Was helping a client to open a new bank account for a start-up business this week – quite a rollercoaster experience!

It started with a disappointment for me. I had done the research: “Starling Bank is the way to go!” I declared.

Oops, the computer said no.

The client “has a complex corporate structure”, Starling said. I can’t go into too much detail, but the client absolutely does not. There is a simple UK Ltd also as a shareholder, with UK owners.

But it seems there is no second chance with Starling, no speaking with a human. There is just a web form to express your interest in opening an account in the future when Starling can handle it.

So, back to the traditional banks who ‘never let you down’.

Barclays: ‘apply online’ to answer some questions, then reach a screen asking you to join the call centre queue of death. Come on Barclays, that’s your online customer journey in 2020!?

Never fear, my client said. I have a good relationship with an HSBC manager – he’ll come good you’ll see.

“I’d love to be your sponsor and patron to personally fast track your application”, said the HSBC manager, “that will bring the time down to six weeks”. Hmmm.

“OK, let’s go Revolut”, I said. Revolut is a London-based company with two Russian founders.

In the words of Craig Revel Horwood, A-MAZ-ING!

It took 2.5 hours of faffing with document submissions and selfies. But that’s OK. It’s a bank, we all know that they need details and to put all parties through anti-money laundering screening.

But, the moment we got into trouble, there was a human on the other end of the chatbox, supporting us every step of the way. And someone with a bit of decision-making power too:

“I’ve authorised that now. Please refresh your screen; you should be able to continue again”.

And lo and behold, the Russian gods of banking said, ‘let there be a bank account open’, and so it came to be. A living working bank account just hours later, not weeks later.

And not just any bank account – I learned that Modulr powers Revolut. Modulr will be the subject of a future blog; they are quietly making the new plumbing system for open banking. So the client can open any number of bank accounts, can (and did) create any number of virtual debit cards, one per employee and one per software subscription.

All very straightforward too, of course, to connect up a live bank feed to Xero for real-time digital accounting.

The challenger banks are definitely here to stay. There is just the last nagging thing about Revolut that you do not quite know where your money is: “safeguarded with our global banking partners” they say. Resolve that one, and you suspect that the High Street banks are in a real struggle to catch up.

The moral of the story is that if you are looking for a bank account for a start-up business, then do give one of the challenger banks a try.