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We’ve Moved

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Banking Kismet has moved to iMazuma.

The link to the new blog is http://www.imazuma.com/blog/

The RSS feed link is http://feeds.feedburner.com/imazuma

Categories: Uncategorized

Mint Launches Bill Reminders

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Mint has released a new feature, “bill reminders”, for their online PFM software. One awesome feature is that the reminders can be sent to you by SMS. You can read more here.

Banking On Rails

Over the years, I’ve watched the Ruby on Rails (RoR) community really grow.  Being a Delphi (and classic ASP) programmer, the language really appealed to me.  I still think Delphi has the best object-oriented implementation in the client/server environment.  Because RoR seemed similar to me, I started reading up on it a few years ago.

RoR is open source, which wasn’t an option for use at work, but I loved the potential of the language.  Now that I’ve started on my magical journey, I’ve decided to dive head first into the language.

Over the years, I’ve built quite a library of books and PDFs on the language.  However, I’m more of a “hands-on” kinda guy.  So last month I attended the Ruby on Rails course offered by Pragmatic Studio.  This class included three days of hands-on training and was taught by Chad Fowler and Dave Thomas.  Considering the contributions of these two to the Rails community, I’m not sure I could have had better instructors.

I highly recommend this course and will be taking Part II once I have a bit more experience under my belt.  The only criticism I had was, there wasn’t an “answer key” given at the end for all the exercises.  It would have been nice to use as a reference.

My friend Tom Wilson, over at Jack Russell Software, also recommended Code School, which is developed by Envy Labs.  There are two Rails courses available on the site, Rails for Zombies and Rails Best Practices. Both are split into five lessons with multiple exercises that you complete in the browser.  If you get stuck, you are able to get hints that will help you complete the exercise.

I went into these courses thinking it would be about basic stuff that I can read in any Rails book.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  Quite a few of the exercises dealt with material that was more advanced than the material reviewed with Pragmatic Studio.  I think it would be in the best interest of any level Rails developer to go through both of these online courses.  I’m sure you’ll come away with something new that you’ve learned.  Rails for Zombies is free while Rails Best Practices is currently being offered at a discount for $45.

I’ve already started to apply the knowledge I gained from Code School into the project I’m working on.  One thing I’ve learned from the courses at Pragmatic Studio and Code School is, I really need to start digging into the Rails framework.  Also, I need to live on GitHub.  Looking over the code from other people is another great way to learn.  I always seem to find that in Rails, there’s an easier way to accomplish your goal.

If you’ve been thinking about incorporating Ruby and/or Rails into your development environment, you’ll be in good company.  There are quite a few FinTech companies that use Ruby on Rails.  Some examples are The Garland Group, Geezeo, Jwaala, and BankSimple. If things work out, my start-up will be another.

Square Gets Boost From Apple

Square, the mobile payments company, is now featured in Apple’s online store. You will also be able to purchase their device in Apple retail stores. You can read more over at TechCrunch.

It’s A Magical World

April 9, 2011 3 comments

Calvin & Hobbes - It's a Magical World

Well, after 12+ years, I’ve decided to move on.  The time I spent at First Federal was a great experience and I will sorely miss the friends I’ve made these last few years.  Over the years, I’ve developed a very deep passion for the banking industry.  Also, I find the changes that are currently going on exciting and I enjoyed helping the bank adapt to those changes.

However, I feel that in order to grow and accomplish some of my personal goals, it was time to step out on faith.  So although I’m sad about leaving, I’m excited to see what new adventures await me in this magical world.  For now, I’ll take a short break to rejuvenate, and then it will be full speed ahead.

But don’t worry.  Whatever the future holds, I’ll still be blogging about banking and technology.  As I told one friend, I look at these last twelve years as my K-12 education and I’ve graduated.  Now it’s time for my higher learning education.

Image from GoComics

Categories: Uncategorized

We Are In The People Business

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I came across this quote on Signal vs. Noise:

We are in the people business. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the banking business, your customers, you’re in the people business, and it’s how you treat people. I grew up with the thought that I wanted to treat people the way I’d like to be treated, and I think if you do that, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

—Nolan Ryan on comparing his cattle ranch business with working with ballplayers.

We would do well to keep this in mind…

Categories: Uncategorized

Simple Banking

May 27, 2010 5 comments

There was a Twitter conversation earlier today about a Fast Company article that discussed Mint.com and BankSimple.  The article centered on “banking that doesn’t suck”.  Ron Shevlin’s post Banking Is Not A Technology Business is a great response to that article.  I’d also like to add my $1.25 banker’s fee.

Ron makes a great point that banking is a service business that leverages technology.  Working in IT for a bank, I can definitely confirm that.  But I really took offense to Alex Payne’s quote in the article:

“Imagine, for a moment, a bank that doesn’t suck, a bank that doesn’t gouge you with fees. A bank that doesn’t treat you like crap. A bank that cares about design, but gets out of your way. A bank that puts your money to work automatically. A bank that’s building a platform for the future of personal finance.”

Now, why in the world would you do business with someone that sucks?  Since most of us live in an area with plenty of banks and credit unions, moving our money isn’t that much of a problem.  As for fees, those are completely avoidable.  Banks will typically waive the occasional “oops” on an overdraft.  You can also avoid those pesky ATM fees by using an in network ATM.  As for design and platforms, unfortunately banks are at the mercy of their vendors.  They just don’t have the expertise in-house, unless they’re typically a top 50 bank.

