Why isn’t online banking better?

How could I better manage my finances? Couldn’t my bank help me? A first step must be to better understand how I’m actually spending my income, and it strikes me that my online banking should really have a variety of ways of interacting with my financial data by now.

For instance, a single screen that allows viewing of payments made over different timescales, organised by transaction types (ATMs, DDs etc) would be a good first step. Interest calculators and links to different financial products might be another. I’m sure there’s all sorts of personal accounting tools that could usefully, and relatively easily, be built into online banking interfaces.

So why haven’t they? There might be some obvious questions of what would make it worth it for the banks, but then it could be an advantage of paid for ‘premium’ accounts, or perhaps used by the banks to help sell their products. I suspect that one important reason is the way that banks’ IT departments have typically approached the web: i.e. to think in terms of transactions rather than data. The obvious boon to the banks is to reduce reliance on branches and increase automation – clearly a very strong trend in the banking sector overall. Because they’re not IT companies though, they don’t think about how the data itself has value to consumers. Technology is often talked about in terms of its inherent effects – we’ve all heard that the internet is revolutionising x, y or z. But what may be more important is the attitudes people bring to the technologies – not just in the sense of how people like or loath particular devices, but more fundamentally in how they think about the organizational processes too. (I’ve written more on attitudes to technology here.) Now if only Google would hurry up and get into banking…

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