Banking is Necessary Banks are Not.

This is a quote attributed to Bill Gates, which resonates with me. Whether the quote banking is necessary banks are not, is the real quote, or it is:

banking is necessary

Both of these quotes petrify banking executives, because they are both true.

Banks continue to claim they are embracing the use of technology, or FinTech as they would have you call it,  but that does not  ring true to me.

The reason I call bovine feces on this statement is my understanding of a few key factors in banks.

  • Banks do not like new things, until they are proven money-making ideas. Adaptation of new ideas is not any banks strong points (unless it makes them a lot of money).
  • The backbone of the #FinTech revolution is ATM machines and point-of-sale systems which are still running on Windows XP. #FinTech is not as futuristic as you might think.
  • COBOL programmers are still making a fortune from Banks , because Banks are afraid to upgrade their existing core system to a language from this millennium. This odd situation which arose with Y2K, where programmers were paid ludicrous sums of money to make the following change in systems:
    • 05 YEAR PIC 99
      * DEFINE A YEAR ONLY NEED 2 DIGITS
    • 05 YEAR  PIC 9999
      * NOW WILL WORK UNTIL YEAR 9999
  • Yes, that was a big money-maker for a few consultants (I am simplifying). These same consultants continue to make bags of money because banks are afraid to use a new language like say C++ or Java?
  • Banks have Fiefdoms and they don’t like playing with each other, thus they typically have very diverse computer systems. This I can guess on the basis of a few observations I have seen at a specific bank, which merged with a large trust company many years ago. The Trust Company still exists in parts of the banks system, which has lead to issues with systems interworking with each other.

There are countless other examples out there, but this belief that FinTech will be changing things for Joe (or Josephine) Six-Pack any time soon is a falsehood.

Automation of systems continues with Banks, but again, these are cost-saving measures, not technological leaps forward. Being able to photograph a cheque to deposit cuts down on the  bank having to archive cheques, mail out cancelled cheques, etc., so it was finally adopted by the big banks.

The applications on Smart Phones are allowing banks to close more branches, and cut down on employees, again a cost-saving measure.

The Future is so Bright?

We need banking services, but, unfortunately the way the banks implement them, leave a great deal to be desired. The business of banking will see many changes over the next few years, but not quite as many as a lot of financial pundits think.

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WYSIWYG Banking

WYSIWYG Banking

What the heck is WYSIWYG Banking? Why is it not possible to have a single bank account, that I can do all my banking with, without having to worry about transaction counts, and fees? This was the core of the presentation from Dan Dickinson of EQ Banks on the weekend, where they explained how their single account solution works (Tangerine also has a similar type of account), but this got me thinking about how (thanks to technology) banking has changed, yet, some “traditions” continue on (i.e. the Chequing Account, the Savings Account and the High Interest Savings Account).

Bank Fees and accounts should be WYSIWYG Banking

What are you seeing ?

What do I mean by WYSIWYG (pronounced “wiz-ee-wig”) ? In the 80’s the tech world wondered at text editors which were WYSIWYG, but in the 60’s we loved a song by the Dramatics of the same name:

What You See is What You Get

OK, so the Dramatics song is actually called Whatcha See is Whatcha Get, but you get my point. Having an editor that showed you what your final document might look like was a huge breakthrough.

What do I mean by this archaic technology phrase? Why is it that if someone talks about a new and exciting banking account it comes with about 30 disclosures/commentaries (usually in a very small font at the bottom of the page) (disclosure: I stole that line from the EQ Bank guy), how is this that much different from one of the standard accounts I have.

If I do more than 2 withdrawals or payment transactions on my HISA (High Interest Savings Account), I get dinged with a huge fee (I think it’s like $7.50), and my chequing account pays no interest whatsoever, but I keep asking why? Yes, in the days of ledgers, and paper records keeping this made sense (maybe), but now the record-keeping is all technology based, so why can’t I have a single bank account? Why must I have:

  • A chequing account, where I do most of my banking like paying bills, writing cheques, etc.,
  • A savings account (or a HISA) to put my rainy day money
  • An Emergency Account, that is a safe place to put money, but I can still get at quickly if there is a problem.
  • Not to mention all the registered savings accounts that I have.

It is starting to get to the point that I have as many bank accounts as I do log in IDs on the Internet (OK not that many but I have well over 10 different accounts, and that is only with 1 bank, I have other accounts at other banks).

Tangerine and EQ Bank look like they are trying to get to a single bank account (or WYSIWYG Banking), but they are not quite there yet.

Yes, this is a great song too!

