This Week’s Reads: Digital Channels, Cause & Effect, Millennials

Below are interesting stories the staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

The Next Wave of Digital Money Transfer

Money, technology and accounting in real time—with all deference to spiritual learnings, that might just be the mantra for modern life. At the very least, it makes for a potent brew that says a lot about how we do just about everything we do.

Image courtesty of Graur Codrin/

Image courtesy of Graur Codrin/

The trinity is in the news in our industry because late in March, mobile payment and merchant services provider Square launched a new integration program with accounting software specialist Xero. Built around a new API (application programming interface), the deal enables transaction data from Square to be fed directly into financial records managed by Xero. That’s a big market and growing: Xero claims 200,000 paying customers in more than 100 countries, with a cloud platform approach that allows a wide range of business applications—from large companies like ADP and PayPal to new entries—to be integrated easily into the ledgers of Xero users.

Of course, in many ways, that’s exactly what Quickbooks does too. Which is why, when the most recent version of Quickbooks was released last fall, owner Intuit also announced a major partnership with Square. That deal, which formally launched a few weeks later, is specifically designed to help small businesses that use the mobile payment service to automatically feed data from those transactions into their books. By all accounts, the arrangement has proved quite successful.

As observers have been quick to point out, these companies are competing furiously with each other. For example, Xero has a Quickbooks conversion service to draw users from its desktop rival, and Intuit has launched Quickbooks Online as its own cloud-based alternative. Meanwhile, Square is increasingly branching into other accounting-related services.

While the market has been waiting for options such as Facebook Credits and Amazon Coins to gain traction, Square is putting its money—in a sense literally—where its reputation is with Square Cash. This is not really another form of currency, per se, but it does represent another form of financial flexibility in the digital era. With this personal payment app, users can ‘email money’ to other individuals with nothing more than a debit card.

For the record, plenty of other companies offer similar services. Larger entities like PayPal and Google allow person-to-person payments, and as in every other category, there are newer entries like Dwolla and Ribbon are also in the mix. And let’s not forget clearXchange, the consortium created by Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase. This is clearly a work in progress: Capital One just joined, but founding member Chase has yet to come online.

And that’s really the problem in a nutshell. This is a market that exhibits all the characteristics of the technology sector—it moves forward at warp speed, seemingly solid players get nudged aside by startups, fierce competitors find ways to cooperate with each other, fickle users constantly change in their behaviors and tastes, and products go from killer app to legacy in a heartbeat. Meanwhile, banking industry giants seem to be just lumbering along—a consortium with huge names that makes more of a ripple than a splash.

Why does so much of the really exciting stuff always come from the technology side? Why do innovations from the banking industry never seem innovative enough?

It’s not as if tech companies will be replacing banks anytime soon. The barrier to entry on that side of the fence is much lower, hence there’s more experimentation, and as a result more successes (and more failures). What they do enables us to do what we do—nothing more, nothing less.

But remember, much of the customer base is now made up of a generation that never goes inside a bank branch, has precious little brand loyalty and expects instant digital gratification in every sphere of life, work and play. Other industries such as retail and music have had their very existence undermined by these tectonic shifts, some of which they never saw coming. Our world keeps changing too. Are we changing enough, and fast enough?

How Bitcoin has Gotten Involved in Property – Three Interesting Tales

Bitcoin has been hitting the headlines a lot of late and becoming an increasingly common form of transaction.

Of course, one of the most intriguing things about the currency is the significant accumulation of worth. In the last 12 months it has hit highs of 1,000% of its 2012 value. On the way there’s been a real rags to riches story, many of which seem almost akin to the gold rush or oil prospecting of the 20th century. We’ve heard all sorts of stories of people who purchased the crypto currency a few years ago end up with millions made from a few dollars.

Along the way we’ve seen a number of people that have accumulated large sums of money, use Bitcoin to invest in property. This has led to a number of interesting and intriguing – so let’s have a look at the Bitcoin property tales.



Norway has done well throughout the economic malaise the rest of the world found itself in the throes of. However, it didn’t stop a Norwegian man Kristoffer Koch put $22 into Bitcoin in 2009. Mr. Koch remembered he had the assets after hearing of the dramatic rise of the currency. Turns out he had over 5,000 Bitcoins and used part of the windfall to purchase an apartment worth a quarter of a million dollars. At current levels he still has millions left over – not a bad call on a $22 investment.

