Social Banking: The Upcoming Phenomenon?

Spain’s CaixaBank bills itself as the leading financial group in its market for both banking and insurance. It’s also just become quite interesting for another reason: It claims to be the first bank in Europe to develop and release a Facebook app that allows enables customers to check bank accounts and even conduct transactions via the world’s biggest social network. And just to draw a little more mileage out of the innovation, the institution will also support small donations to specific charities with this method.

All in all, this is a relatively small deal for now, but what are the chances it will get bigger in the near future? Here’s a hint: The bank will soon extend these services to include other operations, such as person-to-person payments, according to the bank. Other institutions are jumping on the bandwagon too: The ‘Pockets’ service from India’s ICICI Bank (incidentally also billed as a first of its kind) lets customers perform a range of services on this platform, from tracking accounts to sending money to ‘friends.’

Moving west a little, the banking industry in Ireland is also watching Facebook closely, but for somewhat different reasons. This is because just this spring, the global behemoth formally applied for a license from the nation’s central bank to become an e-money institution, giving it the power to issue its own currency. What this means exactly is still a little fuzzy, but some see it as perhaps a more legitimate version of Bitcoin. Speculation has it that the company will focus on remittances, a gigantic market in serious need of transformation.

For the record, even a corporation as traditional as Wal-Mart recently launched a service that enables unbanked consumers to transfer money. While that could worry Western Union, it’s likely a niche service for a niche market. Facebook, however, is another beast altogether—with its global reach and instant access, even a minor nudge could shake the foundations of the banking industry.

Facebook’s attempted strides into the financial services industry, however tentative, have been explored on this blog before, specifically with regard to Facebook Credits. That refers to the virtual currency members can use to buy virtual goods in any games or apps of the Facebook platform that accept payments. Even without getting extensive coverage, the practice earned prominent mention in the company’s IPO filing.

More recently, the company appears to have been moving away that strategy and towards money. In fact, it has been quite active for some time now in helping application developers work on payment processes that uses local currencies. In other words, like many good innovators, it has been hedging its best.

But if that’s what Facebook is doing, what are corporations on the financial services side doing to ensure they don’t come out on the losing end?

It’s easy to see why social media in general could be a boon for communications and a headache for everything else. J.P. Morgan, for example, recently fielded hundreds of angry Tweets after putting in place policies to identify potentially risky transactions. The thinking is that in the old days, when customers had to actually go online, or even draft a letter, when making a compliant, there were fewer complaints; now, when it can be done with a few stabs on the smartphone, there are far more coming in, and each expects a response.

Sure, most predictions about user adoption of new technologies turn out to be wrong. We have no idea which innovation will take off, what changes it will induce. But it’s probably safe to say that the army of social media channels, including Facebook, has changed everything, and it will change banking. Facebook is clearly doing its part to speed the process, and some banks are doing theirs. But are there many that should be doing more?

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/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of Graur Codrin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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?

Why Banking Needs Even More Disruption

Question MarksThere’s no question that in our business we’ve seen more than a few ‘disruptive’ technologies. You could even argue that the entire industry has become conditioned to the notion of disruption—every day, it seems, there’s a new startup, a new device, a new paradigm, and of course a flood of new apps, all designed to make life easier for professionals and consumers alike. All of these inventions have done their part to move the industry forward.

But what if the changes don’t go far enough?

What if many of the innovations don’t reinvent the industry as much as they refine existing capabilities? What if the new technologies we marvel at are time-savers (which is surely a good thing) more than game-changers?  What if basic functionality has gotten much easier but is still too hard?

There have surely been ground-breaking advances along the way. A number of online-only banks have sprung up to offer services that are both more varied and less costly than some of their traditional counterparts, ramping up competition in the process. A full roster of mobile applications from startups and multinationals alike has changed consumers’ core perceptions of day-to-day money management. Mint.com helped shift the landscape with technology that identifies and organizes transactions made in virtually any account, boosted by search algorithm that finds personalized savings opportunities.

