Monzo recruits former Amex exec Sujata Bhatia as its new COO

Steve O'Hear

More personnel changes are afoot at Monzo, as the U.K. challenger bank continues to bolster its leadership team.

Specifically, TechCrunch has learned that Sujata Bhatia, a former American Express executive in Europe, has been recruited as Monzo's new Chief Operating Officer, replacing previous COO Tom Foster-Carter (who left the bank rather suddenly in November to found a startup of his own). Monzo confirmed Bhatia's appointment, which is still subject to regulator approval, and I understand she is due to start the COO role in late June.

Prior to Monzo, Bhatia spent almost 16 years at American Express. Her most recent position at Amex was Senior Vice President for Global Merchant Services Europe. Before that she was Senior Vice President of Global Strategy and Capabilities, where, according to her LinkedIn profile, she lead a team of 400 people across 23 global markets.

Bhatia's appointment follows the recruitment of Mike Hudack, the former CTO of Deliveroo and most recently a founding partner at London venture capital firm Blossom Capital. He joined Monzo in March as the challenger bank’s new Chief Product Officer. Going in the opposite direction was Meri Williams, Monzo's Chief Technical Officer, who parted ways with the bank a few weeks later citing her wish to voluntarily help with "cost-cutting measures."

Meanwhile, Bhatia joins Monzo at a somewhat turbulent time for the challenger bank, as it, along with many other fintech companies, attempts to insulate itself from the coronavirus crisis and resulting economic downturn, meaning that the new COO will likely need to hit the ground running.

Last month, I reported that Monzo was shuttering its customer support office in Las Vegas, seeing 165 customer support staff in the U.S. lose their jobs. And just a few weeks earlier, we reported that the bank was furloughing up to 295 staff under the U.K.'s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In addition, the senior management team and the board has volunteered to take a 25% cut in salary, and co-founder and CEO Tom Blomfield has decided not to take a salary for the next twelve months.

Like other banks and fintechs, the coronavirus crisis has resulted in Monzo seeing customer card spend reduce at home and (of course) abroad, meaning it is generating significantly less revenue from interchange fees. The bank has also postponed the launch of premium paid-for consumer accounts, one of only a handful of known planned revenue streams, alongside lending, of course.

With that said, Monzo recently launched business accounts, many of which are revenue generating, with both free and paid tiers. I understand from sources that the number of business accounts opened to date already stands at approaching 20,000.

Related to this, having originally missed out on state aid via the capability and innovation fund designed to introduce more competition in SME banking, Monzo now has a second potential bite of the apple after previous grant winners Metro and Nationwide are returning the money.

As always, watch this space.