Hacker News

mdorazio said 7 months ago:

The author here seems to have a pretty shallow understanding of how banking infrastructure actually works (ex. ACH vs. wire vs. direct deposit), which is the root of a lot of these complaints. The other misconception is why banks continue to operate this way, which I personally believe comes down to prioritizing risk aversion and fraud resistance over other attributes. If you've never had to deal with large amounts of fraud as a business operator, a lot of things banks do (like require in-person verifications/transactions) probably won't make much sense or will seem really antiquated.

Edit: also worth noting is that a significant portion of a large bank's customers are over middle age and still want high-touch in-person and phone interactions in a financial institution.

ivanhoe said 7 months ago:

Why would a customer need to know anything about banking at all? Imagine if you were stopped in a supermarket because you beeped on the way out, and then they leave you to wait for hours before someone finally comes to tell you it's well-known that their door gates' sensors are just too sensitive and you can go. You'd probably sue them or at least never go there again, certainly no one would tell you that you don't understand how shoplifting is a complex problem.

If a fraud detection system is known to detect false positives (and they're designed that way on purpose, to provide a better protection to the institution), then there should be measures in place to contain the possible damage to clients, and also an easy procedure for clients to resolve these issues quickly and painlessly. That's a bare minimum. One of the main reason why people moved to Stripe from PayPal and similar services in the first place (beside an api that works) is exactly this type of problems where payment gateways would block your money in the name of some arbitrary "fraud risk" and you couldn't do anything about it. Fraud is their business problem, not mine as a customer. If I'm doing business legally why would I need to care or know anything about it?

jeremyjh said 7 months ago:

The government requires banks to do some of these things. Not just to prevent fraud, but to prevent money laundering, funding terrorists, giving money to entities controlled by sanctioned countries and other criminal activity.

If you don't understand any of these issues, the bank's behavior will seem willfully incompetent and spiteful, and raises some of the feelings expressed in the SP. But you won't find it different at "new tech" bank.

nkrisc said 7 months ago:

> If you don't understand any of these issues, the bank's behavior will seem willfully incompetent and spiteful, and raises some of the feelings expressed in the SP.

Yeah it will. Unless the bank communicated with you or could tell you what's going on, which apparently they are unable to. As this article illustrates perfectly, the problem is exacerbated by how frustratingly difficult it is to find out what's happening or the fact that seemingly no employee of the bank that you can talk to has any idea of what the issue is.

pstrateman said 7 months ago:

They're often required by those laws not to inform you of the laws...

roblabla said 7 months ago:

Please back extraordinary claims with evidence. From where I live, there is nothing in the law that says the bank must leave you hanging dry in case they detect fraud. If it’s different elsewhere, I sure would like to see concrete proof of it.

zonethundery said 7 months ago:

If you make a large cash transaction, the teller is not supposed to tell you they are filing a Currency Transaction Report (CTR). If you ask about the CTR threshold and then change your transaction size, the teller is then obligated to file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). Both CTRs and SARs are reported to Treasury.

It's not about fraud, it's about money laundering. They often look like the same thing.

mschuster91 said 7 months ago:

The thing is: yes the law may require you as a bank to do some certain things. But that does not excuse you from providing shitty customer support.

grenoire said 7 months ago:

The analogy falls short considering the OP's initial point: The sums involved make a big difference in the reaction.

ivanhoe said 7 months ago:

Issue is not if there should be fraud screenings - of course, they're required both by law and a common sense. Question is do you treat your own system's false positives like customers' problem, or you actually do something pro-active to help them? In my experience most banks and payments services just don't care. It's up to customer to complain and push repeatedly for it to be resolved, and banks make it harder, rather than easier. To get access to your own money you have to go through tones of bureaucracy to prove you didn't do anything wrong. Exactly because of the sums in question the treatment should be different, bank is using that money while it's locked and pays you no interest on that.

mushufasa said 7 months ago:

Re: high-touch -- it's not an age thing.

It's a user experience thing. People sometimes go into a bank knowing exactly what they want. More often, people don't really know what they want. i.e. they know they want a savings account, but they don't know if they want a 529 or a roth ira or just a money market checking account. You can think of bank branches like stack overflow: when someone asks "how can i do X" the answer is often often "do Y instead." Most people aren't taught financial literacy, and it varies over time and by geography.