North America

One of the biggest headlines we saw when the currency began making headlines back in March was that of Taylor More. More sold his him for $400,000 in Bitcoin – he received around 5,750 Bitcoins at a cost of around $60 a coin. It was a risk at the time but it’s paid off handsomely and the coins are worth a lot, lot more than the price of the home now. It was a very quick thinking, smart move but a gamble nonetheless. These new millionaires with appreciating assets are the sort of people who can help to buy your house.


China has really taken Bitcoin to its heart – well until recently that is. The Chinese government has stopped its banks from trading the crypto currency and is becoming increasingly stringent on its use. However, before things went a little downhill, the Chinese were investing in Bitcoin and also real estate.

In fact, one real estate development could be purchased in Bitcoins. The Shanda Group was offering Chinese people the chance to purchase apartments from its 300 unit block for one Bitcoin to 1,000CNY. This resulted in plenty of Chinese offloading Bitcoins and though the value of the Bitcoins went up afterwards they have fallen since and the developer will have lost out significantly. It’s a quite obvious showing of the gamble Bitcoin investment is.

However, it was a bit of a watermark moment as it was the first time the currency was used en-mass to purchase property.


Bitcoin is an interesting idea and one that’s set to cause plenty more news in the property market and also in the world of finance and investment. It’s been used for a number of interesting areas and though it may not be the future of money, it’s certainly intriguing nonetheless.


Cormac Reynolds has written for a number of sites and is a strong believer in Bitcoin and it as a means of transaction for property among other areas.  

Digital disruption: Are banks ready for the upcoming challenges?

In all spheres of the banking industry, that one thing that is inherent in them all is the risk and coming challenges for banks – digital disruption. No matter on what topic of banking one discusses such as revamped branch banking or incorporating the voice of consumer and employee, in more ways than one he or she will actually refer to the digital disruption trend that is giving birth to many of those opportunities and challenges.

In all these years, it has already been witnessed, how digitally-driven industries can succumb to disruptions like television, newspapers and publishing. More, those same disruptions in some tangible ways have affected the financial industry as well – much earlier than anticipated. This has laid bare the fact that a lot of financial institutions are yet to prepare themselves for the scope and intensity of the impending disruptions.

As far as technology is concerned, organizations across the world have taken huge and applaudable steps. For instance, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies have created Facebook pages, media houses have replaced their source of revenue from print to that of digital one. There is lot to learn for the banks and other financial institutions from these business practices.

Still, these accommodations to capture newer digital realities account for only a fraction of the shifting value. Its pretty difficult to coerce big business organizations to incorporate greater amount of digitization in the way they participate in their respective markets. This is all the more challenging since nobody can confirm from exactly where and when would the next disruption come.  

However, not acting in the living present and lying inert would do more harm than good. This is due to the fact that digital disruptions don’t just devastate evolving technologies, but also how people use various technological devices and platforms. Actually, technological advancements have not only revolutionized the content that are shared, but they’ve also actively started to shape up the manner in which people interact with one another across the continents.

Every little bit of data – like search queries, telephonic conversations, mails, etc – that are exchanged get stored by the help of various technology tools. These tools are such that they can produce as well as utilize information to enhance the different platforms/devices of data exchange. However, the risk of operational setback remains. This would particularly happen because of the large-scale proliferation of data, channels and tools that are active participants in building relationships.

A lot of commenter have notified about the exponential rate of adoption in terms of mobile connectivity. Still, they fall back in talking about the possible implications of such uncontrolled growth of mobile connectivity usage. Even though a part of the global population has been able to take advantage of seamless connections at time and places of their choice, and that many of them think that they’ve experienced disruptions caused by the proliferation of technology, yet in reality they haven’t, not even a bit of it.

Hence, enterprises will have to battle out two-pronged pressure – one from the consumers and the other from the technologists that would direct them to transform themselves. Due to this fact, enterprises will have to understand how they would innovate newer services, control complexity of their systems and risks, connect with their consumer and so on. All these business requirements will depend on how well an enterprise understands the new relationship created by digital disruptions.

