Anth Mooney, managing director at Thomas Cook Money, tells Abigail Healy why he is forging a path of disruption.
Think of disruptors in the financial services industry and Thomas Cook is unlikely to be the first name that comes to mind.
Yet Anth Mooney, managing director of Thomas Cook Money, is on a mission to change that.
After seven years at Virgin Money, Mooney says when he joined the operator’s financial services division in March 2017, he found its core proposition – travel insurance and foreign exchange – focused almost solely on the two weeks the customer was on holiday.
“We’ve been thinking about the other 50 weeks," he says. "What about before the holiday or when they get back and have that ’financial hangover’ having spent a bit too much? That was the starting point for us.”
The first step for Mooney and his team was to create Roam – a pay-as-you-go insurance product, underwritten by Cook’s own insurance business, White Horse, and specifically designed for use on mobile with a “switch on, switch off” as-you-need-it functionality.
“That was a really important first step for us," Mooney explains. "As we own the insurance business, it’s the first product we’ve built from scratch ourselves. It’s quite different to anything else out there.
“We are also working with partners. If you buy insurance with Revolut [the digital banking app], you are buying our insurance.”
As well as providing a partnership, Revolut, along with its competitor Monzo, are also supplying Mooney with inspiration.
“Revolut and Monzo are the two poster boys of fintech [finance technology] in the UK,” he enthuses.
“When they first launched, neither mentioned travel but once they’d got their product out there, they found that’s how customers were using it.
“Travel and payment of travel became their best use cases. Well, we are a holiday company so, in terms of financial services for travel, we’ve got a real right to play in that space.”
Sure enough, two new products - Lyk, a “reboot” of the Thomas Cook Moneycard, a prepare Mastercard launched in November 2017, and Sumo, a full-service current account due to launch in winter 2018/19 - bear similar hallmarks to those of the fin tech “poster boys”.
But Mooney asserts Thomas Cook’s brand heritage will be the point of differentiation.
“We understand the competitive landscape and we think our brand will play very strongly in that space," he says.
“The idea of trust is important. If you look at some of the main competitors – Caxton, Fair FX – they are good businesses but the man on the street has never heard of them.
“With them, it’s a value proposition, whereas Revolut is giving customers a good deal but has focused on usability and customer service – as has Monzo.
“We’re trying to learn from all that and make sure we’re delivering both.”
The innovation doesn’t end there though. The team is now looking at wearables linked to Lyk, so “kids can buy their own ice creams but mum can keep an eye on the purse strings”.
Meanwhile Sumo, which leverages the balance sheet and regulations of a Norwegian fintech called Ferratum, includes savings and payments, and allows customers to “round up”: if they spend anything less than £1, it takes the change and adds it to a linked holiday savings account.
Mooney highlights the relationship play that Sumo can facilitate.
“For a lot of travel agents and holiday companies the purchase of a holiday tends to be a one-off transaction," he says. "I think providing them with services that help to build a relationship is a no-brainer.”
He hints at further developments around credit too.
“The ability to spread the cost of a holiday and manage it on a monthly budget basis is something that many customers find very attractive as a concept, but we’re not quite at the point where we’ve got a proposition ready in that space," he adds.
You might not initially think of Thomas Cook when it comes to financial services but, conversely, Mooney’s own ethos is far removed from that of your typical bank.
“We are a holiday company, so we’re focused on helping people have happy holidays," says Mooney. "It does help to differentiate us from the rest of the banking world.”