Using "NDAs" for Monzo User Research?

Edit: for context, the post below is a continuation from here, and was originally in reply to Simon’s post here: What does Monzo premium / value add mean to you? /End Edit

I’ve held off from replying as I worry that this will turn into more of a discussion on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) rather than packaged accounts. But as it’s come up again here are my views. In short, I’m just not sure that they (NDAs) are a sensible approach here.

This is all without knowing, for obvious reasons, what has been discussed in these calls, but:

  • Monzo has made a lot of its community. I remain of the view that NDAs are divisive and unhelpful to community cohesion.

  • Let’s assume that someone does (accidentally or otherwise) reveal information. What is Monzo going to do? Take legal action against a customer? A forum member? Or close their account? They are all super, super bad looks.

  • If user research is important, then do it anonymously - with an NDA if necessary*. That’d take away any of the issues on here. But if you specifically want the views of the user base, solicited from an open and public forum, then I don’t think it’s fair to couple those with NDAs. (And that’s before you get into questions around who it’s best to talk to if you’re - assumption - looking to attract non-Monzo customers)

  • Monzo should aim to be fleet of foot and responsive to the market. I’ve heard it said that even if Monzo open sourced their code, other banks would still struggle to keep up. I agree. The analogy is that even if competitors know what’s coming they still won’t be able to react in time. So no real need for NDAs here.

To @simonb’s points:

  • I understand that Monzo has been burnt a bit before by (perceived) over-promising and under-delivery. But this is using a fire hydrant to put out a tea-light. And this is not to mention the sheer cost of the exercise. Better expectation management is the key, not the law.

  • There is risk to anything. And to conduct user research (which is essential) you do have to take some risks. So, outside of doing it anonymously, anyone - NDA or not - could leak information to the press or to the regulator. Regulators understand that bad things happen. As long as companies take reasonable steps to protect themselves, then I can’t understand how a putative product leak would cause issues. (And, to rebut the obvious question, I don’t think an NDA is the necessary step to ensure that ‘reasonable’ steps were taken).

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. Work it up from first principles and challenge yourselves: what, fundamentally, are you trying to achieve? How compatible is that with other parts of the company ethos? What alternatives are there? There’s lots of goodwill out there - perhaps just asking people not to talk about the detail might work?

*I’m not overly convinced that NDAs are useful for most of the things they’re rolled out for, tbh. Outside of protecting, say, major £millions-at-stake critical pieces of information which are time-bound, I think they’re hideously overused.


I’d imagine they wouldn’t be invited to participate in anything similar in the future.

Not sure why this NDA is causing any debate at all, the reasons have been spelled out and it’s pretty standard. It’s good that feedback is based on the idea being seen for the first time, not having been told about it in advance or design by committee


An NDA is a legal contract - the penalties are potentially severe - much more than just not being invited back. If that’s what you want as a deterrent then you don’t need an NDA!

I support Monzo’s right to insist on one or enforce it - but that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t particularly want to discuss things under NDA. It also makes it super difficult for those who are subject to those contracts to participate. That’s a valid position to hold, surely? As I mentioned, I didn’t want to dwell on it, but as others brought it up I thought it might be helpful to give my views.

This is absolutely important in some circumstances, yes. Still, its direct relation to an NDA is questionable!

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Firstly, I fully get your position on NDA’s in this context, but I think it’s been taken slightly out of proportion.

The way I read into it (based on the interview, and my own perception), was that it was simply a case of not wanting to put mock ups and ideas out there as fact.

With previous quotes from users on this forum being used in arguments against Monzo on a national scale, I understand why they might be a little nervous about revealing too much.

Back to your quote, and it’s partially true I guess.

Only because I’m now unconsciously biased from what I’ve seen, so any new “idea” I may have could potentially be based on the interview I had.

That being said, it doesn’t stop me debating the pros and cons of packing pet insurance in a bank account (a “joke” I made earlier in the thread, not a Monzo promise :joy:).

I would say that it’s important for everyone to have their voice heard here, because Monzo are a long way off confirming anything, and will still be swayed by people like me and you, and the rest of the forum. :+1:


Would you agree that it does create insiders and outsiders though?

Perhaps not on this occasion but could you see how creating situations like this could lead to insiders pushing/persuading outsiders to go down a route which specifically benefits the insider?

