Monzo Staff Weekly Q&A - Chris MacLean (Customer Operations)!

NOTE : All Monzo Q&As to date can be found here :grinning:

Hey everyone!

Some of you may remember that back in the day we had a pretty regular thread where various staff members would pop in and talk about what they were working on. Unfortunately, although it was popular, the format proved hard to scale once we had more than 50 staff, and we are now over 200! So after some discussion on how it could work in a new way between myself, Naji and our awesome community leaders, we’re bringing something new - 2018 style!

Welcome to the weekly Monzo staff Q&A!
Each week we’ll pick a different staff member, and YOU get to ask them questions! If there’s a lot of questions posted, we’ll select them based upon popularity and also what the staff member in question may want to answer :grinning: So, if you see a good question posted by another community member, click the Like button on it so we know it’s something you all want to discuss!

Generally speaking, we’d like to announce the staff members on Tuesday, be open for questions throughout Wednesday and then the questions will be answered on Thursday. This format is malleable, so that may change if we find a better system :grinning:

Without further ado, our inaugural Monzo candidate is none other than one of our favorite Canadians, residing in London to scoff at this country’s small amount of snow that somehow still causes chaos!

It’s Chris MacLean from our Customer Operations and Vulnerable Customers team!


Chris joined Monzo in May 2017 and his favorite thing about working here is :
“Being surrounded by such ridiculously smart, passionate and helpful people all the time”

Get your questions in now, we’re all looking forward to what you want to know!

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Two obvious questions…

One. What tasks does your customer ops role involve.

Two. What progress has been made on both the app and internal proceedures for physically and mentally afflicted card holders (I mulled over afflicted, disabled, sufferers etc and no word was right - no offence intended to anyone)


The most obvious one is how does he keep that wonderful facial hair :thinking:


How is a COps day structured?

By which I mean:
Are you slaving over a hot keyboard with multiple chat windows in front of you all day or…something else?

Can you just get up and grab a coffee halfway through a chat or lunch when you feel like it or is there a more formal structure around breaks and socialisation (if you’re in the office)?


Is he Chris :mrs_claus: going to be Santa :santa: at Monzo Xmas part this year.

Sorry Chris. Hope you don’t mind. :grin:


How do you identify (and define) vulnerable customers?


Speaking of vulnerable customers, what is your escalation process for an accessibility request you can’t immediately resolve?

Some examples that I’m thinking might not be easy to address - though they might be:

  • handling process for a user who becomes disabled and has a change in needs
  • chip and signature card - which you’re required to provide
  • tactile card
  • large print or braille paperwork [not that you have much paperwork]
  • request for a trusted contact to handle the account
  • verification for people who cannot complete the OnFido process for whatever reason (can’t speak, can’t maintain in the frame, etc)

Thanks for the questions all! I’m now closing the thread and Chris will be answering all the questions tomorrow!

1 Like

Thread re-opened! Chris will be posting his answers shortly.


Hey everyone! :wave::santa: Stoked to be the one kicking off this new format. Thanks for all the great questions, and my apologies in advance for the novella-length responses! I am in serious need of an editor.

Here goes…

Hey Richard! Great questions.

Individual COps’ roles are so varied, with many of us picking up specialisms and tasks quite different from the person who’s working directly beside us. There’s so much scope to get involved in areas you find interesting or have a particular knack for; you just need to make it known which direction you’d like to go in!

I’ll give you a brief idea of what particular tasks my role currently involves. Most COps will have started their lives at Monzo on frontline customer support, and a significant part of my job is still working the customer query queues, helping to answer questions or address problems our users might be facing through the in-app chat with the aid of the amazing internal tooling our dedicated engineers have built for us. The questions and issues that come through in any given day are incredibly varied, so it’s quite an exciting and stimulating role, and really keeps you on your toes! Every day is different.

I’ve recently been spending a few days out of each week working with Stuart (Monzo’s Head of Financial Difficulties, who leads on our strategy for helping vulnerable customers) learning an absolute pile and helping him assist COps who’ve picked up cases where they’re concerned someone might be vulnerable. These cases may revolve around accessibility issues, financial difficulties, ‘problem gambling’, mental health issues, a carer acting on behalf of a customer, dealing with the estate of a deceased customer, etc. Monzo wants to empower frontline staff to spot potential vulnerabilities, and to be able to provide solutions and support directly, so a big part of Stuart’s (and my) job is to be there to offer encouragement and guidance to help COps deal with these cases themselves. We’re of course also here to pick up the more difficult cases.

