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BABB Is Building a Mobile Bank on Blockchain Tech — But Sticking With Fiat

The U.K.-based fintech startup BABB, which stands for Bank Account Based Blockchain, is developing a mobile banking app using blockchain technology that will allow “everyone to be a bank.”

BABB’s banking platform is being built on top of the Ethereum blockchain to make use of smart contracts technology as well as machine learning, artificial intelligence and biometrics to create a new customer-centric banking experience. It does not, however, have plans to incorporate digital currencies themselves into the platform just yet.

On March 13, BABB announced that it signed a deal with banking and payments solutions provider Contis Group Ltd. to use Contis’s white-label banking license and banking services infrastructure for its upcoming mobile banking app.

The partnership will initially cover the integration of BABB’s blockchain banking platform with Contis’s banking services infrastructure and payment solutions, and provide BABB with a full U.K. banking license, which it requires to launch its mobile banking app to the U.K. market.

Peter J. Cox, Executive Chairman of Contis Group Ltd., stated, “We are very excited to join forces with BABB to launch this revolutionary app that will bring financial inclusion to the masses. We see BABB’s vision to create a banking platform that can open a bank account with just a selfie and voice as very powerful innovation.”

The banking app is scheduled to launch later this year with basic banking, payments and peer-to-peer payment functions. Users will be able to fund their BABB account using PayPal, bank transfers, credit and debit cards, and peer-to-peer payments from other “Babbians,” among other cash in/out channels. The customer onboarding process requires taking a selfie and submitting a voice print to open an account.

Other features planned for the app include a chatbot marketplace, where users can book flights or shop online, as well as global micropayments and peer-to-peer borrowing to serve underbanked and unbanked communities.

Fiat vs. Digital Currency

Despite building its banking platform on top of blockchain technology, BABB has decided to stick with fiat currency as opposed to developing a pure digital currency–based banking platform.

“Crypto is still a challenge,” BABB CEO Guido Branca told Bitcoin Magazine. “It will play a role but we need to transition to that new landscape. Stakeholders (central banks, regulators and the banking community) are still evaluating [the use of digital currencies in the financial system]. We think the underlying technologies of blockchain, smart contracts, tokens and distributed ledgers have a role to play in easing this transition but we must walk before we run.”

There are currently several fintech startups that have launched mobile banking apps in the U.K. They are being collectively referred to as “challenger banks.” These digital-only banks such as Atom Bank, Monzo, Tandem Bank, Starling Bank and Monese are all vying for smartphone-savvy customers who are disgruntled with their banking experiences at high street banks.

“We have a different business model,” Branca noted. “We are specifically targeting the micro-economy/market while [other mobile banks] are doing more or less the same services (but branchless) as the established high street banks. We believe that the financial market is so huge that many different [mobile banking] models will coexist.”

BABB has also applied to become part of the second cohort of the Financial Conduct Authority’s fintech sandbox. The U.K. financial regulator’s fintech sandbox allows fintech startups to test their products and services on consumers without regulations hindering their progress while still safeguarding consumers. The first fintech sandbox cohort included several blockchain startups including SETL, Luno, Tramonex and Epiphyte. 

Alex Lielacher

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