Bank devices, inefficiency and bigger bags.

Looks like destiny is telling me I have to write now my next post.
First BA trip to SMEfinanceforum in Perth, late flight from Brussels, lost connection in London, few hours in the lounge (and in the plane).

This post is about bank devices, identity and security.

Back from my SWIFT time, when I still had a “in the box” job, I was dealing with the mythical “SWIFT for Corporates” solution. In a nutshell, the treasury department of a corporation has often dozens (if not hundreds) of bank accounts in several banks, and the poor treasurer (talking of 10 years ago) had a number of bank devices/proprietary connection (HSBCnet, CITIDirect, etc.) to validate their payments (and more often than not to retrieve the bank statements).

SWIFT came up with the idea of mutualising the connection to the system using a bank-like interface, connecting the corporations to the SWIFT network, allowing to reach out to every bank connected to SWIFT, subscribing and implementing the service. In this way, the channel became a commodity, and each bank had to differentiate itself with the service (needless to say this made much easier to switch between one bank to another, reason why banks were a bit resistant at the beginning).
Now, thousands of corporations later, this looks like a no brainer.

In the retail space, we saw the rise of the Mint and Yodlee of this planet.
You can consolidate in one app your different bank accounts and also do some fancy analytics about how much you spend at Starbucks across all your accounts last month, if you remotely care (one day I will do some cynicism around these “spending apps”).
It does not work well in Europe though.
Many banks have these fancies little devices not only to validate your payments, but also to simply access your online banking services. It’s the case for bnpparibasfortis in Belgium for instance.

Now : can someone explain me why we are still at Stone Age in this matter ?
It s about digital identity. I get it.

But WHY is has to be considered a differentiation factor ?
None of this would be ideal, but already if…
1- I could use my phone to generate the unique code to access my account instead of these stupid devices (that by the way have batteries, so need to be replaced etc.). This for each bank, both for login and payments approval. Embedded in their banking app. Few Startups are in this space. Sequentย is one of them
Still not ideal …

2- I could use my phone to generate the unique code for ALL my bank accounts.
It’s a generated unique code with a timestamp. It’s not rocket science. Could not at least banks in the same country agree about that?
Better, but what about multiple accounts in different countries?

3- If I could prove that I am who I am. Cause that’s the only thing that bank would need to approve a transaction in an account they know it’s mine, right ?

In the credit card AND E-commerce space, this need has been well understood, recently.
I saw few Startups (Wallabi, TrustPay, Cards Prepaid and others) that have been created with the purpose of consolidate, simplify and enrich the payment experience of the retail customer (a topic for another post, by the way).

Back in the past, few large banks partnered and created Identrust, but technology wasn’t there yet.
The intention was good though.
SWIFT tried (Innotribe, actually) with the Digital Asset Grid, to tackle some of these issues. Technically, DAG had a way broader scope than identity, but it took the problem from the right, open, portable, institutions-agnostic point.

Respect Network deals with the concept of “your private cloud”, where your data can be stored and access being given to applications, according to the principle that “data don’t move, only access to them does”.ย In other words, I am not giving my data to anyone, I am simply allowing others to access to them.

So my question remains. For how long do I need to carry stupid code-generating devices, in some case not even the same for a personal and a business account within the same bank ?
Probably few startups will react claiming they have solved the problem and I am sure that – technically – they have.
Point is, until few big fellows will agree on cross-operational adoption or some smart regulator with noble intentions won’t interfere, I’ll just need to buy bigger bags.

Putting an image concerning the same problem, but in the telco space…
A whole other issue here … And smaller items ๐Ÿ˜‰


Stay tuned


Singapore challenge, another informal chronicle

Singapore, Orchard Hotel, here we are again.
The asian leg of the startup challenge (painting this animal as a strange three legs one) was again a great success.

We were not distracted at all by the nearby Orchard Tower, we stayed focus, and deliver what we can call a great event, even covered by BBC Asia (see the pic if you don’t believe it, with an unusually blushing Nektarios acting like a pro in front of the camera!)


Given the dozens of articles in the press mentioning that, you all should know by no that these are the results of the challenge:


you add a .com after all of them and you have their website (this is me lazy and not willing to embed the link… Sorry, my energy Is slowed down by a almost broken ankle in a volley tournament just after landing from Singapore).

Vibes in the room were great.


And feedback from the startup and the crowd was touchingly great. Smiles everywhere, energy, willingness to help, great team. I believe our highly technological promoter score tells the same ๐Ÿ˜‰


There is no time to rest, New York is just behind the door, and we are full speed to deliver the last regional challenge.

Special mention to Nektarios and Ioana, to whom goes the vast majority of the credits for the organisation and the production of the challenge. Ioana celebrated her 30th birthday in Singapore, and I learned it will stay memorable!
Nektarios kept everything in order, dealing with a million glitches that nobody saw and this is exactly the reason why this teamwork is truly grand.

Finally, a piece of artwork: Ioana spent some jet lagged hours in playing with her iPhone 5 (that we, miserable old iPhones 4 users looked with envy) and here’s the result:


Please take good note of the frame ๐Ÿ˜‰

With that, New York is calling. We have work to do!

Stay tuned