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Nutmeg acquisition: What is JPMorgan chasing in UK retail banking?

Buying robo-adviser Nutmeg is a bold and telling first step for the US bank’s new digital banking venture in the UK.

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JPMorgan Chase’s acquisition of Nutmeg, the UK’s biggest robo-adviser, is further evidence of the seriousness of its UK digital banking project. It also shows that wealth management will be a vital part of the offering.

After much rumour, including of a bid for UK neobank Starling, JPMorgan said in January it had hired more than 400 people for a greenfield digital consumer bank in the UK, carrying the Chase brand.

Sanoke Viswanathan, JPMorgan

Sanoke Viswanathan, London-based international consumer CEO, is expected to launch the bank to consumers later this year.

It comes as other UK neobanks have staged more of shift to lending lately. They’ve struggled to reach profitability through premium subscriptions and transaction income alone.

However, because Chase is so big and established in the US, its entry could cause the UK incumbents more worry than the likes of Starling – or other neobanks such as Monzo and Revolut – says John Cronin, UK banks analyst at Goodbody.

“None of the neobanks have a proven ability to scale up in lending,” says Cronin. “JPMorgan has got balance sheet and capital to throw at it, and the experience in credit markets.”