Simple logo

BBVA recently announced a deal to acquire startup Simple. Image source: Gizmodo.com

The innovation isn’t letting up anytime soon, and the money is there to support it. Just last week, BBVA, a Spain-based multinational whose U.S. subsidiary Compass operates close to 700 branches, announced a deal to acquire Simple, a fledgling venture that has taken numerous apps to market. By itself, the deal is not exactly gigantic—the $117 million price tag is puny compared to, say, the $19 billion that Facebook is willing to shell out for What’sApp.  (Now there’s a deal that’s got many marketers scratching their heads.)  But the Simple acquisition is interesting for a number of reasons.

First, Simple is not a bank in any sense, in fact, it doesn’t even hold customer accounts. (That function is currently managed by Bancorp, though BBVA will eventually take it over.) More interestingly, perhaps, Simple is essentially built on the notion that traditional banks do things wrong. Its founders have been loudly critical of existing practices, which is why they don’t charge fees but instead create services around data-driven behavioral patterns.

The key belief here is that while banks are content to show consumers what they have left in their checking accounts, those same consumers must also do mental gymnastics to incorporate factors such as rent and groceries before deciding what they can actually spend. Simple’s services helps with that thinking, and will in turn propel changes in end-user behavior. Moving forward, these are the kinds of innovations that the market will demand.

Some industry professionals are making the case to go even further. Aman Narain, global head of digital banking at Standard Chartered, stresses that insight into current finances does not by itself enable action. So what actually might help?

Imagine a personal finance application that estimates a user is spending too much on cabs when it rains, automatically checks the weather, and makes a recommendation via the mobile device to carry an umbrella or raincoat. There are endless possibilities: It could match financial information with health concerns to guide decisions at a grocery store or a restaurant.

Yes, the Big Brother aspect to all this is obvious. It’s a little intimidating to think that the smartphone, in its own way the most personalized computer ever, could be so personal as to make the best decisions about what we spend money on, entirely based on our own best interests. Yet that’s exactly how the best technology works—it doesn’t make decisions for us, but it changes the way we make decisions. And those products have a much, much bigger and better memory than we do.

In our business, the core product is money—it’s personal, visceral and vital, and it helps enable the acquisition of every other product. That makes comparisons to advances in other industries seem like a stretch. Our industry has good reason to be proud of the innovations we’ve taken to market. We’ve come a long way. But we can, and must, go much further.

Innovation: Both Homegrown and Outsourced

Let’s put it out there: The banking industry is rising to the many challenges it currently faces, and the key to that ascension is innovation. One clear indication comes from the new report Innovation in Retail Banking 2013, commissioned by IT services conglomerate Infosys and conducted by the European Financial Management & Marketing Association (EFMA), which features a raft of good news.

The study, which surveyed 148 banks in 66 countries, shows that retail institutions around the world are systematically investing in innovation specifically to boost revenue and cut costs. A remarkable 60% of the banks now actually have an innovation strategy, compared to only 37% five years ago. Among other highlights, more than half (58%) say their deployment of new systems will have a positive impact on their ability to innovate even further, 69% are making moves into mobile location-based offerings, and 61% are working on enabling customers to do some form of product personalization. And of course, 77% already have in place or are working on a mobile wallet solution.

What’s just as interesting, however, is how all this innovation is coming into the organization. For example, Denver’s FirstBank is about to become the first regional U.S. bank to launch mobile photo bill pay. But the $13 billion institution, which has  more than 115 locations in both Colorado and neighboring states, didn’t outsource the development of its technology—with 12% of its employee base working in IT, the company developed its own core banking software and 12% of its employee base of about 2,100 works in IT. FirstBank sees this as a competitive advantage, and a way to move fast in response to market demands.

On the other hand, there’s Tioga-Franklin Savings Bank, which has a 140-year history in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. The institution has long prided itself on its reputation for stability, but it has more recently recognized that there must also be change—its numerous manual processes required a major transformation in order to stay competitive. So, after a year-long search, Tioga-Franklin—the bastion of tradition—signed on with Data Center Inc. (DCI), of Hutchinson, Kansas, the force behind the iCore360 core banking software. The bank is now looking forward to significant enhancements in organizational efficiencies through workflow automation and regulatory simplification.

The big picture on change through innovation offers an even more diverse view. One interesting point: as noted in a recent column on the ABA Banking Journal, a remarkable amount of the real innovation seems to be happening in less developed markets.  Many market analyses make the same point.

