Monzo’s choice of an eye-popping coral colour for its cards was arguably one of the challenger bank’s masterstrokes. The fintech has built up something of a cult following since its launch, particularly among those with a techie streak, and that little tell-tale flash of fluorescence is about as close as any bank has come to street cred for a long time; fellow travellers nod approvingly and sometimes make unlikely current account small talk.
There’s only so far a colourful card, a decent app and rather good customer service get you however, and in recent months fintech rival Starling Bank has been powering ahead with its increasingly glossy API-powered banking marketplace, while Monzo’s engineers meanwhile deliver warts-and-all presentations about a recent back-end outage (“cast of characters: Kubernetes, etcd, Linkerd, humans…”)
IFTTT – More than Just a Terrible Acronym
Last week Monzo played its joker however – and it’s an intriguing one.
The bank on Thursday became the first globally to partner with the world’s largest automation platform, IFTTT; an online platform that allows user to connect apps, services and devices to each other, then manipulate them via its interface.
IFTTT (short for “If This, Then That”) was founded by Linden Tibbets in 2010. The former software engineer and development tester has described his inspiration for the platform as a desire to give user more creative freedom in the digital world.
It works, in the simplest possible sense, as a middleman that helps you automate interactions between web services.
Users creations are called “recipes” and over the past eight years IFTTT has moved slowly out of being a niche plaything of the tech world to helping cook up some serious meals as the digitalisation of the physical world continues. (The company has been collaborating with IBM, for example, to bridge the gap between enterprise and consumer Internet of Things experience).
Recipes for Bank Users
With the move, Monzo is effectively saying to its community of users: “Hey, you keep coming at us with great ideas; why not build them yourself?”
As the company’s backend engineer Kieran McHugh said, announcing the partnership: “Earlier this year, we launched Coin Jar, a simple and totally automated way to help you save. Coin Jar is a great example of how automation can help us manage our finances, and with it, our customers have saved over one million pounds.”
He added: “Soon after we launched Coin Jar, our community shared lots of their own amazing automation ideas. The problem is, each one of our customers has their own unique approach to managing their money — there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
500 Options and Counting
The bank, rather partnering up with a range of third-party application providers, decided to let users do it their way; if they have the nous. With the IFTTT partnership, Monzo bank account holders can connect their account to over 500 different services; ranging from Dropbox to your dishwasher, via Cisco Spark or Telegram.
McHugh said: “In a nutshell, IFTTT lets you personalise how you manage your money. You can create your own rules, called Applets, to connect your Monzo account to the services you regularly use. For example, say you use the iOS Health app to log your calories. With IFTTT, you could enable our pre-made Applet that means every time you buy anything at Starbucks, you’ll automatically log 200 calories on iOS Health.”
He added: “Or, you could create a rule that means every time you visit the gym, you automatically ‘reward’ yourself by withdrawing £5 from your ‘Gym Visits’ savings Pot. We’ve got this as a pre-made Applet too.”
Actions currently have to be tied to outgoing transactions, but the bank said it is hoping to add functionalities that allow users to take actions based on direct debits, P2P payments and bank transfers soon.
The bank is putting on an event with its developers on Thursday evening for a brainstorm on potential uses of IFTTT. It’s the first integration between a bank and IFTTT and the Monzo team said “we can’t wait to see where it takes us next”.
Whether adoption is widespread or the partnership is too esoteric for casual users attracted by having spending breakdowns, etc delivered on a plate remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a unique approach.