So anyway I was interested in what Metro would do, so I went to their website, hoping to open an account. Found that the site didn't work in Chrome, so I sent the following email:
"Hi I'm browsing your site using Chrome and Firefox on Ubuntu and I can't see anything on this page on how to open an account: https://www.metrobankonline.com/personal/savings/How-to-open-an-Account/ By the way the website looks terrible, the blue and red and that logo, just bad. I am really keen to move my personal and small business account to you guys though because I am sick of HSBC"
Response received 5 days later (hm.. so far no good):
"Thank you for your enquiry.
We would love to help you open your account. We offer a great range of competitive products and Amazing customer service.Our products cover both personal and business accounts* (*may require additional business information). To open a new account, all you need to do is visit our new store in Holborn (One Southampton Row, Holborn WC1B 5HA). Bring your photo ID (Passport) with you and proof of address. We will go through all the details with you and even print your new debit card in the store.
There is more information available at our website, metrobankonline.co.uk or you can phone our call centre on 0345 0808 500."Fantastic. So I can't do anything online, and there are no branches even close to me brilliant.
"Are you planning to open a branch in Canary Wharf? Why can't I open my account online and send you scanned versions of documents. If you don't have convenience, especially online convenience for busy people good luck to you - I will stay with HSBC who I hate because they don't care about their customers. Do you want to be different? Do you want my personal and business account? Give me what I want and you will."Response (3 days later):
"Thank you for taking the time to contact. We have been overwhelmed with the interest from the public, please allow me to firstly apologizes for the delay to our reply.
We would love to see you in one of our stores, unfortunately we are unable to open accounts online as this is a huge safety risk. As you can appreciate this is a decision we have taken to protect our customers and possible clients against identity fraud but also remaining inside the current UK banking legislations.
At the moment we have a further four sites planned on top of Holborn which is already opened, these are Earls court, Kensington High Street, Fulham Broadway and Borehamwood. We are currently looking at further site in Inner London. We have extended opening hours at all of our stores."So seriously not good, I love how security gets blamed for their lack of convenience and modernity.
A) Security: There is no reason why any of these cannot be done securely. It just takes the right people to properly design the security controls. All existing security controls, fraud detection systems etc can still be leveraged
B) Risk: Banks loose money all day every day on virtually all their channels like Internet banking, credit cards, ATM's, even Cheques for the antiquated Americans that still use them. It is simple a cost of doing business and that's how they treat it. Loosing $3M a year on online banking or $180M a year on credit cards seems like a lot to you and me, for a bank it is nothing against what these channels earn. I am just asking a pragmatic bank to treat these ideas in the same way - sure they will loose money to fraud but the benefit to the 99.9% legitimate customers and the additional revenue they will earn from these will outweigh the costs
C) Law: Banks break the law all the time, there is no bank that is currently complaint with all the laws they need to be compliant with. Hell majority of them are not even PCI-DSS compliant even though they have plenty of reports saying they are. So again from the view of the top bosses it is all relative, all a matter of what they can get away with and not get caught, just apply the same principles here: no need to overtly break the law, secure it well, present a good argument for why it complies, don't have any big public incidents and you will be fine.
A smarter more social bank
Why can't you apply to create a new bank account online? What assurance do you really get when you see someone in person? A two second glance at a passport/drivers licence and a few electricity and gas bills? Guess what anyone with decent scanner, Photoshop and a colour printer could beat that check. I loved this article on how through a fake utility bill a woman registered her dog to vote. Think beyond the "this is always how we have done it" to what is it actually doing to reduce the risk?
Why isn't a scanned copy of your passport and utility bills acceptable? Especially when many bills (and bank statements) are only available online now (to save the environment and money of course). Betting agencies, FX trading and spread betting companies, insurers (all subject to tight legislation, fraud, anti-money laundering, 100 point checks etc) all accept it now - why not banks?
Hey while we are at it lets make this actually stronger require that the user provides a credit report (e.g. from Expedia) with their application, and also link a few of their social identities to the account e.g. their Google, Facebook and Twitter accounts under the same name. Now isn't that stronger proof of who you are the the bored person at a branch taking a 2 second look at your documents? And guess what? How much would your marketing guys love this extra info about a customer at account creation?
You can also create a digital signature based on the info provided and like what the Companies House does last 3 characters of three secret questions. Create a digital cert and provide this to the customer to download at account creation, they can use this when they authenticate to online and mobile banking systems and for signing transactions.
Link to payment providers
How about the web account you just created is linked on creation to a Paypall, Google Checkout and Amazon checkout. How good would that be? The bank will actually cut down on fraud costs because the customer doesn't have to use their credit/debit card online as much.
How about two factor authentication for all retail customers using a one time password to a registered mobile. Digital certificate discussed above.
How about getting phrase and a picture from the customer so that the bank can authenticate themselves to the customer everytime you contact them
- All debit and credit cards issued with Visa Wave pay for contactless banking
- A unique barcode is generated for the customer that can be scanned by participating merchants for use in payment
- iPhone and Android native apps for Internet banking
- Use of Bump and similar technologies to make payments and and transfers to other users
- If another user that is friend on a social network also has an account with the bank simple transfer of funds
- An aggregation service for all bills and one click or auto payment
- Simple and easy reconciliation of all social media advertising spending and merchant funds received (e.g. with Adwords or Facebook advertising billing, Paypall for customer payments received)
- Micropayment service or integration with services such as Flattr and the new Paypall micropayments
There is no reason why any of these ideas could not be done by an innovative bank today which really wanted to disrupt the industry. Don't just do last centuries ideas like more branches and friendly customer service - who the hell as time to go to a branch today? Leverage technology and social media and bring banking into this century.