Also, most of the population isn't as comfortable with technology skills in general, which developers and professionals often overestimate.

For commercial or investment banking (where banks make most of their profit) it's a whole 'nother story, but the author was trying to deal with consumer / small business stuff seems like.

healsjnr1 said 7 months ago:

But I think this is one of the points of the article: the human system are thoroughly broken and convoluted.

I've recently switched between banks and done just what you said: I went in to a branch knowing roughly what I wanted, but unsure exactly how to setup it up.

The end results was _months_ of back and forth. The agents in person or in call centres did not know answers to fairly simply questions (can I have an overdraft on an offset account) and were unable to answer questions about applications (my credit card application continually gave me notice online saying 'proof of other funds required', no one was able to tell me what this meant our what I had to provide).

These problems are not related to the deep legacy issues of interbank transfers and settlement or fraud.

They are failings in organisational design and management, information design, customer service design. I'd guess they are a symptom of continuous churn and restructuring, of flipping from in sourcing to outsourcing and back again.

They are all problems that are within their power to resolve (yes, at great cost )

eecc said 7 months ago:

Oh, you nailed it with “symptoms of continuous churn and restructuring”.

Just yesterday I was chatting with my manager about the “legacies that never die” which dramatically multiply complexity and spread the teams even more thinly...

crooked-v said 7 months ago:

Using a bank's services shouldn't require knowing how banking infrastructure works.

avianlyric said 7 months ago:

That would be ideal. But building non-leaky abstractions over banking infrastructure is extremely difficult.

This due to the simple fact that banking infrastructure is a super complicated pot of badly combined standards created before the internet really existed, and equally complicated regulatory requirements that don’t map well onto the technical standards.

YawningAngel said 7 months ago:

If the infrastructure is so poor that building good abstractions over it is essentially impossible, that's another nail in the coffin for the notion that it's reasonable to expect end users to understand it.

beatgammit said 7 months ago:

The idea of banking isn't particularly complicated. Basically, you take deposits, use those deposits to make loans, and keep some on hand for liquidity. If you're not getting enough deposits, raise rates. If you're not getting enough stable deposits, you sell products that reward long term deposits (CDs). If you have too many deposits relative to loan demand, you reduce interest rates on both deposits and loans. Rates fluctuate along with supply and demand.

This works quite well in the stock market, so why is banking so different?

My guess is that it's regulated like crazy, so maybe simplifying those regulations would be a good idea. I'm not very well informed on the particulars of those regulations, but I have looked into building something that involves financial data and it's far more complicated that it needs to be. I should be able to automate money transfers just as easily (if not more easily) as doing stock trades, yet the opposite is true. It's needlessly complicated and expensive to get anything done.

cguess said 7 months ago:

> My guess is that it's regulated like crazy, so maybe simplifying those regulations would be a good idea

Most of those regulations are in there for either a.) FDIC compliance to make sure there's enough liquidity in the case of a run (aka the "don't repeat 1929" rule) b.) anti-fraud/money laundering c.) because ACH rules are still there for a ton of legacy reasons

The stock market is volatile because it assumes that those investing understand the risk involved. Bank accounts on the other hand should, really have to, be super stable. Treating liquidity like the stock market means a bad bet by the bank managers and everyone loses their college fund.

> I should be able to automate money transfers just as easily (if not more easily) as doing stock trades, yet the opposite is true.

The reason is because of money laundering. Despite how bad it seems the US has the best anti-money-laundering (AML) rules in the world and yea, this causes friction, but it's what's necessary.

eru said 7 months ago:

A lot of those regulations are in there to patch up the unintended side effects of other regulations.

Eg FDIC makes depositors not monitor their banks' riskiness. So they piled in other regulations.

The worst offender in the US used to be unit banking requirements, ie branch banking was all but verboten. So most banks used to be horribly fragile, tiny, single branch entities.

pjc50 said 7 months ago:

> makes depositors not monitor their banks' riskiness

It's impossible for depositors to do this. It's almost impossible for national banking regulators to do this, but at least they're in a position to try.

