The other day I was intrigued to hear about a new digital challenger bank called Countingup which claims to offer accountancy and business banking all in one app. So I thought I'd give it a try, to see how it measures up to the hype.
Countingup was founded pretty recently, and only left Beta testing in April this year. Despite its relative youth the company claims to have already gained over 1,000 customers and has now processed over £1m in customer's money. It's backed by Barclays and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
The big idea seems to be to offer small businesses a digital bank account that also keeps the books. An account can be opened in under 5 minutes, so there's none of the usual hassle of trying to open an account at a high street bank. And the account comes with a contactless Mastercard as well.
At the moment, it seems that the account is only available to sole traders and small limited companies - presumably partnerships create a problem for an app that is geared up to be as simple as possible to operate. That seems to me to be a big downside.
A positive is that the charges seem pretty reasonable. The basic banking app is free until deposits hit £750/ month; if you want the accounting features, it's £9.95/ month for sole traders, £19.95/ month for limited companies.
The app seems ideal for anyone looking for a super low-cost way to set up a basic sole trade or limited company, with the charges comparing quite favourably with what you might pay for something like Quickbooks or Xero. In this day and age there's really no excuse for keeping 'manual' books, so this is probably one of the most straightforward, low cost ways there is to keep digital accounts.
I can't see anything on the website about lines of credit, so if your business is needing an overdraft or loan, this might not be the right product.
The App isn't yet MTD compliant, but then again most accounting software products have yet to be certified, and Countingup do say they'll be ready in time. And there are several more features in development, such as invoice production, receipt scanning, aged debtors/ creditors and so on, all promised for 2018. As these are introduced, the app should improve.
One of the features yet to be introduced is the ability for users to share their business information with their accountant. This too is planned for 2018 - no doubt take up will improve once customers can get their trusted advisers on board!
So did I manage to open a bank account in 5 minutes? Not quite... but only because I took a rubbish photo with my tablet, and the app rejected it. I got accepted the second time round though! If you have a driving licence or passport to hand, all you basically have to do to open an account is pop in a few details and take a photo of your ID and your own image, using a smartphone or tablet. As long as your picture-taking skills are better than mine, it should indeed be possible to open a business bank account for your sole trade or limited company, in under five minutes. And that's pretty remarkable compared to the normal high street bank experience.
For more, visit Countingup.com.