The entrepreneur who set up Atom Bank, Britain’s first app-based lender, is to step down as it finalises a £150m fundraising.
Sky News has learnt that Anthony Thomson, who also spearheaded the launch of Metro Bank in 2010, has resigned as Atom’s chairman.
His departure, which is expected to be announced on Thursday, will see Mr Thomson replaced by Bridget Rosewell, one of the company’s existing non-executive directors.
Ms Rosewell is on the board of Network Rail and is a former non-executive at the Department of Work and Pensions and Ulster Bank.
A source said that Mr Thomson had decided to leave Atom “now that it had gone from being a big idea to a small bank”.
He is said to be planning to focus on a number of other ventures, as well as a book project.
The timing of his exit is intriguing, however, since Atom is about to complete a £150m fundraising which is expected to be underwritten by BBVA, the Spanish lender.
That deal is likely to close next month and will almost certainly involve BBVA increasing its already-large shareholding.
The funding round will take the total sum raised by Atom since it was conceived by Mr Thomson and Mark Mullen, the chief executive and former First Direct boss, to about £400m – a huge sum for a British start-up.
It is also expected to be the final private fundraising by Atom before the company is either acquired by BBVA or pursues a stock market listing.
The bank, which has amassed more than £1bn in deposits, is one of the fastest-growing in the UK, and is forecast to be highly profitable in the coming years.
Last year, Atom signed a deal with the rapper and producer Will.i.am to act as a technology consultant and spokesman for it.
The tie-up represented an attempt by Atom Bank to distinguish itself in a market inundated with new entrants.
Under the deal, Will.i.am has an option to acquire up to 3.55 million shares in Atom Bank at a price of £1.15-per-share during a three-year period.
While Atom’s board believes there is a significant opportunity for a service-led bank with few of the overheads associated with high street branch networks, its emergence has also highlighted some of the growth challenges confronting challenger banks.
Headquartered in Durham, Atom has opted to stay out of the personal current accounts market for an indefinite period because of the poor returns and high costs involved in offering the products.
Lenders such as HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays are in the process of closing hundreds of branches, citing data which has highlighted an explosion in the use of mobile banking services.?
Among the industry’s other new players are Tandem Finance, which recently bought Harrods Bank, Starling Bank and Redwood.
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A number of other financial technology companies, including Zopa and Revolut, are acquiring banking licences as they add to the competition in the sector.
Atom could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.