Mode: In conversation with Bitcompare

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Last week, we were interviewed by crypto comparison platform, Bitcompare. We had a great time sharing some insights about Mode, the team, and how we are building a new-breed of digital banking app. Read the full interview below (originally published on Bitcompare).

 

What is Mode?

Mode is a new breed of digital banking app that, at long last, brings Bitcoin (BTC) into the mainstream mobile banking world. Combining the innovation of digital assets and the security of traditional banking, we provide the easiest way to buy, manage and grow your Bitcoin. The Mode app allows users to:

  • Grow their BTC holdings in the Bitcoin Jar (currently at 5% APY). In line with our mission to create a full suite of banking products and services around Bitcoin which meet the needs of modern digital banking customers, we created our latest and most exciting feature – the Bitcoin Jar. The Bitcoin Jar gives customers the ability to generate up to 5% APY on otherwise idle Bitcoin holdings. Our customers have full flexibility to withdraw their Bitcoin from their Bitcoin Jar at any time – unlike our competitors who have fixed “lock-up” periods. In short, the Bitcoin Jar lets customers earn compounded BTC on their digital assets with unlimited deposits and withdrawals, weekly payouts in BTC, and no restrictions or lock up periods.
 
  • Buy & Sell BTC affordably for a transparent 0.99% fee. We’re all about simplicity and transparency. There are no hidden charges marking up the price, meaning we’re able to offer one of the most competitive rates in the market. We have no complex fee structures, just a simple 0.99% fee every time you buy or sell BTC, and 0.0005 BTC fee when sending BTC to another wallet – and don’t have lengthy processing times when our users need to withdraw their funds.
 
  • Top up and withdraw GBP & EUR free of charge. Mode users have their own individual GBP account numbers and sort codes and individual EUR-denominated IBANs which can be used to transfer funds. GBP transfers arrive in a matter of seconds through the Faster Payments network, and EUR transfers typically arrive within 2 days through the SEPA network. Through Mode’s use of cutting-edge technology, users are notified instantly as soon as their funds hit their account.

 

Who is the team behind Mode?

We are a team of experienced investors, technologists, bankers and fintech specialists with over 200 years of combined experience delivering cutting edge services in the UK, Europe and across the world. As a team, we have wide and deep experience across the financial services regulated landscape including launching Redwood Bank, the first fully cloud-based SME lender in the UK, co-founding Twitter Inc. and Medium, building Alipay Europe, restructuring a major banking collapse in Luxembourg, and relaunching a highly successful private bank – Banque Havilland S.A. Between us, we have years of experience both as founders of successful businesses as entrepreneurs and creators of change in large corporations.

 

Where are you based? Do you have interesting / innovative ways of working together?

Mode is based in the heart of London, from a cosy office in Paddington. In light of recent circumstances, like most other businesses we’re currently working remotely. Given we’re a technology business, we’ve settled in nicely to working from home since applications like Zoom and Slack were already a prominent part of our day. Nevertheless, we’re excited to get back to the office and resume our Friday socials!

As a team, we believe that cultural diversity has been crucial to our sustained growth. In fact, we like to recruit staff from multiple different backgrounds and walks of life, and today our business is made up of staff from over 13 different countries. We focus on drive, passion, and cultural diversity, encouraging each employee to learn from each other’s unique perspectives and apply this new found knowledge to their work.

 

Who is Mode for? Who should be using it?

Our ultimate goal is to make access to Bitcoin as simple as we possibly can, which is something we are always conscious of when developing new features, whether it be UX, UI or the language we choose to use on the app itself. Using Mode is intuitive for our users, even the newest person to BTC can immediately reap its rewards.

Most digital banking apps on the market today exclude one of the most exciting parts of the modern financial world – digital assets. So, we’ve made it our mission to create the number one banking app that empowers everyday consumers to access the new and exciting world of digital assets, with the reliability of the traditional banking world. We want to make it easy for our users to reap the benefits of managing their GBP, EUR and BTC, all in one place.

We’re finally bringing Bitcoin into the world of traditional mobile banking and we strive to do it properly. At the forefront of our product development, we’ve addressed issues that the crypto industry still faces today: namely a lack of trust, limited transparency and the lack of simplicity. In doing so, we’ve created a platform that is suitable for those who are new to Bitcoin, but also for the crypto-savvy who want to leverage their Bitcoin holdings in a convenient and effective way, within an ecosystem that is transparent and trustworthy.

 

What was the spark for building Mode? What problem were you trying to solve?

The reason we decided to build Mode was very simple: poor access to Bitcoin for mainstream customers. Despite attempts from multiple companies to build a trusted and legitimate solution for accessing and benefitting from the digital asset markets in a regulated manner, there were still many issues that retail consumers faced – particularly related to costly inefficiencies, poor user experience, and the inability to hold and grow digital assets within one app.

