Digital bank designed to fit you: N26

20 March 2017

In our Brand Profile Series, we take a close look at surging brands across the world. For this fourth article of the series, we took a closer look at a fintech startup that is taking over Europe – discover N26 !

No one goes to the bank anymore

Picture the following: you have just moved to a new city, are on the tightest schedule you have ever experienced and need to open a new account. Well, it can now be done from your living room and in less than 8 minutes, thanks to an online banking service called N26. Founded only in 2013, the Berlin-based service already counts 200’000 clients in Germany, France, Italy and many other European countries, and is planning to expand to 17 countries in the future.


Let us adapt to you

The main idea? Rather than an institution, your bank is now a digital service designed to fit you. Create an account without a bank, get all your financial services from one and only one place, let that place be your mobile phone. Their homepage says it all: « One account to rule them all: you’ll never have to visit a bank again. » Rather than expecting clients to organise their financial life around their bank, N26 is offering a financial life organised around the client. And their core values are straightforward: being transparent and simple, two adjectives that are not very common in the usual banking jargon.

N26_web_ControlCenter EN online

Can minimalist be too minimalist?

Unlike other online banking services born from established banks, N26 has no in house branch – they hence depend very strongly on their image and communication skills. Overall, the brand has a very modern feel and its identity strongly breaks away from a usually very conservative industry. The logo could be from any Berlin concept store, the font is sans serif, the general graphic choices seem to come directly from a ready-made website template. The brand’s website is also very minimalist, with a simple page architecture and limited menus.


A broadening of horizons

Just like their website, N26’s blog is very clear and graphic. Every article presents a new service and a very open and dynamic comment section. What is interesting to note is that the blog is very product focused, rather than promoting any events or lifestyles N26 might stand for. The possible impact of such brand design choices could be a lack of interest from a wider and non-specialist public, which really comes down to preaching to the converted. It made us wonder: what does N26 really stand for? Are they willingly avoiding any participation to or sponsoring of any outside event or is it not a conscious choice?

The brand also uses a tone of voice that is very, if not too, typical of startups: in their 2015 overview infographic, it even mentions the kilos of bananas the team had to go through to be able to function – one cannot help but wonder whether this is the best way to engage with clients and their money. The brand’s project N26 Black, for example, seems to use a more traditional banking communication: this upgraded yearly membership service is backed by extra protection and insurance, like reimbursement if something goes wrong when you are abroad, be it a lost luggage or a medical emergency. In order to be able to grow and expand, it might be a good strategy for N26 to keep going in that direction.


What now?

The last point leads us to our main interrogation and comment about the brand’s future: of course, the concept of digital based banking is a revolutionary one and is enough to convince hundreds of thousands of clients. However, how will the brand develop once this shift of banking has been acknowledged and integrated in today’s society? For now, N26 has recently done what had yet to be done by an app-only bank : in February 2017, they launched an online credit service. A perfect combination for them would be to keep challenging the general conception of what banking is while developing their own narrative, so that they are able to differentiate themselves when too many other online banking services will be treading on their heels.

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Image credit: © N26

Finance, Technology