I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but do you get why I’d advise people to be wary of any suggestion made here or any other thread where this approach is taken by Monzo, without disclosure being made?

In an ideal world, Monzo wouldn’t need NDAs but they do & I don’t think the impact is very detrimental in this instance.

They’ve been doing user testing for various products for a long time, there’s always been people who know more about upcoming products because of that. Or people who have more access to the team (via seeing them at events or otherwise) too.

Obviously Monzo have their reasons for using them here, which we may not know about. But it’s not hard to imagine that they might want to avoid other companies in this space launching their own premium service first & stealing some of their attention in the press. We’ve seen that happen a few times recently.

I don’t see any issue with them collecting feedback both here & under NDA. No one’s being forced to give feedback under NDA if they don’t want to.

And I’m not sure what a better alternative is, for something this sensitive?


I’m not sure I’d call it “insiders and outsiders”, and on a topic as emotive as Monzo, I can see why some people would be a little disappointed that they don’t know something that someone else (another customer), does.

As long as people are honest with their thoughts and beliefs, there shouldn’t be an issue.

I’d be surprised if someone has changed their tune simply because they want to go along with what Monzo are thinking (and for clarity, I believe Monzo are still in the stages where they are very happy to change what they will offer - If anything at all).

And that was made very clear in what we we emailed before.

This was a focus group, nothing that isn’t happening in conversation here and, tbh, what we were shown and discussed may not actually be anything like what we see in the future!

The discussion here is just as valid, believe me.


I agree with @nickh above.

It’s not really any different to internal staff testing because not every staff member works on the build/design. So there are insiders and outsiders already.

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Here are my two cents on the matter of NDAs.

Even though I signed an NDA, it wasn’t really like any other NDAs I signed. It was a much more informal and relaxed process.

Notwithstanding, as a Monzo fan and crowdfund investor, I want to help protect Monzo’s ideas to help give them the advantage against competitors. So an NDA wasn’t really necessary with me, but I agreed anyway.

Too many competitors care about being the first. At Monzo, like it’s been said, the idea of packaged accounts could be scrapped altogether. Having an NDA affords Monzo the time to perfect their ideas and make it the best, standing out from the rest. It’s not about being the first, it’s about being the best.

To exclude yourself from this discussion would be a shame, because I’m pretty certain Monzo is collecting ideas from here as well.


I’ve split this out into a separate thread as I think it is a valuable conversation, but probably isn’t one that should happen in a thread dedicated to a different topic :blush:

I have an NDA with Monzo because I work for them. In most companies, the details we share with you on the forum would get us fired :sweat_smile: However, because we are a transparent and open company we’re able to share pretty much everything externally where there is interest :blush: Of course, there will always be things we aren’t able to talk about or want to keep under wraps so it makes a big splash!

User research is paid and as Simon has said, when you do it you look at screens, flows and mockups that may never ever make it beyond the design stage. I don’t want to devalue or suggest that an NDA doesn’t mean anything, but it’s purpose isn’t to stop people being able to participate in the community - it’s to make people aware that they have seen some potentially privileged information and we’d rather not share it just now.

Sure, we could do this via an informal agreement but if someone did leak something, what would we tell the regulators? It would make us look a bit naive :confused: At some point we need a contract for exchange of your “services” in taking part in our user research and us paying you for your time.


This has all become much more of a thing than I expected!

For clarity, I’m not offended or upset that others know things that I don’t. I’m not suggesting that Monzo shouldn’t have trade secrets or protect themselves. And I don’t know where the suggestion came from that folk were forced into giving feedback under NDAs somehow against their will - that all seems a bit nuts!

For what it’s worth, I’m happy that Monzo is actively looking for revenue streams - packaged accounts are a good way, I think, to become profitable quickly.

What I do think is that, most of the time, NDAs are ineffective and unhelpful, for the reasons I outline above. No one, I think, has actually engaged with those points or rebutted them - I have strong opinions loosely held, so give me a good reason and I’ll happily change my mind.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to lead a bunch of rapid anti-NDA folk with lit pitchforks to Monzo HQ. This is a place for discussion, so I offer my thoughts as useful (or not) as they might be.

At the risk of going off-topic, why pay for user-research? I’d have thought that most folk on here would gladly do it for free, given the level of engagement there is? I mean, there will be occasions when you do want to pay for it, but still…


Because it is the right thing to do?

