Atom Bank’s Anthony Thomson: ‘We should not be starting businesses to make money’

Festival of Marketing 2015: Anthony Thomson, who is set to disrupt the banking sector when he launches mobile-only Atom Bank later this year, says he “fundamentally disagrees” with the fact that most businesses’ main purpose is to make money.


Opening the second day of the Festival of Marketing on the headline stage this morning (12 November) he told delegates: “The purpose of business should be to give customers a better product, service or experience. If you do that well and you manage your business effectively you will make money, but it should be that way around. We should not be starting businesses to make money. You might do it and be successful for a period of time but it will not have longevity.”

He warned the audience not to confuse his statement with a belief that businesses shouldn’t make money. “It’s a subtle but important distinction to me which is that the profit comes as a by-product of giving a better product, service or experience to the customer. It has to be that way around.”

Thomson first disrupted the banking sector in 2008 with the launch of Metro Bank, the first high street bank to enter the market for 100 years. He thinks that with the pace of digital disruption there will be “more change in the next 24 months than there has been in the past 200 years”.

“Every bank’s mission statement – and I would argue most companies’ mission statements – are basically the same: we’re going to be good. But if your purpose is to be good it’s really hard to describe it in a way that other people haven’t described it in the past.

He believes the point of differentiation comes from having a vision that is “bold” and “audacious”.

“Our vision is to be the world’s first telepathic bank,” he said. “We are looking at your data 60 minutes of every hour, 24 hours of every day, seven days of every week. We should know what you need from your bank before you do.”

Rather than giving customers last month’s bank statement, for example, Atom will provide next month’s statement using what it knows about them to predict what their financial situation will be like.

When it comes to setting businesses up internally, Thomson added that he would prefer to have a great team delivering a mediocre strategy than a brilliant strategy delivered by a mediocre team.

“Culture is everything. With the right people and the right culture you can do anything. Because your strategy is going to change, it may even be wrong but you’ll get it right next time if you have the right team.”

For further insight about being a disruptor and launching a new business, read Anthony Thomson’s profile in Marketing Week.