JP Morgan to launch digital assault on UK banking scene

US lender seeks to pile pressure on loss-making British fintechs

The Wall Street colossus JP Morgan has appointed one of its top London bankers to spearhead its online attack on British high street banks.

It has made Sanoke Viswanathan, previously chief administrative officer overseeing technology and operations in corporate and investment banking, chief executive of its forthcoming digital bank. The appointment comes after it won regulatory approval to offer financial services to British savers.

JP Morgan, which trades in the US consumer market as Chase, is preparing to launch its UK venture early next year.

It has never publicly commented on its plans, but Financial Conduct Authority filings confirm progress is being made. The regulator has approved Mr Viswanathan, a former McKinsey consultant who has worked at JP Morgan for a decade, as chief executive.

Meanwhile the bank’s existing licence has been upgraded to allow it to accept deposits and issue electronic money.

Mr Viswanathan will report to Clive Adamson, a former head of supervision at the Financial Conduct Authority, who is chairman of the new bank. They will aim to seize on the shift online. The pandemic has triggered more branch closures and prompted more savers to get to grips with digital services.

With a market cap of $352bn (£265bn) and advice from ex-chancellor Sajid Javid, who it hired this year, JP Morgan’s attack on the consumer banking market will pile pressure on the challenger banks.

Newcomers such as Monzo and Revolut are still making heavy losses while Starling, which launched in 2014, made its first monthly profit only last month.

JP Morgan has itself struggled to capture interest with digital banking, however. In 2019 it closed its US online bank Finn barely a year after its debut.

It will become the second Wall Street bank to target UK households after its arch-rival Goldman Sachs launched its savings bank Marcus in 2018. JP Morgan is expected to offer current as well as savings accounts.

The decision to invest comes years after Jamie Dimon, its chief, warned that a hard Brexit could seriously damage London’s status as a financial hub. JP Morgan declined to comment.