Deposit insurance is a requirement for a functioning system. You cannot ask ordinary members of the public to shoulder the risk for the system.

eru said 7 months ago:

It is very possible. In fact, it happened.

There were very successful banking systems without deposit insurance. Less crisis prone than our current systems.

I can provide some sources, if you are actually interested.

See eg https://www.alt-m.org/2016/08/12/capital-and-cash-reserves/ but I can look for something more appropriate:

> Of course, not all banks catered to depositors whose primary interest was safety: there was a market for riskier bank deposits also. But, despite what apologists for central banking and deposit insurance claim, it was not especially difficult to tell safer banks from less safe ones. The problem in places like the U.S. before 1934 and England before 1826 was not so much one of distinguishing relatively safe banks from relatively risky ones, but one of legal restrictions that prevented well-capitalized banks from emerging in many communities. In the U.S. the restrictions consisted of laws preventing branch banking; in England they consisted of laws preventing English banks other than the Bank of England from having more than six partners. (In 1826 other public or "joint-stock" banks were permitted, but only if they did not operate in the greater London area–itself a major limitation; while in 1833 other joint-stock banks were admitted into the London area, but only provided they gave up the right to issue banknotes.) These regulations limited the capitalization of U.S. and English banks while at the same time limiting those banks' opportunities for financial diversification–a recipe for failure. In both instances the regulations were products of politicians' catering to rent-seeking behavior on the part of banking industry insiders. Yet the resulting, unusual frequency of bank failures and substantial creditor losses stemming from such failures helped to sustain the belief that fractional reserve banking could only be made safe by means of further government intervention.

> Where laws did not prevent banks from diversifying their balance sheets, especially by establishing widespread branch networks, or from securing large amounts of capital by "going public" (or, in the case of some Scottish and most Canadian banks, by making shareholders liable beyond the par value of their shares, which from creditors' point of view is equivalent to having more capital), bank failures have been relatively less common, and losses to creditors stemming from occasional failures that did occur have been relatively minor. Indeed, even such a spectacular failure as that of Scotland's Ayr Bank did not ultimately prevent the bank's creditors from being paid in full, without need for any sort of bailout.

pjc50 said 7 months ago:

That pre-war environment is a very different world from the financial crisis of 2008 and the Northern Rock event. Or Iceland. In the end the UK central government had to bail out local governments with uninsured deposits in the Icelandic banks: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uk-councils...

eru said 7 months ago:

They didn't have to. Especially if they set a few precedences of NOT bailing out.

If you want government guarantee, you can already invest in government debt.

toomuchtodo said 7 months ago:

Knowing helps calibrate your expectations so they’re realistic. Stripe can perform magic because they’re a very small piece of the entire puzzle, the banking sector can’t because of the very same decrepit financial infra foundations.

Disclaimer: I work in financial services. If you want the plumbing fixed, lean on the Fed and the banking industry as a whole through Congress. You’re delusional if you think you can fix this with a startup (see: BankSimple and Standard Treasury). The industry inertia is overwhelming.

barry-cotter said 7 months ago:

> If you want the plumbing fixed, lean on the Fed and the banking industry as a whole through Congress.

Easier and faster to just give up preemptively.

toomuchtodo said 7 months ago:

Yeah! But the work worth doing is never easy, nor fast to get done. Not the best attitude to have Barry!

rhizome said 7 months ago:

How do unrealistic expectations take root, could it be the gap between reality and advertising? That said, they weren't saying that the knowledge can't help.

avianlyric said 7 months ago:

Difference between only experiencing the 99% happy path, and experiencing the 1% extremely unhappy path.

said 7 months ago:
kovek said 7 months ago:

There’s a few types of checks you can send as payment to whoever. I kept asking why we needed a few different types and they all act in different ways. Some are “like cash”, some will “attempt to withdraw” the amount.

I had to ask the bank. I don’t see how else I was supposed to go about my payment when I was asked to send a check.

kolinko said 7 months ago:

Well, the issue is with "when I was asked to send a check".

