Is Knab going to turn retail banking around?

Today we saw the launch of a new online retail bank in the Netherlands. It’s called ‘Knab‘, “because we like to turn things around”. It was conceived by the people who built the first Dutch do-it-yourself online stock market broker, Alex, so expectations were high. But on first inspection, Knab is in no way revolutionary or game-changing.

On the contrary. Knab looks just like any online bank. Nothing on the website communicates that Knab is different, except form the slogan “Knab, not just any bank”. We see people in suits, the tone of voice is formal and the product is the same as anywhere else. Banking still is serious business, and ‘our experts’ know best. Take a look at the German Fidor Bank and see that online banking really can be innovative. And different. And fun. And community-based.

Granted, Knab gives you some neat looking online tools to gain more control over your personal finances, but they come at a price. Knab charges you  €15 per month, and that’s quite a lot for an online-only bank. But more important, the tools and apps are just the sauce over an otherwise standard banking product. Unlike, for instance, US-based Simple, who really redesigned the entire banking experience from the ground up (and are, technically, not even a bank), Knab is just another bank, albeit with a better user interface.

Maybe Knab is going to surprise us in the next couple of months, but my guess is that real innovation in retail banking will have to come from real outsiders, not from a 100% daughter of Dutch financial giant Aegon.