Work should be remunerated. Even if it can be got for zilch.

Monzo aren’t like Google. Those Capcha images are used to train Google self driving cars. Doing the verification is effectively unpaid work for Google.


:sweat_smile: I’d better give Security a message…!

I suspect you may be right. I think they generally exist as a “cover your ass” piece of paper for lawyers :slight_smile:


Would a beta portal work? I can’t help but think that having a portal or a space to place to look at designs online ( with the specific user policy that nothing can be copied etc) would allow discussions to take place. Especially if the portal is behind a login and has no public space. It could be used for things that just aren’t in development but things that didn’t quite make the cut. I think NDAs are heavy handed. I think there should be a user research agreement that sets everything out and includes clauses about what can be disclosed and what can’t be(i.e you can disclose that Monzo are working on a market place but no specifics). Especially as it can be difficult to know how much information is too much and how much is too little especially if you’re trying to engage in conversations with people who don’t know.
Again not anti NDA but I’m not sure I understand the need.
It’s user research that won’t affect share price. The share price is completely illiquid. It would obviously effect competitors but we all know that competitors will just copy it when it comes out .
Also paid research opens the double edge sword of are you doing it because the monetary value or the interest

I’m not trying to be mercenary. If it’s genuinely ‘work’ then, absolutely.

If it’s to solicit opinions - particularly if the person gets something in exchange (insight into upcoming features, for example) that they particularly value, it’s less clear cut.

Should we get paid for contributing / offering detailed feedback on here? (It’s a rhetorical question, btw, the answer is no!)


For clarity, that was that I’m NOT about to march on Monzo towers! :rofl:

(Monzo Security are too lovely to wave flaming sticks at, anyway :hugs:).


NDAs have got a bad name, because they’ve been used in situations where they should never be used, to cover up malfeasance, and horrific behaviour/

However a company asking for an NDA because they’ve shown you a potential new product or software is absolutely fair and responsible, let’s not conflate the two


I definitely agree on some level… But I also think they’re effective if the person signing it respects what’s put down in writing when they sign it :slight_smile: not everybody will have the same level of care for an NDA but having signed dozens myself, I know that it would be very silly to break them :sweat_smile: I don’t fancy being held liable for leaking sensitive info by tech companies - be it Monzo, Intel, Google, etc. I don’t imagine the consequences are particularly pleasant.

FWIW, the conversation over in the ‘Monzo Premium’ thread seems to have remained unaltered by the folks who have been on the call :stuck_out_tongue: there are things that won’t be mentioned, sure, but I still feel like the conversation isn’t hindered in any way by the NDA :smiley:

Funny you mention that :wink: at the end of the call they took my account details¹ I knew this was going to happen from the get-go but I still had to say I would’ve done this for free² :yum: it was a fun 50 minutes (despite me hanging up in the middle when a courier dropped off a parcel :see_no_evil::joy:). When I mentioned that I’d have happily done it unpaid Monzo’s reply was (paraphrasing) “it’s only fair that we pay for the insight provided by both Monzo and Non-Monzo customers in research like this”.

¹ The last time I did paid research for Monzo I didn’t need to provide any details, my Monzo account was just credited a week or two later - seems that it’s being handled differently this time around :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

² I’m not just saying that either :innocent: due some comments I made about PayPoint during my call, one of the PayPoint leads is planning on getting in touch soon for some more user research :smiley: Should be fun!


So I’m signed up to do some Monzo user research! I haven’t done it yet, so I can’t comment on the session, but I can talk a bit about the agreement they ask you to agree to.

:exclamation: It turns out that this has all been a bit overblown. Monzo aren’t (to my mind at least) issuing classic ‘non disclosure agreements’ before starting research. :exclamation:

What they are doing is asking people to sign a consent form. This covers off what they do with the information they collect from you, how they will protect it, as well as a paragraph asking you not to disclose anything confidential you learn during the session.

Seeing all of that in context, it makes perfect sense and seems reasonable. I can’t quite remember who first mentioned the phrase ‘NDA’, but it’s certainly not the sort of full, heavy, legal agreement setting out the nature of confidential information that’s being protected, and what the penalties might be for disclosure.

tl;dr - all a bit of a misunderstanding.

PS I wonder if anyone from Monzo would like to post the actual consent form, or link to it on I think it would help the discussion if folk could see what it is and looks like. It’s very disarming!