Is it just me, or do retail banking services in the UK seem to innovate at the speed of rowing through treacle? From a customer’s perspective, online banking has remained the same for years. My bank (which prides itself on customer service) provides a website that looks pretty much the same as the very first online banking interface I used about ten years ago.
In the past, holding too many bank accounts with different banks and forgetting how much was in each has got me into trouble, but the first I knew of it would be a sneaky letter telling me that my “request for an informal overdraft” had been successful at a cost of fifty quid.
While some services like the US-based Mint offer account aggregation and infographics to help people keep on top of their finances, their competitors struggle to get noticed and fail – particularly on this side of the Atlantic. Wesabe lasted five years, Kublax couldn’t raise funding, and MoneyDashboard doesn’t seem (without having used it) to have the design or user experience to connect with the general population.
There’s more than just innovation for innovation’s sake here. For example at last week’s Benefits Camp, organised by FutureGov to devise ways of helping change and improve the benefits system, personal finance apps able to integrate a person’s benefits were mooted. Research conducted by the Brookings Institution over the last few years notes that (in the US at least) lower income individuals often end up paying over the odds for basic financial services, cars and mortgages.
In fact, in a nice example of being a “think & do” research organisation, Brookings Institution fellow Matt Fellowes later launched HelloWallet, a personal finance service. HelloWallet reckon that “hundreds of billions of dollars unnecessarily lost by middle- and low-income workers because of avoidable financial missteps”. Their service provides tailored advice and tools to help users get out of debt, create budgets and increase their savings.
I guess that my question is: why not here – why is there still no HelloWallet (or Mint) for the UK? Are the problems technical, regulatory, or with customers? Could the RSA do something here? Perhaps someone with more understanding from today’s BarCampBankLondon could shed some light…