In some (if not all) European countries we don't have checks any more. Someone just gives you a bank account number, you wire a transfer, and it's at the recipient within a second to a day at most. The transfers cost between €0 to €0.5, regardless of the amount.

I was on a date a few days ago, a girl really wanted to pay for herself, but didn't have the cash, so she asked me for the bank account. I gave it to her via messenger, she wired me €30, it landed on my account instantly, to which I said that this is too much, and wired her €15 back. Yes, seriously :)

brianwawok said 7 months ago:

Yah bank transfers are a mess here, several dollars and minutes of work to do.

On the other hand, things like venmo and the cash app are ubiquitous. I just went to lunch with a friend, forgot cash, asked him his phone number and shot a venmo for half in 10 seconds.

So luckily we have some services that are filling the shortcoming of our banking industry..

mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

A rent-seeking third party probably selling your financial transaction data is not what I’d call lucky.

brianwawok said 7 months ago:

It beats the alternative. It’s no secret I sent someone $10 for lunch. I posted it to hacker news.

marcus_holmes said 7 months ago:

I'm always amazed that US banks are so behind the curve with this.

It's clearly possible to create a bank transfer facility that works quickly for zero cost. How come they don't?

Checks have always been a major source of fraud. The rest of the world stopped using them and feels no need to go back. How come the US still uses them?

astura said 7 months ago:

We all want to, but there's an inertia problem.

From some quick research there is approximately 6,799 banks in the US and 5,757 credit unions. That's over 12,500 entities that need to communicate with each other. It takes a massive political will (not to mention money) to update the legacy federal systems that tie it all together.

Here's some more information: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/01/10/576879734/epis...

The UK has "over 300 banks" by comparison.

mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

It's not that hard, and the absolute number is not that important, just that a majority decide to use it, forcing the rest.

I'm guessing USicans just don't realize the world has moved on. Large countries tend to be isolating and the US is no exception.

astura said 7 months ago:

I didn't say it was "hard," it's an inertia and funding problem.

We know how better it is in other parts of the world, we aren't dumb.

mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

Most Americans don’t know anything about banking in other countries.

C1sc0cat said 7 months ago:

Its to do with the early history of the USA and its federal structure.

Some of the early presidents where totally against having any central bank at all

throwaway_tech said 7 months ago:

Satoshi Nakamoto must have missed that when "disrupting" banking with P2P electronic currency.

tsimionescu said 7 months ago:

Yes, they did, which is one of the reasons BitCoin is approximately 0.00% percent of the world financial markets.

throwaway_tech said 7 months ago:

Well that is one way to minimize the reality of Bitcoin. On the otherhand the Bitcoin market cap is 50%> than Tesla for example. That may not seem like much, until you realize Bitcoin has a bigger market cap than any US car manufacturer.

IAmEveryone said 7 months ago:

Farmland in southern Asia is worth a lot more than that, and just as easy to use for everyday transactions as Bitcoin is.

amdavidson said 7 months ago:

I have never heard this analogy, and it so clearly refutes what drives me crazy about these Bitcoin :: Tesla|whatever comparisons.

tsimionescu said 7 months ago:

It does not matter whether it seems like much or not, because approximately none of that market cap is coming from using BitCoin for payments, it comes almost entirely from using BitCoin as a speculative asset.

All attempts to use it for non-crime-related payments have failed so far, because of its slow speed and huge transaction costs.

And in a spectacular turn of events, it may be a worse polluter than any single American car company as well. I bet Satoshi Nakamoto didn't plan for this one, eh?

cm2187 said 7 months ago:

And I must say that the Silicon Valley way of dealing with fraud isn’t much more fun from a user experience point of views (solving captchas all day long, waiting for 2fa that may or may not come, accounts suspended without explanations, etc).

Also the author thinks that buying a bank will solve things. This is also naive. Either you are not a regulated owner and you are severely limited in what influence you can have on the bank, or you become a banking group and banking regulations apply to you too.

The solution is competition, but regulations have made it so expensive for a new player that there isn’t really any. That’s the cost of you not having to worry about whether the money on your bank account will still be there tomorrow. Then in absence of competition, it is pretty horrifying how laziness and incompetence can cripple a large organisation to a quasi standstill.