Yet, the giant leap will center around general acknowledgement which the banks must respond to. Major changes are about to come, driven by the consumers who feel elated and consider themselves as empowered through new technologies. So, what do these changes imply – a transformative opportunity or an inherent threat? The answer to this question would depend on how efficiently an enterprise can come to terms with digital disruptions.


Stuart Parker is an contributory writer .He is also a financial advisor and guest author for acclaimed blogs. Stuart has been writing for more than five years and helping people to get wise with their money. His interests include attending financial seminars, writing columns related to debt settlement, Debt relief, Debt help and visiting personal finance blogs.

What We’re Reading: Retail Banking, Tech Disruptions and Vine

Below are interesting stories the staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.


  • ‘Consumer Reports’ Offers Tips For Doing Taxes Online

All Things Considered

If you expect to have an adjusted gross income of $57,000 or less, the easiest thing to do is use the IRS website — it has a section called Free File. You can prepare and file your federal income taxes for free with one of 15 companies that have signed up with Free File. If you think you’re going to have an adjusted gross income that’s greater than that, you can use the search engine, type in “tax preparation,” and a number of names should come up. One that everybody might know is TurboTax.

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  • Big Bank Breakups and Tech Disruptions: Predicting the Future of Reform

American Banker

Almost everyone in Washington finds some fault with Dodd-Frank. But rather than making smaller, incremental corrections in the short term, Congress could attempt a more comprehensive fix further down the road. To many, Dodd-Frank, which is meant to apply more regulatory pressure on the largest financial companies, tried correcting problems with Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which made it easier for multiline financial conglomerates to operate. Alternatively, the rush of technological change in financial services could serve as motivation to lawmakers to devise regulatory reforms that keep pace.

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  • Social Media Newbie Regions Bank Aces Facebook, Considers Vine

Bank Investment Consultant

Looking further ahead, Liliana Grip, vice president of social media at Regions Bank has her eye on Vine, a Twitter-owned mobile service that lets users capture and share short looping videos. “We’re trying to figure out how to leverage Vine[…]One concern, and Twitter is addressing this, is there’s a lot of [content] that isn’t consistent with our brand. We need to get through some legal and compliance hurdles.”

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  • Consumer Appetite for Comprehensive, Mobile PFM Grows

Bank Systems & Technology

Javelin estimates only 21 percent of U.S. consumers — or more than 49 million adults — mix and match current PFM features from software like Quicken, online banking, and various websites. However, many of those polled indicated that they wold like a way to view all their account balances in one place, with nearly half prioritizing this feature over all the other PFM services.

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  • What Will Retail Banking Look Like in 2020?

Bank Systems & Technology

Opening a new bank branch used to be a matter of simply choosing a location and building out the structure according to a template design. But today, the definition of “bank branch” is being transformed by technology, competitive dynamics and economic pressures. As reported in Jones Lang LaSalle’s recently published Global Retail Banking 2020 study, up to 50 percent of branches in today’s U.S. bank networks may be declared obsolete — although not necessarily defunct — by 2020. Given that branches constitute 75 percent of a bank’s total retail distribution costs, according to research from Capgemini, implementing smart, technologically savvy retail strategies will be critical to driving shareholder value.

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  • Threat of the Week: DDoS Becoming an Expensive Fact of Life

Credit Union Times

The ceasefire is over. Last week, on Feb. 25, the Cyber Fighters of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam renewed their Distributed Denial of Service attacks against U.S. financial institutions. That included again taking down the websites of two credit unions: the $1.5 billion University FCU in Austin, Texas, and Patelco, the $3.8 billion Pleasanton, Calif., institution. They issued the same demand – removal of an anti-Islam video from YouTube – and said their campaign against financial institutions would continue. What is new is that the conversation about how to respond to the industrial-grade DDoS unleashed by the Cyber Fighters is beginning to shift.

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  • Consumers Want More Practical Online Tools, Portable Bank Account Numbers

Financial Brand

According to a study conducted by BT and YouGov, 61% of banking customers in the U.S. favor portable banking account numbers. When asked which three tools they would most like their bank to provide, customers indicated that they would like to see more sophisticated, more practical online tools — all hosted on the financial institution’s main website. The features most desired by consumers include peer review sections (32%), live chat functionality (23%) and compare-my-bank style services (29%). When asked about which three factors would be the most appealing when considering moving banks, the results were fairly consistent across all countries. Good online banking facilities (39%), the presence of a local branch (45%) and the ability to access banking services 24/7 (29%) were ranked highest.

