Monzo clashes with Halifax bank over 'embarrassing' app design likeness

Halifax app rebrand suffers 'embarrassing' Monzo design likeness

Weeks after Halifax's 'Make It Happen' rebrand was rolled out into the real world, the high street bank has been accused of lifting assets from digital rival Monzo.

Last week Tom Blomfield, chief executive of Monzo, tweeted to the bank to point out that its app rebrand assets featured items from Monzo's decks.

The work was outsourced by Halifax to independently owned brand experience agency Rufus Leonard. It said it was "embarrassed" than an early, and "rejected" asset aping Monzo's design made it out into the wild.

Vicky Bullen, chief executive of Coley Porter Bell, said: "In a world where Amazon, Facebook and ubiquitous use of smartphones have largely determined how we interact with services, the Halifax brand identity is one in a stream of new identities that seem to be all about stripping back to cater to digital, reflecting the reality that most brand experiences are increasingly intermediated via a screen.

"Banks are no different. Most of the incumbent players continue to close branches nationally and increasing their digital capabilities to be fit for purpose among customers for whom digital interaction and service delivery is a basic customer expectation. Fintech players (most of whom don’t have branches or call-centres) have naturally looked like digital convenience brands sometimes in memorably original ways - such as Monzo.

"Any change to your brand is an invitation for customer re-appraisal. If Halifax is giving its mark a digital spruce-up, the bigger question is what actual leaps in digital convenience underpin its new look? And if in the rush to look of-the-moment, it loses the distinctive sense of real-world heritage that remains a bedrock of trust in the category, without offering customers something genuinely new, we would argue that it is very much a missed opportunity."

Last week The Drum spoke to Monzo's data scientist and machine learning lead Neal Lathia to learn how the fintech startup is using automation to keep its app working smoothly as its userbase extends to shy of 2 million people.

New players like Monzo and Revolut, both founded in 2015, have ambitions to “turn the financial banking sector on its head”.

To disrupt the industry they must be careful not to adopt the worst traits of the multinational corporations they are looking to displace. Joel Biswas, a planning partner at Coley Porter Bell, recently wrote in The Drum that their path represents a marathon, not a sprint, indicating that reliability and trust are just as important factors as the speed of disruption.

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