Chapter 1   •   8 minute read

Built for Mars

Highlighting the difference between good and great UX.

Opening an account

Analysing the experience of opening 12 bank accounts.

Photograph by Built for Mars

On average, people stay with their bank for 17 years—which implies that it’s either too much effort to switch, or that they have brand loyalty beyond belief. People are more likely to stay with their bank than they are to stay with their partner.

A study from 2020 estimated that within 5 years 44% of brits will have a digital-only bank. But most of you reading this will already have an account with at least one of the challenger banks, like Monzo, Revolut or Starling. You probably also remember the experience being far better than when you set up your traditional bank account more than a decade ago.

But was the application process actually any better, or are you just wrongly assuming that your traditional bank hasn’t improved since 1995?

This chapter sets out to answer the question: is it actually any easier to open an account with one of the challenger banks, or it is all a brilliantly orchestrated marketing spin.


The challenger banks were significantly quicker (in days) and required less effort (in clicks) to get an active account.

How they achieved this:

📱 Allowed you to open an account directly through the app.

⚡️ Changed the perspective of when your account is ‘open’.

🌋 Remove the worst part of the traditional experience.

🗂 Minimised data collection.

📦 Created a memorable experience when your card arrives.

A race to open my account

The industry can be confusing. Promises of “opening an account in minutes” are enticing, and might technically be true, but don’t reflect what we really experience.

In the real world, you’d probably only say your account was active when you could actually use your card. So I set the following parameters:

1.  I can use my card in a shop. This includes receiving my PIN.

2.  I have access to online banking on my mobile. This includes receiving my card reader (if needed).

And remember, none of the banks knew they were in this race.

Number of working days to have an active account