BankSimple, the most-hyped pre-launch web application in the nerd-o-sphere, is about to make its web-only personal banking service available to its first customers. An incredibly ambitious little project that promises no surprise fees, hot web design and real time data processing, BankSimple is very eagerly anticipated. Today the company released a video demo of its web interface and the feedback has been enthusiastically positive.
We wrote in-depth about BankSimple and its position relative the rest of the changing bank tech world in an article last month that CEO Joshua Reich called the best write-up yet of the team's real aims. Now we're excited to see what the interface actually looks like. The video is embedded below.
Below, BankSimple's first demo video. View full screen for better detail.
Here's how CEO Reich described BankSimple for our August profile.
Reich says that many of his competitors are thinking about remaking banking only as deep as a thin layer of visual interface. "They don't do anything that fixes the foundation of the bank," he says.
"These banks are built on decades-old batch processing systems. They may improve the appearance, but it's not improving the fidelity of the data. Customers have a lot of questions about their data and banks make it hard to answer those questions because of things like a lack of real time data and annotation.
"When you swipe a card at the store today, the merchant sends a message through the Visa or Mastercard network and it arrives at your bank within a second with up to 120 fields of information included. They know your location, which terminal of a store you're in, whether you're in the pharmacy section of a Walmart or the register section. They know what category of transaction it is. They have a hugely rich corpus of information about every transaction and they just throw it out. All the bank cares about from a balance perspective is whether the transaction can be paid for.
"This was all designed when storage was expensive and real time processing wasn't the norm. We [BankSimple] keep all that information; storage is cheap and we do it all in real time. We correlate things with Simplegeo so we know what kind of store it is. We have really powerful search, all fast because it's done browser side. You can say coffee last week in New York and see all the maps and all the details like how much you spent on coffee vs lunch that week. All this information makes people feel less anxious about their money."
Prior to co-founding BankSimple, Reich ran a think tank focused on "basic research that develops fundamental models for understanding the environment in which a firm operates and how to question the unknown."
Reich says that while some big banks are talking about far-out ideas like 3D bank statements, his company is focusing on the basics of User Experience design, typography and making it easy to leverage feedback loops with your purchasing data.
"People turn to tools like Quicken, Mint or Wesabe because they have questions about their money - but there are huge barriers to getting those working right," he says. "So you'll only ask really important questions at times like like tax season. But on some random Thursday, you might be curious about something. If you know how difficult it is to ask that question - you won't. As a result, people have all these unanswered questions and that just makes them more anxious about their money."
Although interest is strong, if not overwhelming, critical questions about BankSimple's approach remain. They include worries over security and potential sale of customer data. It will be interesting to see if a lot of people are willing to switch to a web-only startup bank.