall; Royal Bank of Scotland and Yorkshire Bank are among lenders to announce branch closures in recent weeks.

Mr Thomson pointed to industry data predicting that within three years 60 per cent of all banking transactions will be on mobile devices.

He said: “The future is digital in general and mobile in particular. Since I had the idea to launch Metro Bank in 2007 the world has just moved on at an incredible pace.”

Mr Thomson added that opening a new bank with branches today would be like BT bringing telephone kiosks back to the high street.

He said: “I am sure there will always be a proportion of the population who use branches, but increasingly I talk to people who say they have not been in a branch for 20 years.

“The reality is that with technology, video windows and instant messaging and voice over internet it is possible to have that relationship and discussion without having to do that in a physical location.

“Just because it uses technology channels to deliver a better service does not mean there is no human being involved.

“First Direct is a brilliant example of that. It was the first remote bank. People love it and love the service they get from it.”

He added that he was very pleased to hire Mr Mullen, who has been at First Direct since 2007 and chief executive since 2011. The bank launched 25 years ago in Leeds.