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Peter Roberts

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Peter Roberts - UCL

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Is it just me or has online banking got worse?

04 January 2010  |  5438 views  |  5

I recently had the misfortune to receive a chip and pin card reader to use with my Smile account and in a stroke the entire banking experience has been ruined.

It's fiddly to use and generally annoying - particularly when I log in at work and don't have it with me.

What I find baffling is that I have to use it whenever I make a bill payment.

Now I can understand that you might want to insist on verifying new bill payments - to stop miscreants setting up a new payment and emptying your account maybe - but I don't see why I have to use the sodding thing every time I pay my Visa bill - something I've been doing for years.

Is it overkill by Smile or is this par for the course? And am I being an even grumpier, unreasonable old man than usual? I have asked them about it and received vague messages about 'preventing phishing'. Ahem.

I did hear First Direct don't bother with them. I am seriously tempted to move accounts - but will I run into the same problems everywhere?

So - is it just me?

Happy new year,

Grumpy of Tooting.


Comments: (5)

Keith Richbell
Keith Richbell - eftpos Payments Australia Ltd. (ePAL) - Sydney 05 January, 2010, 05:52


Having seen your photo, I think I can understand why the bank wants to be extra cautious.


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A Finextra member
A Finextra member 05 January, 2010, 08:26

Happy New Year and not just you!

A number of Banks are adopting this approach, as an example I have the same with Barclays Online Banking.   This is a trend.  Whilst you cannot argue against the security this offers (the Barclays site has won awards) for those less computer skilled it must be such a difficult set of steps that the functionality is avoided with other methods being used to make payments and transfers i.e. telephone banking. 

What does seem to be improving is mobile phone banking, although at the moment in the case of my Bank this is query only rather than updates. 


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Melvin Haskins
Melvin Haskins - Haston International Limited - 05 January, 2010, 08:47

Nationwide use exactly the same readers. I could not agree more that for the first payment to a new payee it should be compulsory, but regular variable payments to the same person or organisation should not require the reader.

Whoever designed the system did not do a thorough analysis of the users needs. But tell me a bank that listens to it's customers - certainly not any that I have had dealings with over the last 30 years.

Grumpy of Barnet (Mel Haskins)

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Alan Smith
Alan Smith - One4All - London 05 January, 2010, 10:25

I've been a Barclays on-line bank user for many years and think their 2-factor system is excellent.  I have far too many passwords to remember and on-line banking is the one you really do not want to be the same as all the others.  Barclays clearly did listen to their customers as I only have to authenticate again for a new payment and not one that has been set-up previously.

Just look at The Netherlands - it's worked fine for them for much longer and they do not have the same level of phishing issues we have.  The sooner the banks roll this out to everyone the better (and the phishers can stop spamming the UK and focus on the next weakest country).

Also, if/when the UK banks launch a new payment system like iDEAL, giropay, SVP, etc they will need this level of authentication to secure the transaction.

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Andrew Churchill
Andrew Churchill - Technology Strategy - London 08 January, 2010, 08:40

Peter - Par for the course I'm afraid, by which I mean that it is a patch to address a problem that causes inconvenience whilst not addressing the problem, merely moving the attack. Prevent phishing? Er, no, just means it has to be done in real time, which may alter the current criminal supply chain a tad, but I'm sure they'll cope.

Rob/Alan, yes Barclays was first off the blocks with implementing this, which is an APACS (as was) standard, and it has indeed won awards - such as the 2008 Nominet Best Security Initiative - judged by none other than Richard Martin of, er, well that will be APACS. Reminds me of Monty Python's 'Award Winning' book*.

Yes it will force fraudsters to migrate in the short term, just like Chip and PIN did, but the migration is equally obvious here.

Happy New Year!


* Winner, Monty Python Awards for their own material

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I was the technical lead on the Finextra family of web sites from 1999 to 2009. I'm at UCL these days supporting Moodle.

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