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Old Financial Technology Habits Die Hard

For the longest of time, I refused to deposit cheques in the ATM machine (after reading horror stories about stolen cheques and the like, from nefarious false fronts which steal cheques), but after a while, I started using this technology (usually because the lines for the tellers were so long). I have written previously about not wanting to use my home WiFi (and absolutely never use public WiFi) for on-line banking, just because I am that kind of paranoid guy, but now I find myself doing most of my on-line banking using my laptop which is connected via WiFi (but not public WiFi). Am I a lover of old financial technology , only ?

old financial technology

Old Technology? Image courtesy of cooldesign, at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last night I caught myself in another one of my “still thinking like an old cranky guy” habits, and that was taking cheques with me to work, so that I could deposit them on the way home at the ATM machine at the bank. I dutifully went out of my way to stop at the bank, and deposited the cheques, but since TD has gone to a new ATM interface, it dawned on me, why wasn’t I just doing the “take a photo of the cheque” deposit method?

The TD ATM machine is simply photographing the cheque, and ‘parsing’ it (although they also keep the cheques, although I have no idea whether the darn things are archived or just shredded after a few days), the same methodology as if I was using my phone. Why didn’t I simply use my phone? My only explanation I can give is old habits die hard, and I keep forgetting about some features available from my bank.

I do still feel some paranoia, so I tend to photograph my cheques with WiFi turned off, and using my Cell Phone Providers network (which is marginally more secure), but I have to remember that the feature exists in the first place.

Old financial technology was useful at the time, but maybe it is time for me to move on.

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Apple Pay and Interac Together

Is this a good thing is the question to be answered, but later on in this I will discuss that. I have written about Apple Pay and Near Field Communication (NFC) before, but now it seems to be really will be usable in Canada, with Interac announcing an agreement with Apple pay on using this technology.

NFC and Apple Pay

NFC an interesting idea?

Before you leave this page to go set this up remember there are a few limiting factors here:

  1. You need an iPhone 6 series (or above) or a later iPad series (although who would wander around with an iPad to buy things). The Apple Watch has Apple pay  also, but it ends up being “attached” to an iPhone as well.
  2. You need a bank account that you can access via Interac (figured I’d point that one out, just in case you were not sure).
  3. For the Interac part of Apple pay, you need to have an account with RBC or CIBC. CLANG!!! I knew there was going to be a catch.
  4. Apple Pay also works with Amex cards, ATB Mastercards and Canadian Tire Mastercards

OK, so the title is a little bit misleading, as only a few banks are covered here.

The real question, is NFC (Near Field Communication) a good thing? Depends on who you ask. If you read the link I supplied you will know:

NFC is a set of short-range wireless technologies, typically requiring a separation of 10 cm or less

Sounds perfectly safe, doesn’t it? PC World has a very good article about a few steps to take if you are going to use this technology (the reading the fine print and your agreement on use of the technology). The other thing to remember is if you are going to use this technology, your phone had better be secured (i.e. password locked, at least).

It will be interesting to see how well this whole thing works, now that it is more in general usage (in Canada).

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Fees and Penalties

Remember that great expression from your local video store

“Be Kind, Rewind”

Back then, some places even charged a penalty if you didn’t rewind your VHS tape. Interesting that this fee went away, but that is because the entire “VHS Rental” business disappeared. That sounds like a fairly sarcastic commentary, but how many fees disappear?

VHS Tape

I will bet there are readers who have never used one of these

  • My home telephone bill (yes I still have a land line) had a “Touch Tone” charge on it (up until July 2015), but if I tried to use a rotary phone I get nasty remarks from Bell, pointing out the technology really isn’t supported any more. The fee finally went away after Bell was shamed into removing it by the CBC.
  • How about that fun “paper charge” if you still got your bill mailed to you? Wasn’t that Green and cool? That went away (mostly) after the Government said they were not allowed. I actually can see why that charge was there.
  • Account fees for day-to-day banking continues at most major banks, even though many smaller banks offer free banking (PC Financial, Tangerine and others), yet we continue to pay for the services at major banks? Michael James has pointed out that eventually the Major Banks will take a dive and may finally stop charging these fees? Nah, never gonna happen.
  • On line trading fees started at $29.95 and it has dropped steadily since (and is around $9.95 or lower). Since I am pretty sure the trading houses are still making money on this, it does make me wonder how low could these fees go?
  • The airline industry seems to have completely built their profit structure around service fees, gas fees, take off fees, sitting in nice seat fees, not getting broken cookie fees, etc.,etc.,. and not many of those fees are going away. Aren’t they charging for carry on luggage now?

Are there any fees that may go away some time soon? I can’t think of many (maybe gas taxes once gas cars go away). Pretty sure overdraft fees will never go away.

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