Bank Simple–Not Traditional Banking But Definitely Not Banking 2.0

I’ve written in the past about Banking 2.0 – a concept that sees the flexibility and openness of web 2.0 bought that most staid of industries, banking. As I see it, like the web we now know, banking 2.0 would involve banks creating APIs that would allow (and yes, after correct authentication of course, third parties to build awesome products on top of, or even integrated with, core banking services. It’s an exciting prospect and one I’m looing forward to.

Which is why I was interested in BankSimple, a web-only banking service that is promising to disrupt banking with a new look, a new approach and a new perspective on what banking should be. The company released the video below to demonstrate their vision for the product.

I have to say I was a little disappointed watching the video, while there are some novel features (safe to spend as a better notion than bank balance for example) I really wanted to see something more truly disruptive. BankSimple seems to me much more of a “lipstick on a pig” approach. Banking is completely broken so a new UI and some added functionality enables BankSimple to differentiate from traditional banks.

BankSimple CEO Joshua Reich nods his head to this fact when he says that they are;

focusing on the basics of User Experience design, typography and making it easy to leverage feedback loops with your purchasing data

That’s a great and noble approach, and one that should be applauded if it was being taken by the internet banking development team internally at an existing bank. But for a service that is setting out from the get go to do things differently, it falls very short of what I’d like to see. Interestingly, in a previous interview Reich said that many of his competitors are thinking about remaking banking only as deep as a thin layer of visual interface, it appears to me that the regulatory and logistic barriers of truly making a fundamental change to banking have proven sufficiently hard that BankSimple has joined the “slap a new UI on it and call it disruptive” approach.

Yes the use of meta data and integration with geolocation is pretty cool and eminently useful, but even cooler would be exposing that data so third party developers could build out magical experiences that do stuff we can only dream about today.

I don’t want to be too harsh, it’s great to see BankSimple going out and rethinking banking user experience, but I’d urge them to really look beyond that to genuinely rethinking the basis for banking – that’s when Banking 2.0 might really happen.