The bank of my dreams will change how you think about money

When you ask people about their bank, you usually don’t hear the word “dream” come up. What you do hear are words like complicated, confusing, soulless and lots of comparisons to the DMV.

But when you ask people about their dreams you often hear about money. Financial issues are the leading cause of stress in relationships and are frequently linked to health issues. So, while money can’t buy me love, it sure can sabotage it. Banks operate at the center of people’s relationship with their money and has the opportunity to nurture it into one full of optimism, clarity and confidence to chase those dreams. But the banks that exist today choose to stand on the sidelines protecting the business they have today and leveraging technology merely as a cheaper customer acquisition and servicing tool. I’ve spent the last four years thinking about what the bank of my dreams would look like, and today I’d like to share that dream.

The bank of my dreams has a clear mission to help me achieve financial health. There are known paths to achieve financial well-being. My bank would have a Point of View and design its products to nudge and lead me down a path. It would leverage everything it learns about me to market things that are good for me and remove options that will harm me. My bank’s KPI’s would be my rising credit score and every overdraft would be viewed as a defect. This probably isn’t the bank for everyone, but some of the most powerful brands in the world including Apple and Southwest Airlines have built incredibly profitable businesses and beloved brands by having an un-compromised and unapologetic point of view about how their products should be experienced.

The bank of my dreams would use its superpowers to be one step ahead of me. I remember the day when I Googled “United Airlines” and a little card popped up with the details and current flight status of the recent flight I bought. How cool would it be if my bank could use all the rich transaction data is has to improve the quality of my life. Imagine if exchange rates, flights delays, ATM locations and directions from my Airport to hotel were all delivered to me by my bank. On a more serious note, my bank would use this data to predict the future and be proactive in managing my cashflow. The concept of overdraft or a surprise bill will quickly become a distant memory as my bank would use the information and tools it has to keep me in the green. Payments and funds would clear quicker as my patterns become predictable. Similar to my experience with Google, I would learn that the more I rely on my bank to be at the center of my financial world, the richer our relationship becomes and the more value I will get.

The bank of my dreams would be with me 24/7 with relevant insights and advice. My banker and I would have ongoing imessage/what’s app/slack chat thread. She might message me that my rent check cleared or that my paycheck is 15% higher than last month. She may suggest that I pay off that pair of jeans I bought last week. We might chat about how much I spent last week on Uber rides or how my Verizon bill is 20% higher than it was last month. She may send me a podcast to listen too about the most affordable cities in the US for new families. She may be a robot, an algorithm or a real person, but she will be there with me 24/7 ensuring I have all the information I need to make smart decisions and sleep well.

The bank of my dreams would get rid of the insanity of decades of duct taped together identity and payment technologies. Banks today have dug themselves into a deep and dark hole when it comes to complexity. People have several different distinct financial identities (Account number, Debit Card Number, Credit Card number, Username/Password, Touch ID, Token, PIN Code just to name a few) and even more ways to send money (Debit Card, P2P, Billpay, ACH, Wires, Mobile Token, Checks, Cash, etc). Banks have invested in these different capabilities in the name of choice, but in doing so, they’ve shifted the burden of managing that complexity to the customer. Services like Netflix and Pandora took the complexity out of choosing movies and music. Amazon’s “one click” button is probably the most complex click in the world. Taking complexity away from the customer is hard work and requires commitment and empathy for the customer. The bank of my dreams would take the challenge head on and remove the complexity out of interacting with an moving my money.

Some might say doing the above wouldn’t be economically viable to an existing bank today. I agree. Their efficiency ratios are problematic, years of acquisitions have crippled their infrastructure and bloated risk adverse executive teams & short term shareholder mindsets have prioritized quarterly results over long term vision. On the other side, there are a number of apps and companies that have popped up — Sweep, Level, Penny, Prism, Digit, and Affirm and are taking swings, and this gives me hope. But they don’t yet have an integrated solution that can compete with traditional banks. For the bank of my dreams to become a reality, it will take conviction, a serious war chest and a long time horizon. What I do know is that if the bank of my dreams does become a reality, it will change every notion our culture has about banking, creating the 21st century’s most beloved brand. Customers will flock to this bank with their dreams in tow.