JPMorgan is launching a digital retail bank in the U.K., looking overseas for growth

JPMorgan Chase & Co. signage is illuminated at night at a bank branch in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, July 10, 2017. JPMorgan Chase & Co. is scheduled to release earnings figures on July 13. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg via Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase is taking a page from the digital disruptors.

The biggest U.S. bank by assets said Wednesday it is planning to expand its retail presence to the U.K. for the first time – but instead of traditional brick and mortar branches, it is only offering services via mobile app.

JPMorgan’s first product, which is being tested internally ahead of its release later this year, will be a checking account, the bank said in a statement. That will be followed by a “range of products” likely to include credit cards and home loans, according to a person with knowledge of the plans.

The project will provide a case study into whether JPMorgan can expand its retail bank in other countries around the world, according to this person.

In the U.S., JPMorgan and other big lenders are limited by federal rules prohibiting lenders from acquiring other banks after gaining 10% of the country’s deposits. The project could also ultimately inform how it manages its network of 4,908 retail branches in the U.S., the person said.

“We are bringing Chase to the U.K. because we want to provide customers with a new banking choice – one that will enable them to benefit from a simple and exceptional banking experience, built on the significant capabilities of JPMorgan Chase,” said Gordon Smith, who runs JPMorgan’s retail banking division.

“The U.K. has a vibrant and highly competitive consumer banking marketplace, which is why we’ve designed the bank from scratch to specifically meet the needs of customers here,” he said.

In recent years, reports that JPMorgan was working on a secretive project in the U.K. emerged after the bank listed job openings there for technical positions. In 2019, TechCrunch reported that the bank was in the early stages of creating a retail digital bank in the U.K. after shuttering a similar offering in the U.S. called Finn. Bloomberg first reported on the official rollout of the U.K. product.

The announcement comes after news that Dimon has admonished his management team about the rise of fintech competitors. Square and PayPal have surged in market capitalization in recent years, fueled in part by the viral success of digital wallets that are increasingly becoming full service mobile bank accounts.

With reporting from CNBC’s Wilfred Frost.

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