For example, a broad study from consulting firm BearingPoint found that emerging economies are twice as efficient at innovating as their more developed counterparts. Similarly, PriceWaterhouse Coopers says that U.S. companies are certainly tracking with the shift in innovation strategy, but most pioneers in its study are actually not U.S. companies.

Finally, a contest launched by Accenture and EFMA to find winners of their inaugural global distribution and marketing innovation awards for retail banks handed out plaudits to entries from, among other markets, Nykredit in Denmark, Hana Bank in Korea, BRE Bank in Poland and Aktifbank in Turkey.

It’s not as if in the new world, all the rulebooks should be thrown out. In fact, we still should value industry best practices and see how they apply to us. But there’s also no question that at least some of the rules are changing, and we need to keep pace. Just think who our next great rival might be: Wal-Mart (which officially gave up the banking chase in 2007), Amazon (which clearly has many irons in the fire), Facebook (which has even more), some tiny technology startup, or someone different from all of the above.

In this competitive and rapidly evolving competitive environment, we know that innovation is both the best defense and the best offense. Where that innovation comes from, however, is a different question altogether.

What All Financial Institutions Should Do on Social: Q&A with Sprinklr CEO

Reports claim that financial institutions are struggling on social. But why? Many brands in other industries have found creative ways to use social media to solve customer service woes, create deeper touch-points with users and keep members apprised of important information. To gain more insight on ways banks and credit unions can ramp up their social cred, we recently spoke with Ragy Thomas, founder and CEO of Sprinklr, a social relationship infrastructure company. Ragy shares his insight with us on what FIs are doing wrong, how they fix some of their biggest problems and banks and credit unions to look up to.

Ragy Thomas Sprinklr CEO

Banking.com: According to CEB TowerGroup, 65% of banks have plans to replace or adopt social networking management technology. Why do you think there is such a need to change services or adopt new ones?

Previous generations of social management technologies and solutions were designed to achieve single-issue “point” solutions, fulfilling one or two social needs such as social publishing or social analytics.

Unfortunately, their inability to work together, or solve for the many other needs mature social management requires (e.g., social engagement, compliance, workflow, listening, governance, etc.) now renders point solutions insufficient.

As in the case of other cross-department infrastructures such as CRM or knowledge management, brands need a true social infrastructure. Financial institutions are realizing they need a single, interconnected infrastructure to effectively manage conversations, campaigns, content and community at scale. They need to be able to collaborate as a team to create a unified customer experience across all channels.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for financial institutions on social?

Compliance, security and privacy are still big challenges for financial institutions when it comes to social.  To go into more depth though, people now expect every brand to know who they are, regardless of which “division” within the brand they connect with. This paradigm is particularly stressful for financial institutions, perhaps more than any other industry, who typically suffer from “business inertia” — internal departmental, divisional, and locational business groups that typically don’t work together smoothly.

Inter-departmental friction flies in the face of arguably the sharpest disruption social has created — the expectation among consumers for a “unified experience.” Regardless of whether they are talking to a teller at the branch, on the phone with customer service, or tweeting out their frustrations, people want to be recognized and cared for as individuals in a personal manner. This comes into play especially when it comes to the extreme sensitivities associated with financial matters. When internal systems are not aligned and don’t “talk” to each other, and internal divisions are not encouraged or rewarded for collaboration to meet customer expectations, customer satisfaction is likely a difficult goal to achieve.

To truly support the “omni channel customer and journey,” banks have to collaborate across teams, departments and divisions. They need to create new processes, and define “ownership” across the breadth and depth of a person’s entire brand journey. This is unfamiliar territory for most banks, with lots of land mines along the way. Given that the volume and pace of social conversations is only likely to increase in the future, the pressure to quickly put together a solution is acute.

Social can be a powerful lever for nurturing unified relationships and generating long-term, meaningful engagement. Every meaningful social conversation can be nurtured into a real relationship that can, over time, become a direct revenue opportunity, positive word-of-mouth, or direct referral. Used effectively, social can become a cost-effective lead generation and activation channel for banks. To start, banks need to build a contextually unified profile for every prospect and customer, the foundation of which is a comprehensive conversation history — combining interactions from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, etc. With these individual histories, banks will know exactly what has been discussed with each prospect or customer, and will have clear indicators for how to nurture relationships through social interaction.