ForHackernews said 7 months ago:

As a consumer who doesn't work in the banking industry, there seems to be tons of competition between banks. Almost every week I get a come-on from this or that bank asking me to move my savings or open a new checking account in return for a cash bonus, or some juicy (temporary) promotional interest rate.

To my mind, it seems like banks are competing for consumers, they're just not competing using the kinds of gimmicks that techies want: mobile apps, powerful APIs, faster money transfers.

Honestly, I'll take $300 cold hard cash over a flashy iOS app any day.

csomar said 7 months ago:

It's not really that expensive to get your foot on the door. There has been a lot of these fintech banks (basically a card and an app). Here is the problem: They don't offer many of the products that banks offer (the most important being credit). Also, from experience, they have a shittier customer service. The guy complains about branches, yet I have found branches much better than having no person to contact what-so-ever.

marcus_holmes said 7 months ago:

Most fintech startups that look like banks aren't. They use banking services from other banks, and deal with the bank's bullshit for you.

cm2187 said 7 months ago:

Credit isn’t really what makes a bank. In fact many non banks provide credit (amex isn’t a bank I think). Taking deposits is the key thing. And I understand most fintech use an actual 3rd part bank if they take deposits. And without taking deposits, it is hard to provide cheap long term credit.

rietta said 7 months ago:

But they are! They even have high interest savings account that are FDIC insured. See https://www.americanexpress.com/personalsavings/home.html

cm2187 said 7 months ago:

Granted, bad example. But my point is that you don't need a banking license to make a loan, except in certain jurisdictions for certain loans (mortgages).

GoblinSlayer said 7 months ago:

Pretty sure credit offer spam through SMS and calls is the most useless bank feature ever conceived.

eru said 7 months ago:

Mostly agreed!

> That’s the cost of you not having to worry about whether the money on your bank account will still be there tomorrow.

That's too high a cost. The eg Scottish banking system of the industrial revolution and the Canadian banking systems of the 19th century had this piece of mind in practice _and_ plenty of competition.

See eg https://www.alt-m.org/2015/07/29/there-was-no-place-like-can...

GoblinSlayer said 7 months ago:

>That’s the cost of you not having to worry about whether the money on your bank account will still be there tomorrow.

Of course they can still be absent tomorrow.

JohnFen said 7 months ago:

> The author here seems to have a pretty shallow understanding of how banking infrastructure actually works (ex. ACH vs. wire vs. direct deposit), which is the root of a lot of these complaints.

This is approximately the level of understanding that most people have. I think this helps highlight the point that the banking system is just horrible to have to deal with -- you shouldn't have to know the intricacies and oddities of the banking system in order to do this sort of stuff.

> and still want high-touch in-person and phone interactions in a financial institution.

This is me. For mundane things, I prefer an automated system. But if anything at all goes wrong, or if I'm doing something unusual, I want a human to hold my hand.

jka said 7 months ago:

To try an approach without assigning blame:

Banks and financial institutions are set up to detect fraud in ways which will tend to spot 'unusual' behavior and anomalous patterns.

The combination of someone who is technically competent to the point that they use seemingly different behaviors to the typical user population and are taking actions which have traditionally been seen as high risk (wire transfers, transactions from new accounts, ...) is going to lead to automated flags being raised.

A wise implementation will avoid feedback loops, introduce human review which assumes the best unless clear evidence of fraud is present, and will provide mechanisms for individuals to clear/restore their status.

The latter resolution workflow, unfortunately, introduces further risks, especially if implemented halfheartedly. Training individuals that it's OK / expected to provide additional personal details to use a service ends up leading phishers to attempt the same techniques, and simultaneously creates a high-value target database of personal data should any of that information be stored long-term.

I don't know clear answers here - and yes, perhaps the author could have taken a more gradual or slower approach in order to avoid some problems, and maybe they are angry based on things about the financial system that they don't understand.

But there is an ongoing and serious problem here with the way that we provide access to systems and services and then attempt to remediate concerns via automated means.