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  • Consumers remain resistant to digital banking aspirations


A YouGov poll of consumer attitudes to the introduction of portable bank account numbers has unearthed an underlying distrust of social and mobile technologies and a clear preference for human-to-human interaction via the branch, the call centre and the Web. The BT-commissioned poll of 6500 adults from six countries worldwide, found that the majority of consumers in Spain (76%), Hong Kong (70%), France (64%), Germany (61%) and the UK (62%) all agree that a portable identity number – allowing them to switch banks without changing account details – would be useful.

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  • Five High-Tech Trends Driving the Future of Banking

FOX Business

Here are some of the trends driving the future of banking. Customers will soon be gaining more mobile-banking payment and account options. “We’re going to see a lot more and different products, and a richer (banking) experience,” says Brett King, author of “Bank 3.0″ and “Branch Today, Gone Tomorrow. Banks already are rolling out banking software for iPads and tablets and thinking of new ways to structure bank accounts “that are more purpose-built,” with more options for tracking money and ways to make payments, King says.

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FI Spotlight: Travis Credit Union

Travis Credit Union_LOGO

For our most recent FI Spotlight, had the opportunity to speak with Shannon Wilson, e-Marketing Channel Specialist at Travis Credit Union, a $2 billion credit union serving 12 counties in Northern California. Shannon shared some information with us about their 10 Grand For 1 Fan Facebook contest, which encourages Travis Credit Union Facebook Fans to interact with the financial institution. The goal of TCU’s 10 Grand For 1 Fan was inspired by Shannon to take TCU’s online presence to the top of the credit union industry. Of course, we wanted to hear more because, as Shannon said it best, “with 5,258 new Facebook fans in just more than two weeks – what’s not to ‘Like’?”

Shannon Wilson Travis CU



Q: You recently launched your Facebook contest 10 Grand For 1 Fan. Can you give us an overview the contest? What inspired this social media campaign?

Travis Credit Union is consistently ranked among the top 10% of credit unions in the social media space. I thought, “How can we attract a wave of new fans and engage the ones we already have?” Thus, we came up with the idea for followers to enter the 10 Grand For 1 Fan contest. I focused on three elements in this promotion: make it inviting, repeatedly engaging and, of course, measurable.


Q: What has your member response been to the 10 Grand For 1 Fan Giveaway? When will the winners be announced?

TCU members have really begun to interact with us more socially since the promotion was launched. We’ve received several positive comments, creative ideas and member testimonials. To create more enthusiasm during the contest, we’re giving away weekly prizes for the first eight weeks on Monday mornings. Additionally, if the TCU facebook page reaches 50,000 likes by March 31st, 2013, we will give one lucky fan $10,000.

Q: Has membership grown significantly during the campaign? Has it increased engagement on your Facebook page?

Travis Credit Union is seeing a positive growth in its membership due to the social engagement of the campaign. In addition, it has seen growth through all of its social media outlets, with the highest growth on Facebook: a 145% increase in followers and a 99.01% increase in engagement since the promotion began.

Q: Are you looking to drive engagement with your credit union within a certain demographic?

Travis Credit Union is looking to drive engagement with those between the ages of 18-55 years of age. We also want to build a reputation with those younger folks that will be our future members.

Q: Do you see the 10 Grand For 1 Fan Giveaway driving more in-branch users to digital solutions and vice versa?

The end goal of this promotion is ultimately engagement that will lead to the growth of our membership online and into the branches for more complex loan products.

Q: How are you planning to continue to expand your digital banking offerings for members?

Travis Credit Union is always looking ahead to expand our digital banking offerings to our members, including through mobile applications, online loan applications, and other financial services. The goal is to make our products and services as seamless and easy to use as possible for all our members.

Shannon Wilson has 10 years of experience in marketing and is currently driving the online marketing efforts at Travis Credit Union. Mrs. Wilson’s experiences includes: online and social media, search marketing, email and online CRM, online promotions and acquisition, user experience, online conversion, performance based campaigns and the list goes on.


Want to hear more from Travis Credit Union? Follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Think your FI deserves special recognition? Submit your FI here.