What would you suggest as the best tactic for financial institutions when responding to negative banking experiences online?

Financial institutions need to be able to admit when something has been handled poorly and rectify it immediately. Additionally, banks must be empathetic and be willing to listen to and trust their customers. As an industry that previously championed process-based decision making, this is a radical change.

If financial institutions were to change one thing today about how they use social networks, what would it be?

Create a cross business unit team that can be an advocate for optimizing client experience across channels, teams, departments, divisions and locations. This can be headed by the chief client experience (social) officer who can champion the transformation to being a social business.

Is there an example or a few examples of banks and credit unions that are really nailing it on social?

Navy Federal Credit Union provides a great example of a financial services company that has employed a mature, holistic approach to social engagement. They intently listen to their social communities, and know which customers spend more and more time on social. As a result, NFCU today provides 24/7 customer service and have an SLA response time of less than one hour. Since 60% of their members log on to social through mobile, they also now make sure new apps work seamlessly on any mobile device.

Another example is Citibank, which serves more than 100 million customers in 40 countries. With more than a million of those customers following their social channels, there were a lot of conversations happening around the brand and it was hard to keep track of them. Citi adopted a social relationship infrastructure approach to help them provide better customer service through social. As a result, the banking giant was able to save roughly 20% of their community manager’s time that was previously devoted to customer service issues. They are now able to optimize resources to social engagement, where they are committed to creating meaningful conversations and escalating customer issues to the right people.

What these two brands have in common is that they use social to enhance the customer experience and make their lives easier. That’s what all brands should aim to do through social.

 

What We’re Reading: Underbanked, Mobile Game App, DDoS

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 or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

  • They May Be Underbanked, But They’re Highly Networked

American Banker

A remarkable 68 million Americans today lack full access to traditional financial services, such as a bank account or credit card, or choose not to use them. Interestingly, though, these financially underserved individuals are far from disconnected. They are actually more active users of mobile phones and social media than the population at large. The vast majority of the so-called “underbanked” are highly networked, using their mobile devices to connect via social media, purchase goods online and, increasingly, conduct financial transactions.

Read more

  • BB&T Teaches Leadership Creed with Mobile Game App

Bank Systems and Technology

The Winston-Salem, N.C., bank released a mobile app this month called Legacy: A BB&T Leadership Challenge, in which users play the role of a medieval hero enlisted by King Alpheus to help the land of Failburg succeed. (The king is named after BB&T founder Alpheus Branch.) Players gain influence – and proceed to the next level of the game – depending on how they interact with the characters.

Read more

  • Biometrics Has Potential in Mobile Banking Apps

Barlow Research

Apple finally delivered on its much hyped biometric capabilities in September when it released its new iPhone 5S with a built in fingerprint identity sensor, Touch ID. It had been rumored to be in the works for several years and the public was finally able to view how the finger printing technology works. Touch ID has some great benefits; it is a user-friendly way to let users get to their information quicker and it also allows a fingerprint to authorize a purchase from the iTunes or App store. These two capabilities have potential for the future of mobile banking apps.

Read more 

  • DDoS Growing; CUs Unprepared

Credit Union Times

The DDoS threat keeps growing. Third-party experts and credit union executives—primarily speaking anonymously on the subject—said most credit unions have done nothing to protect themselves against the threat, which has been increasingly linked with theft of funds at financial institutions. “They are remarkably naive,” said an expert, who asked to remain anonymous, of credit unions. Added a senior engineer at a Northeast credit union with more than $500 million in assets, who also requested anonymity, “We haven’t had any outages and we haven’t installed any new defenses.”

Read more

  • Top 100 Banks & Credit Unions Adding The Most New Facebook Likes

Financial Brand

The top 100 banks and credit unions on Facebook ranked by their new ‘Likes’ in the last 90 days through September 2013.