That being said, I think BankSimple has the potential of being very successful.  They will really appeal to people that embrace online tools for managing their money.  And honestly, if I were starting a bank, I’d go the same route of leveraging technology and building from the ground up.  Not having to worry about the extra expense of branches is one less major headache.  Whether they can pull it off remains to be seen.  Like Ron said, at the end of the day, it’s all about service.

Tech Buzz


Seems that Visa has officially announced their partnership with DeviceFidelity in turning your iPhone into a contactless credit card.  You can read more here at MobileCrunch.

In other news, Alex Payne, the lead engineer who lead in the creation of the Twitter API is leaving Twitter to go to BankSimple. If I were an online/mobile banking executive I’d be keeping a watchful eye on this company. Alex is one of the main reasons Twitter has exploded. Imagine what he can do with making banking that doesn’t suck. You can read more at ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch.

Too Much Like Right

May 17, 2010 3 comments


Carol Benson’s post, Memo to Bankers: A Customer is Someone Who Pays You, on PaymentsViews brings up some interesting points.  Here’s an exerpt:

I think the underlying problem that banks are dealing with is that too much of their retail customer revenue is hidden – that is, their customers don’t know they are paying it.  It seems to me that you really don’t have a customer unless the customer is making a conscious decision to pay you.  Otherwise, you have some other kind of business – sort of like a trading business.  There’s nothing wrong with that as a business – the problem is that if you fool yourself that your customer is “buying” your business, then your management framework is going to get seriously out of line.

Katherine Burger’s post, New York City’s Underbanked Population: Growing and Mistrustful of Banks, on Bank Systems and Technology could be considered as the other side of the customer coin.  Here’s an excerpt from that article:

According to the study, concern about bank fees such as overdraft or monthly fees, is the main reason unbanked residents do not use banks or credit unions. This is a somewhat ironic development, considering that, according to the study, residents in just two New York City neighborhoods ” Jamaica, Queens, and the Melrose section of the Bronx — spent more than $19 million a year on check-cashing fees. But speakers at the forum emphasized just how extensive distrust of traditional financial institutions continues to be.

Now, let’s look at these two posts for a moment.  One one hand, you have  “hidden income” because customers don’t realize how they’re helping their bank/credit union make money.  On the other hand, you have potential customers that avoid banks/credit unions because of this hidden income.  Customers that go to check cashing or pay day lender businesses aren’t upset by the fees because they know what they’re paying upfront.  Banks and credit unions list their fees in handy-dandy brochures and disclosures.

What’s interesting is, the conclusion in the BS&T post is offering an account that “for the first two years, includes no overdraft fees, no monthly fees (provided minimum balances are met), minimum balance requirements of $25 or less, and an ATM card”.  Is it me, or did they just completely miss the point?  And why the heck do they only offer an ATM card and not a debit card?  There is no overdraft protection, so the transaction would be declined.  Customers, potential or current, don’t particularly want to deal with the whole “hidden fees” that are attached to accounts.  There’s a reason Congress is making overdraft opt-in now.

What exactly is wrong with charging fees for services instead of “whoops fees” anyway?  The alternative lending industry seems to be making money hand over fist, all because they post their fees and services front and center when you walk in the door.  I wonder how much the banking industry would change if they posted their fees up front and actually charged for their services?  None of this silly fee schedule only in the brochure/disclosure stuff.  No one reads that stuff anyways, and customer complaints about fees prove that.

I never thought I’d say it, but I miss the days before free checking.  Granted, I hated paying a monthly fee for my checking account, but it made me a better manager of my money.  I also made sure I did the correct things in order to avoid that fee.

So maybe we need to get back to the days of charging a monthly fee and doing like Bank of America and drop overdraft protection altogether.  Terence Roche has a great post on Gonzobanker about retail account analysis.  I think this is the direction we need to be heading in.  Being upfront and charging for services is one of the best ways a bank/credit union can survive this current crisis.  But then, that’s too much like right.

Picture by loreshdw

FIs Are About To Be Blindsided…Again

May 13, 2010 5 comments


I’m not sure if you heard, but this little tech company out in California has a couple of neat devices called the iPhone and iPad.  So far, banks and credit unions have been holding back from jumping into the mobile banking space.  But I believe momentum will grow exponentially over the next two years.

The problem is it might just be too late.  One of the main reason FIs haven’t jumped into the mobile space is because there is no clear ROI.  Instead, they mostly hear about the cost savings in other areas like the call center.  No one is charging for mobile banking in the United States.  And until Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Citibank does, I don’t think anyone will.

One idea I have heard floated for income is charging commercial customers.  The reason being companies are typically charged for using cash management services.  Another one is getting transaction income from mobile payments. Make no mistake, mobile is the biggest growth area for financial services.  I believe that within five years, customers will access their account information mostly from a mobile device.  The iPad and other “tablet” computers will only accelerate this growth.

Fiserv’s iPad demo at Finovate Spring 2010 is just a sample of what’s to come.  But what no one is noticing are the companies that are going around banks and credit unions.  Square’s apps for the iPhone and iPad will take away from those lucrative merchant accounts that customers normally get through their FI.

The biggest threat is the new Transaction app that Apple is working on.  Basically, Apple will turn your iPhone into a credit card by using NFC.  So just like PayPal became the standard for online transactions, it looks like Apple could become the standard for mobile transactions.  And if everything is going mobile, where exactly does that leave your FI?