The current financial system isn’t designed for seamless fiat to crypto on-ramps, and there’s huge hurdles for new users entering the crypto space. That’s why we have built a platform that ensures fiat funds are available in seconds via Faster Payments, which can then be used instantly to buy Bitcoin.

We also noted the lack of simple and seamless platforms available which made getting into crypto complex and time-consuming. One of our goals was to combine a sleek design with the ‘all-in-one’ experience that consumers were used to on neo-banking platforms, and create an app that empowers its users to easily unleash crypto’s full potential, while also providing access to traditional banking-style products like interest generating accounts.

 

What has surprised you about building Mode?

One thing that came as a surprise – albeit a pleasant one – was the traction that the Bitcoin Jar feature brought and continues to bring to the Mode app. We launched the interest generating BTC account at the end of March 2020 and already, we have seen users depositing as much as 10 BTC into the Bitcoin Jar. In fact, the average Bitcoin Jar user already deposits more than £2,500 worth of BTC with Mode, and it’s only been two months! This really goes to show that Bitcoin holders are eagerly looking for a reputable company they can trust, understand, and rely on – a company that is not hiding its behind-the-scenes processes, a company that has a real team, and one with real partnerships with industry leading custodians and banking providers, such as BitGo and Modulr.

 

Whom do you see as your competition?

Mode is in a very interesting position competition-wise. Our aim is to bring the best of mobile banking and crypto together and pave the way for Bitcoin to become the norm among Fintech and investment apps. In terms of UX and functionality, we are very similar to neo-banking apps. For example, our individual account numbers, instant and free deposits and live chat support are the new norm within the mobile banking landscape. We aim for nothing less than that.

We also have major plans in the upcoming year, we’re working on developing ‘super app’ features for users to pay for everyday goods in BTC, and engage with their favourite brands through our app, which would therefore make Revolut one of our main competitors. However, we think Revolut hasn’t done crypto any justice as they only offer a trading feature with high fees, and the crypto you buy cannot be withdrawn from their platform, the only option users have is to sell. They also don’t offer interest on crypto!

In general, the DeFi space has a number of new and ambitious players that aim to bring crypto to the average person. We root for all of these companies, because we are ultimately together on the same mission to educate the masses about the benefits of digital assets. Hopefully, our joint efforts will drive the wider adoption globally, especially in light of recent economic events and record low interest rates worldwide.

 

Where do you see Mode in 6 months and 6 years?

Within the next 6 months we are planning on launching a range of exciting features that have been developed following valued feedback from our community. These include peer to peer payments, third-party transfers, and open banking capabilities to easily top up users’ fiat accounts.

As per the long-term objective, we have big plans but we’re not at total liberty to share too much at the moment! However, as mentioned above, we can reveal that we are working on killer features that will allow users to pay for everyday goods in BTC, and engage with their favourite brands through our app like never before.

 

What are your thoughts on the current state of DeFi? What do you think DeFi needs to progress?

DeFi is on a very good mission, and in general it’s aiming to disrupt the financial landscape from its roots. Some people in the industry like to divide CeFi and DeFi, but at Mode, we think that we can pave the way for the new normal together, and as a result we’re trying to educate the masses about the benefits that crypto lending brings.

The crypto lending market has been booming over the last year, so we think the sector as a whole is incredibly promising.

The DeFi industry still exists at the fringes of regulation, and as a result it’s viewed with caution by the average user and seen more as a complex tool for crypto enthusiasts. We need to slowly change this attitude to DeFi, and that’s where user friendly apps such as Mode will enact real change.

 

Are you looking for any partners or collaborators?

Absolutely! At Mode, we’re always looking for new opportunities to offer our consumers more of what they want. If anyone has any ideas, or would like to get in touch with us to discuss a potential collaboration, you can do so at hello@modebanking.com or any of our social channels.

 

What are your biggest challenges going forward?

Right now, reaching mass adoption is our biggest challenge, but we are remaining agile and listening to the feedback of our growing community, offering products which continue to entice and excite our users. We think there’s still plenty of work to be done in educating people about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and DeFi products, and this is a challenge we’re happy to tackle head-on with one of the most consumer-friendly approaches in the DeFi space.

There is also mounting pressure from the traditional banking world to keep close tabs on Bitcoin and other digital assets, which could be seen either as self-serving, or an effort not to reveal their true views on digital assets. A great example of this is recent comments by Goldman Sachs, who claimed Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies weren’t a “suitable investment” for investors in a recent investor brief, yet at the same time – like many other banks and investment firms – they’ve made several forays into digital assets.

We think this is an immediate challenge as these institutions hold a lot of influence – however as the digital asset and Bitcoin markets mature, we believe there will be a gradual and natural move towards DeFi products, especially as they continue to provide preferential interest rates, innovative new products, and easy-to-use apps.

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