Read more

  • Executives see no letup in mobile trend

Miami Herald

There are 7 billion activated cellphones worldwide, about the same as the population. About 6 billion hours of video are accessed on YouTube every month. Of that, 70 percent is from outside the United States; 25 percent is accessed on mobile devices. On Friday morning, panelists at WorldCity’s Tech Connections event — executives Marcelo Caputo of Telefonica, Jose Antonio Rios of Celistics, Mark Hans-Joachim Crofton of SAP, Juanjo Duran of YouTube and Richard Wadsworth of MasterCard Worldwide — shared these numbers as well as a glimpse into the future. The consensus: There will be no letup in the speed of mobility or big data, particularly in Latin America.

Read more

What We’re Reading: Customer Surveys, Cloud, Big Data

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 or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

 

  • What’s new is what’s happening

ABA Banking Journal

It’s big deal when your company is named in a list of the “world’s top 100” anything, and it’s a really big deal when your company is listed on Forbes’ “World’s 100 Most Innovative Companies.” So the people at FIS—or more specifically, Fidelity National Information Services—should rightly feel pretty good about their recent placement on this very list, at the 98th spot. It’s the only U.S. financial technology provider there, which includes such other companies as Apple, at a surprisingly distant No. 79, Pepsi, at No. 58, and Google, at No. 47.

Read more

  • Bank Fees Rankle Otherwise Satisfied Customers: Survey

American Banker 

Checking account fees may help banks pad revenue, but a new survey suggests that ATM and overdraft charges can send customers running. Over a third of Americans said they would be very or extremely likely to switch banks to avoid paying fees on their checking accounts, according to TD Bank’s inaugural survey of more than 3,000 consumers. In fact, 14% of respondents have already moved their business for those reasons. Some types of charges aggravate customers more than others; 38% of respondents said that nonbank ATM fees were the most frustrating type of charge. Another 27% awarded that dubious honor to overdraft charges. Just 13% picked minimum balance fees as the most annoying type of charge.

Read more

  • Microsoft and Nokia: What Kind of Marriage Will It Be?

Celent Banking Blog

Microsoft announced that it has purchased Nokia’s mobile phone business. According to the announcement, “Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will pay EUR 3.79 billion to purchase substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, and EUR 1.65 billion to license Nokia’s patents, for a total transaction price of EUR 5.44 billion in cash.” Both companies have been struggling to adapt to changes in mobile computing – Nokia has lost its leadership in handsets, and Microsoft was rather late in announcing its latest Windows mobile operating system, which remains a distant third to Apple and Android.

Read more

  • ‘Stache & Save’ Helps Kinecta Connect On Facebook

Credit Union Journal

Kinecta FCU here boosted its Facebook engagement by using mustaches and an online slot machine. Kinecta launched it “Stache & Save” campaign as a way to increase engagement on its Facebook page and grow its number of likes. To do so, it created an online slot machine, and when users pulled the digital handle, it rotated through three different mustaches. Three matches made for an instant winner of a $50 gift certificate and was entered into a drawing for a $2,500 gift certificate.

Read more

  • Big Data and Payments Drive Loyalty in Business Banking.

Finextra

In the ‘consumer edition’ of the blog it was suggested that banks can reinvigorate their payments brand and influence customer loyalty by integrating incentives and offers to their payments solutions. The premise is that banks are missing out on an opportunity to become more influential in where people shop and what they buy, rather than just how they pay. Offers can be driven by analytics into a combination of historical payments information and big data analysis of demographics, location positioning and peer group analysis. Such a strategy requires more than an offers solution, or a mobile banking app.

Read more

  • The Path to Innovation Goes Through the Cloud

Huffington Post

As cloud adoption reaches the tipping point, some sectors are seeing newer market entrants threatening to overtake legacy players mired in tradition. Gartner predicts that the worldwide cloud services market will grow 18.5 percent in 2013 to total $131 billion, up from $111 billion in 2012. Yet, many of the world’s oldest professions such as accounting, legal and banking have been slow to tap the cloud to make it rain. The flexibility of cloud computing – being able to try before you buy, scale easily and use the device that suits you – allow savvy businesses to respond quickly to market trends and demands.

Read more

  • 6 Tips for Safer Smartphone Banking

TIME.com

More than half of American adults have a smartphone today, and more of us are using them to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks and conduct other banking business. Luckily, experts say there are steps that even non-technophiles can easily take to safeguard sensitive information. Password-protect your phone. Stay off public wi-fi networks. Use the bank’s app. Don’t save your log-in data. Keep up with updates. Log off when you’re done.