As for question number two, I’ve split it into two parts below :arrow_heading_down:

Internal procedures

Internally, we’ve made a lot of progress on our procedures here. All customer-facing staff are trained to spot signs of vulnerability, record information and escalate conversations where appropriate. We also carry out regular quality assurance of every COp’s interactions with customers, and one of the things we check for is whether we missed any sign of vulnerability.

This is a very good question though, as these kinds of physical or mental accessibility obstructions do crop up quite often. A lot of the time it’s simply that the customer has different communication needs, and we can easily adapt to that, but at other times it can come down to us needing to revisit and refine our procedures. For example, during signup/upgrade, we asked all our customers to carry out a brief video selfie and take a photo of their government-issued ID, in order to verify them. For some customers this simply wasn’t viable. Taking a video selfie can cause high levels of anxiety for some people. And if you are elderly or suffer from agoraphobia, and tend to spend more of your time at home, you wouldn’t necessarily have need for a passport or driving licence, and so might not have ever applied for or kept either of these documents up to date. And if you’re struggling to get by financially, you might well see the cost of applying for one of these documents prohibitive. So, for the prepaid programme, our Security team created different documentation tiers to allow these users to pass through verification and get a Monzo card, and this is something we’re also working to introduce for the current accounts in the very near future.

Progress on the app

There’s still a lot of work to be done here, but our design and product teams are eager to build in features to make the app accessible to anyone, regardless of their personal circumstances. The focus these past several months has been on getting the current accounts polished and ready to launch, and (currently) on upgrading our prepaid users to the new accounts, but once this is achieved, development of all the new and incredible features on our roadmap will start in earnest.

We’ve been fortunate so far in that when we set out with simplicity and the user experience as the primary focus when designing the Monzo app, there were many fortuitous advantages. For example, people who find it difficult to remember their PIN or password might find the Touch ID feature allowing them to reveal their PIN in the iOS app extremely beneficial, and the ability to log into the app through a magic link sent via email means there are no passwords to remember! Additionally, customers who struggle with their short-term memory can quickly and clearly see where they have spent their money, receive instant push notifications that they can refer back to in their notification screen, attach receipts for purchases, and raise any queries they have through the in-app chat.

Again, there is still a lot of work to do to make the app as frictionless, intuitive and accessible as possible for anyone to use, but we’re constantly collecting feedback from our users and planning ways to improve the experience for everyone.

If you’ve not seen these already, you might find Zander’s blog post Designing a product with mental health issues in mind here interesting, along with this recent article in Techworld.

Ha, cheers Josh! Virtually all the hair on my head has migrated to other areas of my aged frame, so this frees up a lot of time to focus exclusively on my whiskers. I don’t actually have to do a whole lot to be honest, aside from allowing it to grow and paying a man at Ruffians in Rivington Street to trim it with shears like topiary. A few drops of beard oil each morning and I’m out the door, looking 10 years older and far wiser than I actually am! :santa:

Great question, Mike. I think you’d get a different answer from each COp you asked, as apart from a basic framework and a daily 'game plan’ set out for us by our squad leaders (every COp is part of small, semi-autonomous squad) there’s a great deal of flexibility for COps with regards to how we structure our day and working environment at Monzo.

Different COps tend to flourish in different settings – some like to work from bean bags exclusively, some seek out a quiet corner of the office where they can focus, some choose to work remotely, whereas others like the buzz of being at the centre of the action. Many will roam about and avail themselves of each of these options in the run of a day. We’ve all got laptops, so there’s no need to be shackled to a desk!

We’re encouraged to get up and move about, stretch our legs, grab a coffee and a biscuit or a breath of fresh air if required. That said, we need to be mindful of how busy the customer queues are looking, so we’ve got to use our better judgement to decide whether its an opportune time to step away or not.

With regards to lunches, these are organised in a Slack thread (Slack is the internal communications platform we use at Monzo), where you indicate with an emoji (of course!) which slot you’d prefer. You’ve got to be quick on the draw when the lunch thread’s posted, as only a certain number of COps can go during each slot. Fingers blazing!

Apart from the above, one of the really ace aspects of Monzo culture is the company-wide invitation to book 1:1s (one on ones) regularly with colleagues. These are short breaks during your shift which you can plan ahead for or schedule spontaneously with a quick calendar invite, where you’re encouraged to catch up and chat over coffee, lunch or a stroll with someone in your team or in a totally different area of the business (you can even book a 1:1 with the CEO!). It can be a face to face 1:1, or you can chat remotely via Google Hangout or Slack call. They can be focused and work-related, a chance to catch up with someone you’ve not seen in a while, a way to find out more about an area of the company you might be interested in, or whatever you like. 1:1s are an integral part of Monzo culture, and help to keep us all connected and feeling a part of the bigger picture as the company grows.

