Ever notice those little orange debit cards that seemingly sprang up overnight? Those garishly coloured bits of plastic are from Monzo Bank, a lender in serious growth mode. Behind all the peppy start-up chat that frequently surrounds companies such as this sits head of legal Dean Nash and his two-lawyer team.
Monzo works by connecting your card to the Monzo app on your phone. Every time a purchase is made the app logs it, deducts it from the total you topped up with and alerts you about how much was spent and what the day’s total is. And, as always, the business throws out a range of legal issues for its lead lawyer to handle.
Nash’s career began at Lester Aldridge in 2003, and he exited private practice as a senior associate at legacy Nabarro in 2012. Nash then spent just over four years in-house – first at Lloyds Bank, then at Barclays – before leaving in 2016 to seek something different.
“I was the only lawyer when I joined [Monzo] as head of compliance,” he says. “It became apparent very quickly that, because I was a solicitor, they’d be asking me to look at all our contracts.”
A small team
Nash now has a small team in which one lawyer focuses on the regulatory aspects on Monzo’s business while another takes care of commercial matters. This frees up Nash to offer strategic legal advice to the board. Although he does not occupy one of the eight available seats, Nash looks after company secretarial duties and has the ear of Monzo’s top management.
Nash’s previous career in-house yielded contacts he has brought with him to Monzo. While the company does not operate with a formal panel – something Nash says he will address later this year – Hogan Lovells, Simmons & Simmons and Taylor Wessing are regular external counsel.
Hogan Lovells partner Jonathan Chertkow and Taylor Wessing partner Adrian Rainey handle the majority of the legal work, advising on compliance and corporate matters respectively. Simmons tends to be called in when the firm requires employment advice and he takes a smaller share of Nash’s £350,000 annual legal spend.
Rapid growth mode
Monzo’s expansion has seen 200 people join the company in a single year. That prompted two office moves in 12 months. As the company grows, so may the need for a more rigid panel.
Whenever this crazy growth story calms down, we’ll get a proper panel in place
“Whenever this crazy growth story calms down, we’ll get a proper panel in place,” Nash says. “Right now, we’re in high growth mode and we’ve got to be sensible. It’s just part of the role of the sensible procurement lawyer. Honestly, I don’t try to penny-pinch too much because things just need to get done.”
‘Growth mode’ is certainly an apt description of Monzo’s business. It hit 500,000 current accounts this year.
Before rolling out current accounts to its customers, the company was losing £50 per customer. Customers used to only put money on their pre-paid Monzo cards via a top-up scheme running on a third-party platform the bank was paying to use. Now current accounts are rolled out and customers can perform straight bank transfers, the financial pressure that came with the old system is being alleviated.
“We’re getting to the point of offering different products through the account,” Nash says. “We’re offering customers the chance to buy things like insurance or investments through us.
“We’ve also tested products such as energy switching, whereby you go through to [energy price comparison site] Bulb, to supplement our revenue stream through a commission-based model.”
If growth remains this rapid, Monzo’s future will be as bright as its cards.
CV: Dean Nash, Monzo
Reports to CEO Tom Blomfield
2016-present Head of legal and compliance, Monzo Bank
2013-16 Lead legal counsel, client and customer experience, Barclays UK
2012-13 Lawyer, Lloyds Banking Group
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