Read more

Infographic: Top National Banks on Social Media

The financial services sector may have been slower to adopt social media, but in the past few years, many of the top banks have not only embraced social, but amassed a large following. ViralHeat compiled data on large national banks using social media to see who has the strongest social presence. The breakdown is highlighted in the infographic below.

Top National Banks on Social Media

by Viralheat.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

Are Your Friends Creditworthy?

How many friends do you have? Are they really friends? And does that same standard apply to your Facebook friends? Think hard, because your answers to those questions could spell the difference between you getting a loan, and not getting a loan.

It was bound to happen eventually. We all know how our use of social media leads to the creation of mountains of data about each of us. Marketers look at all that data to decide which commercial messages are most appropriate. Political campaigns analyze meta tags from Tweets to decide whether we’re swing voters, and which ads we should get. And now, we’re beginning to learn how bankers are combing through Facebook relationships to help gauge creditworthiness. On a related front, a growing number of tech startups is coming up with tools and methodologies to meet this need.

Let’s back up a second. How did we get from FICO to Facebook? What exactly do social networks have to do with loan applications?

Quite a lot, it turns out. The belief is that we typically connect with like-minded people, good or bad. In ye olden days, that meant asking for references from friends and family. Now, technology plays that role. Hence, if you have Facebook friends who defaulted on their loans, and if you interact with them on a regular basis, you might be the type to default too.

The companies offering these services see their mission in a more positive light. Lenddo, for example, says it helps the emerging middle class use social connections to build their creditworthiness and access financial services. However, could the same information be used to block a loan?

It was only a few years before Mark Zuckerberg dreamed up the almighty Facebook that British anthropologist Robin Dunbar developed what we know as Dunbar’s Number. Using research conducted on primates and building on the size of the average human brain, the theory suggests that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom any individual can maintain social relationships. Dunbar posited that the number is about 150.

Random as it sounds, the figure comes up at numerous points throughout history. From Roman military history on down, the smallest autonomous military unit, the company, has typically been capped at 150 soldiers. Neolithic farming villages peaked at 150 members. Hutterite communities historically split when they reached 150.

For the record, Dunbar’s influence is now being recognized throughout the tech world. The Facebook crowd knows him well, and other firms are using his ideas to fuel their product development for the social media world. It’s why the messaging and photo-sharing service Path specifically limits users to 150 friends.

So maybe it’s a question we need to ask ourselves: Are all those Facebook friends really friends? At best, they might devalue the term; at worst, they could hurt our credit rating.

It’s not only Facebook, of course—as adherents of Big Data know, virtually every kind of online activity generates data points that contributes to the algorithm that computes the eventual credit score. What did you buy off eBay? What kinds of things do you get from Amazon? How active are you on PayPal? Who do you follow on Twitter?

To be sure, the genie is not going back in the bottle. Any given service we use regularly now might fall off our radar tomorrow (think MySpace), but the basic premise of social networking, and the behavioral changes the practice has induced, are here to stay. It’s unfortunate that a random re-Tweet or Facebook post can have such severe consequences. It’s also the reality.

Social Media Statistics: By-the-Numbers, May 2013

Below are some interesting statistics on social media usage. Feel free to share your favorite social media statistics in the comments section or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

  • 500,000,000: The number of photos uploaded and shared per day in 2013. (Source: KPCB)
  • 442,000,000: The number of views per month generated by the top 500 brands on YouTube. (Source: Outrigger Media)
  • 50,000,000: The number of unique visitors per month to the Foursquare website. (Source: Foursquare)
  • 6,000,000,000: Hours of YouTube video watched per month. (Source: YouTube)
  • 5: The number of Vine videos shared every second on Twitter. (Source: Unruly)
  • 24: The percentage of online teens that use Twitter, up from 16 percent in 2011. (Source: Pew Internet)
  • 150: The number of times the typical smart phone user checks their phone per day. (Source: KPCB)
  • 645,000,000: Views of local business Facebook Pages during an average week. (Source: Facebook)

Does your financial institution use Pinterest? Here are three creative ways brands are utilizing the site from Social Media Examiner.

Social Media Chatter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of nattavut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net