Growing Australia’s first neo-bank

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We’re going our own way.

The bushfire of the 2018 Banking Royal Commission has come and gone. Some areas are still smouldering but new growth can be seen across the financial services sector. Up is one of the first new breed of banks (don’t let them hear you call them that) to show Australians how money can be easy. They are tech-led banking built from the ground up as product they would want to use themselves. And people are into it. While growth has been strong – led by love from the design, creative and tech community – they are keen to make Up a bank for everybody. Pretty Neat were engaged to find new ways to reach customers and help scale this. This has involved research, data analysis, creative development and campaigns, customer experience design and moulding a team around a talented local crew turning banking on it’s head.


Success creates it’s own challenges

By early 2019 Up was on a roll. They were the second neo-bank to get a license but the first to make a go of it. Tens of thousands of customers who value thoughtful technology and design flooded in. And fast. At six months in the Up team were looking at ways to structure their marketing, advertising and customer onboarding to manage hundreds of thousands of new customers. With a talented but small team they were looking at ways to grow quickly but efficiently, not lose the rebel sprit of their infant brand and absorb new knowledge on how to encourage Aussies to actually like banking. Too easy.


Listening to what people want and need.

The role of research in finding the truth and inspiration for radical new products and services is often in debate. It can be true that people don’t know what they want and need. Sometimes you learn nothing at first. After spending a lot of time with the Up team we reached out to potential customers in small groups and also began monitoring online conversations around banking and money in Australia. We were curious to understand how people feel about money, how they use it, how they manage it. Do they like banks? Bank apps? Does that matter? There was a bit to explore. Across a few weeks, and from thousands of conversations, we had a lead on what might interest people about a new way to manage their money.


You can launch a lot of ideas to learn faster.

The conventional wisdom on effectiveness in brand communications today is that the market leader that outspends it’s competition – with the help of remarkable creative expression – will win every time. How can you be effective as a market entrant when the market leader has a 108-year head start and more customers than the population of six Australian states and territories combined? You learn quickly and do what the market leaders cannot. Up will be ready soon to compete for share of market with The Big 4. Today the challenge is finding what resonates best with millions of disaffected Australian bank customers and finding creative ways to get that in front of as many people as possible, and often. From research and concept testing we found 4-5 ideas that were worth exploring in market and a range of ways to execute those. So we did. This could lead us to our Big Idea or simply start a series of smaller fires to be fanned.


Segmenting and planning intelligent customer journeys.

Our conversations and early analysis pointed to a few good theories on how Australians relate to their money and banking. For the youngest groups low expectations around the Big 4 but a lingering faith in bricks and mortar banking were evident. Many also could not live without premium digital services that enabled their life in so many ways. Older groups were both cynical of big banks and more wary about uptake of new digital services. We also saw distinct preferences for slow nurture of interest in new products and some in research keen to just cut to the chase and get the full benefit of a digital-first bank. Our hero’s journey for customers was coming together.


Moments of truth for the product

Desire and intent (or at least some interest) are possible to build with good communications, referrals and word of mouth (Up are strong here). Converting this intent into onboarded customers that use the product 5x is crucial. We made use of common behaviour change dynamics and best practice on-boarding to connect our test campaigns to the key moments in the product for customers and help them get the best from it. It helps a lot if the product is world class as it is with Up but gentle nudges mean every customer and their friends have the best chance of progressing and hearing about it.


Fresh eyes and things look Up.

Our targets for new Upsider acquisition were ambitious but achievable. Across the first three weeks we got a range of results but by week 4 we had narrowed down the best mix of creative, channels, budget and audiences. Creative testing early on showed an interest in both conceptual and more literal creative directions and both drove strong results in market. For those with no idea of what a ‘digital first’ bank could mean we presented new ways to think about money, savings and spending. Those who showed more qualified interest received more features and benefits-driven creative.


Don’t just take their word for it.

Up are big believers in letting the product speak for itself. While early users have done a powerful good for them in spreading the word, featuring this in sponsored content and customer communications became a focus for us. Hook up a Mate had already been created by the team but connecting this into customer onboarding and the first 30 days was modeled and mapped out beyond standard referrals. The Up team have used incentivised referrals in a canny way to date and there is still much more scope for working with these.



Bank on this team.

Melbourne has seen something of a fintech boom of late but you can often spot the the teams and brands that will stick around. From breathing the same air for months, working closely on creative, process and communications we back this bank to go far. Now and again someone will pop up and credit an idea or intiative to a Monzo or Starling but more often than not it was created here in South Melbourne. Out of the heat of the banking fire of the past couple of years a great new product has been forged and is worth every RT.


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+61 407 197 500



+61 407 197 500


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Values Inclusion

We respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we work and meet, the boon wurrung and woiwurrung (wurundjeri) peoples of the kulin nation and pays respect to their elders, past and present.

We are proudly an ally to the LGBTQI+ community. We are committed to providing an inclusive and respectful creative space for our clients, employees, collaborators and the wider community.