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My cause for 2015 - Bank accounts for all!

Now that I find myself running an accelerator in the FinTech space I get asked a lot of questions. 

  • What is the value for the startups?
  • What do the banks get out of it?
  • Are any real projects completed?

I often sit on panels, next to representatives from banks - many of whom have publically invested hundreds of millions of dollars, pounds and euros to 'nail this innovation lark'. They've opened 'innovation labs', set up venture funds and speak publically about how much they *love* blockchain and are planning a hackathon. (nothing says 'I understand all this cool innovative speak' like watching a developer construct a wireframe while eating cold pizza at 3:00 am...on a Saturday).

But I want to take it down a notch. Go back to basics. Return to old fashioned banking - bankers that *know* they aren't an IT company. Those that have never heard of APIs, Clojure or even blockchain.

The people that decide who gets a back account in the UK or not. 

I've written before about the drama that ensues when someone, newly arrived to these Sceptred Isles tries to open a bank account. Nothing much has changed.

Another question I often get is 'Is London the FinTech capital?' (yes, it is <==a blog for another day). However, you can have all the accelerators, innovation labs, 'cool guys in t-shirts trying to make banking suck less' you want in the world - but it will never cement London as a major innovation hub if new startups, who orginiate from outside the UK, can not set up shop and start doing business here. A great mobile secuity solution that reduces fraud rates by 85% (Cybertonica - Startupbootcamp FinTech startup <==shamless plug! :-) will do no bank or PSP any good if they can not pay their staff. And we all know, you need a bank account to pay your staff.

So - my new cause. Bank accounts! Personal bank account! Business bank accounts!

Go on banks - take those £100 million, £1 billion - whatever - you have put aside to 'investigate blockchain' or buy more Post-its and white boards and innovate client onboarding and KYC. (Tradle, KYC on blockchain, SBC FinTech team :-) <==Liz, stop now)

Because before banks can set up a strategy on how to deal with new entrants and startups - they need to have startups available to work with. And having access to a plain old, boring, back to basics bank account is a requirement traditional banking has a responsibility to address. 

Don't block the startups - give them bank accounts now! (trust me, they're all lovely people) 

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Comments: (2)

Jim Wells
Jim Wells - Wellspring Consulting International - Fort Lauderdale 09 October, 2015, 14:47Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Nooooo!!!  Over 2 decades of efforts to "Bank the Unbanked" have failed precisely because their success was tied to traditional banks serving the unique financial needs of non-traditional consumers. My email sign-off for going on 3 decades has been "Giving a poor person a bank account is like giving a hungry person a refrigerator."  Neither so-called "solution" addresses the immediate needs of the individual and saddles him with additional problems. The regulatory & bank requirements, arithmetic skills, limited functionality and inconvenience associated with traditional bank accounts make them ill-suited for non-traditional consumers. Alternatives leveraging mobile-technology, prepaid accounts and trusted, local businesses as customer interfaces hold far more potential for successfully serving the financial needs of non-traditional consumers than accounts with the very banks who have actively disenfranchised these consumers for generations.