Haha! There have been rumblings about this for months Ali, and one of my nicknames in the office is indeed 'Crimbo’ (cheers for that, Colley!). Alongside the white beard, I’ve begun amassing an impressive paunch as I work through the mountain of free biscuits we’ve got in the Monzo kitchen. Alas, I also happen to be one of the biggest Scrooges in the building, so unless Monzo makes it a condition of my continued employment, I shall not be donning the red hat! :no_entry_sign:

PS Really hoping Bad Santa is playing on loop at our Xmas party tonight… :smirk:

Hey Rosie, this is an excellent question, and something a lot of organisations (including ourselves!) struggle to get right. We discuss how we define and identify vulnerable customers at Monzo with every COp who joins the organisation during our onboarding training. As a base, we use the FCA’s definition, which is probably the best definition we’ve come across:

‘‘A vulnerable consumer is someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.”

However, we make it clear in our staff training that we rely heavily on individual COps’ judgement to assess whether a customer might be vulnerable. We emphasise that, while vulnerability can of course be a chronic state in many cases, it can also be a fluid state that people slip into and out of over time, and it really depends on the customer’s circumstances at that particular point. As such, we don’t set strict parameters on what would 'qualify’ as a vulnerable customer.

As an example, if a customer of ours was travelling abroad with their Monzo card, and they were experiencing issues with the card for whatever reason, we might treat this person as a vulnerable customer if they found themselves in a difficult or particularly distressing situation as a direct result of this. While such a customer might not otherwise be considered ‘vulnerable’, each person responds to or is affected by situations in different ways, so it really does depend on the circumstances when making these assessments.

We’d be really interested your thoughts and those of the rest of the community on how we might think about defining and identifying vulnerable customers. If you’ve got any insights or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Ah, good question Allie! We’re actually in the process of overhauling this at the moment. The honest answer is that it does need to be updated, but we’ve made some progress already…

Up until recently the escalation process has been quite informal, for a couple of reasons:

  1. We were a very small company, so it was really easy to simply chat directly with colleagues in the product and design teams about accessibility requests

  2. Our product and design teams are absolutely LOVELY, and so far, each and every time we’ve received an accessibility request it’s been on their radar and feature roadmap already :boom:

The latter is still true, but we’ve grown massively both in terms of staff and customers, so we need to make sure that we are escalating these requests effectively, storing useful feedback, implementing changes and, if not, making sure we have a good rationale as to why we are delaying specific changes or the implementation of new features.

We do have a clear escalation process for many situations we deem to be ‘vulnerable customer’ scenarios, and this includes accessibility requests. When a customer makes an accessibility request, staff raise this in a dedicated Slack channel and record the request in a document. We have to make a decision with regards to urgency, but in most cases these requests aren’t urgent. In addition, we’re putting together a ‘Jira Epic’ (Jira is the project tracking software we use internally, and an ‘Epic’ is a way of tracking a larger project or body of work) and treating those changes which we haven’t yet implemented as technical debt. We’re on the case, and we’re building the escalation process to be as robust and future-proof as possible.


Thanks Chris for the great responses


Ah, happy to oblige! My first post on the site, but I think I’ll want to spend more time here in future. Cheers for the interesting questions :beers:


Ye nice one. It was an interesting read. I currently work with people with mental health problems as well as with legal refugees. I know that banking is a huge pain for most of them. Or if its not it ends up costing them a lot of money.

Glad to hear you lot are taking this seriously as there are so many people in London and elsewhere that are in desperate need of a more understanding bank.


Thanks for that, Benjamin! We’re absolutely taking this seriously, and it’s really heartening to see that other challenger banks are doing so, too. Vulnerable people have been neglected and marginalised by financial institutions for too long, and it’s amazing to be part of the wave of change sweeping the industry.

Massive respect for the work you do, by the way!


I had an interesting experience with RBS cards today. A woman called not because of any in house policy but using her own initiative because she “felt it was appropriate”. I think it is important with any policy that it does not become a tick box type thing but staff are inculcated with the reasons and needs behind any policy so they can know what to do instinctively rather than only when instigated

1 Like

Hello chris i am a vulnerable potential customer with irregular income how will monzo work for me and help me

Hi David. This is a really old thread so in case it’s not picked up on perhaps this might be of use

Or perhaps if @natalieledward or another of the team is around and could help you?
Also the option of emailing and they can pass it on to the vulnerable customers team


Hi David!

Thanks for your message here! We’d love to discuss this further and understand how Monzo might make banking easier for you. If you have an account with us already, feel free to drop a message to us in your app. If not, email and we will pick it up.