Do you have what it takes to lead a successful challenger bank?

In early 2020, FT Partners published a report titled ‘The Rise of Challenger Banks: Are the Apps Taking Over?’

Challenger banks—alternatively, neo banks—are known as such because of how their business models seek to challenge the status quo within the financial sector. By reinventing customer experiences and utilising inventive technology, challenger banks have effectively placed pressure on stagnant financial incumbents within this constantly evolving industry.

Undoubtedly, founding and running a challenger bank is no easy task. Inspired by our previous post about ‘Financial Incumbents vs. Challenger Banks’, we at CFTE decided to conduct our own analysis into the founders of renowned challenger banks and their respective backgrounds. 

In visual A, we have compiled a list of major challenger banks from around the world and the backgrounds of their founders. Our methodology in driving this research has been to focus on estimated valuation and total funds raised. Additionally, we have sought to include challenger banks from different parts of the globe, for a more holistic and diverse overview.

Interestingly, we noticed a pattern. As shown in visual A, 55.5% of the banks have at least one founder that comes from a ‘hard’ science education background. Namely, physics, engineering, computer science and such. In visual B, however, it shows that out of 9 of the challenger banks we compiled, 5 (55.5%) of them have founders that hail from a previous consulting background.

In a different vein, out of 9 challenger banks, there are 18 founders in total. 44.4% of the founders have a consulting background, while 33.3% of them have had former experience working in a bank/challenger bank. Notably, 38.8% of the founders come from a university background of business management and finance.

From the data we compiled, a university degree in STEM and a former work experience in consulting seem to be highly prevalent within the founders. Could this possibly highlight that there may be certain characteristics an individual possesses which may attract them to working at a challenger bank? This could be an intriguing topic for further research.

Obviously, this does not in any way suggest that entrepreneurs coming from different backgrounds will not be qualified in running and/or founding a challenger bank. Oleg Tinkov from Tinkoff— one of the world’s largest digital banks—and Chris Britt founder of Chime who studied History at Tulane University are great examples that underscore this. Chime is also currently considered the leader in the US challenger bank space.

After-all, the beauty of Financial Technology is that it is a merger between two highly innovative and driven industries. And the very philosophy that FinTech is built on—being agile, disruptive and limitless—indicates that it is a sphere that not only challenges, but also rebels against the status quo. Post the financial recession of 2008, Challenger banks and FinTech startups started out as underdogs in the sector, now they have transitioned to shaping the industry. 

Nothing is impossible!

P/S: if you would like to have your challenger bank included in the list, kindly send your details to and we will see what we can do. 

For more updates, follow us on LinkedinFacebook and Twitter.

Latest Posts:

Learn the skills of Fintech

Learn the skills of Fintech

More To Explore

Frequently Asked Questions

The Centre for Finance, Technology & Entrepreneurship (CFTE) is a global education platform that aims to equip financial professionals and organisations with the necessary skills to remain competitive in a rapidly changing industry. Our leading training programmes, curated by global industry experts, help talent build skills to join the digital revolution in finance. CFTE’s courses are globally recognised with accreditations from ACT, IBF, CPD, SkillsFuture and ABS.

At CFTE, our mission resonates with every learner’s goals to rapidly advance in their career, to thrive in their next project or even to lead the disruption in finance with their own venture. To help you do this, CFTE gives you the tools you need to master the right skills in digital finance. We bring exclusive insights from leaders that are steering the developments in the financial sphere from global CEOs to disruptive entrepreneurs. With CFTE you don’t just learn what’s in the books, you live the experience by grasping real-world applications.

If you are looking for rich insights into how the Financial Technology arena is transforming from within, we can help you get the latest knowledge that will stir things up in your career. CFTE offers leading online programmes in digital finance, covering an expanse of topics like – Payments, AI, Open Banking, Platforms, Fintech, Intrapreneurship and more, that will help you conquer the financial technology landscape. With this expertise at your disposal, you will be on track to turbocharge your career.

You will be learning from a curated line-up of industry leaders, experts, and entrepreneurs hailing from Fortune 500 companies and Tech Unicorns, among others. They will each be presenting their knowledge and experience in the field of digital finance. No matter if you are embarking on a new journey or fortifying your role, these lecturers and guest experts will guide you through the perspective of established institutions like – Starling Bank, Wells Fargo, tech giants like – Google, IBM, successful startups such as – Kabbage or Plaid, among many more!