Jack Gavigan posted What would a disruptive bank look like? and Simple Finance Technology Corp. (AKA Simple.com, formerly BankSimple) was one of the services he used as a baseline.
I’ve been a customer of Simple since very close to day 1, so I posted a comment with off-the-cuff notes. My comment is duplicated below.
Here’s my notes on experiences as a customer since very close to day 1.
Simple does almost everything I want from a basic retail bank. I felt like they had enough access and control to try to solve many of the problems I’d had with other banks. Without the full stack, they still had no shortage of ways to stand out.
I actually wanted fewer internally-maintained features than Simple provided. For example, I didn’t use Simple’s goals at all, though I can see from Twitter comments that some customers did. As another example, Simple’s automatic merchant name cleanup was a minor convenience at best, and had enough errors that I’m not sure it was worth the effort.
Simple had basically reached maturity for a basic retail bank. Yes, there was and is more it could do, but they’re the long tail of retail banking features. (What would an end-to-end reinvention of a bank let them provide that isn’t doable today? Perhaps doing less, not more, and exposing “raw” parts of the stack for a future ZenPayroll or Balanced to consume).
Support (and paying for it..)
Support made or broke the service to a degree that I didn’t expect, even coming from a bank where I had a personal rep. Simple’s site treats support discussions as the first-class elements they are. The staff is responsive and savvy. It made a huge difference.
I don’t know how interchange fees would cover the costs of Simple’s customer support, let alone software development, ops, and support. Although support was very thorough, Simple didn’t spend a lot of effort turning answers into something that would let other customers find the answer themselves.
Many of my questions were factual topics which could easily go in a FAQ: policies, limits, service features. Obviously I’d like my bank to be sustainable on the fees it collects, which made it somewhat frustrating when I had to ask a question that didn’t then end up somewhere in Simple’s docs.
This might be a comprehensive FAQ (yes, there’s a FAQ, no, it’s not comprehensive), a public Discourse-style forum, or giving certain customers edit access to the existing FAQ and having staff moderate and release the changes. I think Simple was hoping to differentiate mostly on service, so providing fewer human interactions didn’t really appeal.
It felt like there was a decision here: either they’re a premium bank with a monthly price, or they’re a friend-of-all consumer bank like what WaMu tried to brand themselves as.