Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below.
- PNC Virtual Wallet Adds More Vivid Picture for Joint Account Holders
The promise of personal financial management is to provide account data in a single view — but not all viewers are single. PNC Financial Services Group now allows joint account holders to get a more detailed view of each other’s spending in its Virtual Wallet account, an online product that borrows themes from PFM systems and presents most financial data in a calendar view. “This is a good starting point, but ultimately consumers are telling us in our surveys that they want to have a single place to see everything,” said Mark Schwanhausser, a senior analyst for multichannel financial services at Javelin Strategy and Research in Pleasanton, Calif. He said one of the drawbacks of the Virtual Wallet is that it only lets consumers see information about accounts held at PNC. Many PFM providers let consumers view accounts from multiple banks. “What would really benefit consumers would be being able to view not just the joint accounts at PNC, but elsewhere,” Schwanhausser said. In that scenario, PNC would become more of a financial portal supporting a total picture of family finances.
Wells Fargo & Co. aims to help consumers navigate their finances more easily with its My Money Map personal financial management system… The new service provides a dashboard view of a consumer’s financial picture using data from Wells accounts… Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group in Boston, said that “from a functionality perspective,” Wells isn’t “leapfrogging,” it’s “just catching up” by adding unity to its PFM tools. Third-party vendors’ products such as Intuit’s Mint are still far more robust, and banks have to play catch-up to interest consumers in their own PFM products, Shevlin said. Third-party PFM vendors said centralizing information in an easy-to-read format was critical, and it would help provide a closer relationship between banks and their customers. “If a bank helps a customer see and act on all their financial information in one place, regardless of the source, the bank is in a strong position to deliver relevant and meaningful insights that help customers make better financial decisions,” said Albert Ko, senior vice president of consumer solutions for Intuit’s Financial Services unit. Solidifying and consolidating financial relationships creates “more opportunities for cross-sell and, ultimately, improved profit per customer,” Ko said.
- WikiLeaks, Amazon & You: Will Banks Hesitate in the Cloud?
Forgetting for now the political fallout, the WikiLeaks affair has evolved into one with major business implications for the financial services industry. First, and covered elsewhere in today’s American Banker, is the ‘information war’ that’s erupted, with WikiLeaks’ guerrilla supporters inflicting collateral damage on enemies like MasterCard, Visa and PayPal. Second, and with longer-term ramifications for innovation and efficiency in financial services technology, are the risks raised in Amazon’s—reportedly Sen. Lieberman-induced—decision to cut off WikiLeak’s access to Amazon’s cloud-based servers… Until now, most large-bank CIOs have been skittish about taking advantage of the cheap and vast computing powers that reside in the cloud, testing the waters first with software development functions and non-core systems like HR. Smaller banks have taken the leap much more readily, as they’re increasingly reliant on outsourced applications and vendors.
- Strings attached to ‘free’ checking
The days of free checking accounts in America are waning. New laws that reduce overdraft fees and the charges that banks impose on merchants for handling transactions are cutting deep into bank revenues, prompting many financial institutions to add charges or extra conditions on their checking accounts. The portion of checking accounts offered by banks for “free,” with no monthly service charge or minimum balance, fell from 76% last year to 65% this year, according to a new national study of big banks by the website Bankrate.com. That means customers will have to shop more carefully — and figure out what their financial needs and habits really are — to get checking-related services free or at low cost, consumer advocates say.
- Big Citi thinks small New NYC branch goes for community bank feel Includes high-tech lounge, concierge desk
Citibank’s newest branch in Manhattan offers a bit of razzle and a bunch of dazzle to customers at the south end of Union Square, but the philosophy behind it isn’t much different from that of smaller community banks that have siphoned customers away from large banks since the financial collapse two years ago. Behind the snazzy new branch’s iPad-like touch screens, its Wi-Fi-equipped lounge, its media wall and its video link to customer service is a conscious effort to create the feel of a community bank, said Billy Cho, manager of the new branch and a Citibank senior vice president. ” Read more
- More consumers using cell phones to manage money
Cathy Majka of North Huntington hasn’t been inside a bank branch in at least eight months — not because she detests her bank or has no money to manage. “I use my smartphone at least once a day to do some kind of banking,” said Majka, 38, who made the rare visit to USAA Federal Savings Bank just to ask about an investment. “If I want to transfer funds from my money market account to my checking, I just get on my iPhone and do it. As soon as I get a bill, I get on the phone and pay it.” Majka is one of a growing number of consumers turning to mobile banking, or banking by smartphone. It enables customers to access their bank accounts by either downloading software applications into their smartphones, using them to visit the bank’s website or using their smartphones to access accounts by texting. Mobile banking is the latest in a decades-long succession of industry innovations meant to make banking more convenient.
- Top 10 SMB Tech Tools of 2010
In 2010, it felt like the flurry of new startups and Web tools only accelerated, with more and more products popping up every week. For business owners, it’s not always easy to stay on top of it all, let alone take each of these new offerings for a spin to see if they’re worth using. As 2011 approaches, ReadWriteWeb takes a look back at 10 of the last year’s most useful or promising Web tools for small and medium-sized businesses, including InDinero, launched in early July and is a real-time financial dashboard for companies. The Y Combinator-backed startup is led by 20-year-old Jessica Mah, who got the idea for InDinero while she was selling items on eBay in middle school. InDinero is free for up to 50 transactions per month, $29.95 for up to 500, and $99.95 for an unlimited number of monthly transactions.