Source: am European and have lived in the U.S., thus have experienced being 'unusual' to many U.S. financial services, have experienced not understanding systems in a country new to me, and have also worked in fraud and care about computer security and overall freedom and safety.

joe_the_user said 7 months ago:

In the one time I've had to transfer more than $100K personally, the operation of wire transfer merely seemed klunky and not the least bit risk averse. I walked into my bank and talked about transferring the money to a relative's bank account in another state. The answer was "sure, we can do that but if you get even the smallest bit of information wrong, the money will go elsewhere and we'll wash our hands of the results". I finally just carried a check physically.

cowsandmilk said 7 months ago:

Why were you trying to use a wire transfer for that? Maybe the bank incorrectly steered you towards that? If you consider a check an option for a transaction, a wire transfer doesn’t make sense.

joe_the_user said 7 months ago:

What are write transfers used for if they aren't for transferring large amounts of money long distances?

cowsandmilk said 7 months ago:

In addition to speed, wire transfers are not reversible. Which is a feature, but you described it as a bug. People associate wire transfers with large amounts of money because typically the largest transaction they deal with is buying a house. And in buying a house, a wire transfer is used because no one wants an ACH reversal coming through clawing back the funds after selling their house.

Having run a business, 6 figure amounts are routinely moved via ACH. Some banks make it hard for consumers to send money to a random person’s account via ACH, but within the US, it is always possible and is literally how most companies pay their employees.

joe_the_user said 7 months ago:

In addition to speed, wire transfers are not reversible. Which is a feature, but you described it as a bug.

It was a bug in my use case but now I understand.

__float said 7 months ago:

Transferring large amounts of money quickly. The fees can be very high, and you may very well consider an alternative as a result.

o-__-o said 7 months ago:

$40 on $10000 is 0.4% and it goes down from there. My national chain bank charges $25 and the typically destination fee is $15. Put the risk on the banks and get money within 2 hours? Ok

cowsandmilk said 7 months ago:

> Put the risk on the banks and get money within 2 hours?

How does a wire transfer “put the risk on the banks”?

o-__-o said 7 months ago:

When you perform an ACH, you are actually sending money to the central bank, waiting for the funds to clear the overnight process, then the funds are sent to the destination bank. This process takes 2-3 days but ensures the sending bank has enough liquidity to cover these debt transfers. If the sending bank fails, you are SOL until the central bank steps in with FDIC/SIPC (usually immediate, but we saw 2008)

With a wire transfer, the sending bank earmarks funds and moves it to a special account. Once the central bank confirms, the destination bank takes money out of their account (this is where the delay occurs, as sometimes the bank must setup a repo with the central bank) and sends it to the recipient. If the sending bank where to fail, the recipient still has their money. Now its up to the sending, central, and destination banks to duke it out for the money.

I am referring to US wires in this case

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Transferring small amounts of money within the country/ies, where it's maximum-couple-of-days fast and free?

Symbiote said 7 months ago:

I think Americans call that an ACH transfer, the type that's used day-to-day to pay salaries and bills.

A "wire transfer" is the thing you pay $40 for, and is immediate and irreversible. Individuals probably only ever use it when buying a house. (Within the UK, this is called a CHAPS payment.)

abalone said 7 months ago:

Yeah, this blog post comes across as startup-y hero worship, like

> I think the root cultural cause is an aversion to self-serve flows.

which is plainly false given the biggest push in the past decade of banking has been self service flows that allow them to cut costs and downsize branches.

Stripe is built on a traditional bank partner. The workflows Stripe optimizes are not “make it easy to empty my new bank account with minimal authentication” workflows.

ianlevesque said 7 months ago:

So why do they all insist on SMS-only for 2FA?

vidarh said 7 months ago:

Because they optimise for 'easiest for most people, with an acceptable risk profile'. Note acceptable not lowest.

AlexCoventry said 7 months ago:

It doesn't detract from your argument, but there appear to be nine US banks listed at https://twofactorauth.org/#banking which offer hardware- or software-based 2FA.

kccqzy said 7 months ago:

> also worth noting is that a significant portion of a large bank's customers are over middle age and still want high-touch in-person and phone interactions in a financial institution.

I'm a millennial. For some banks I vastly prefer phone interactions just because their customer service is so fast and awesome; little to no hold time needed. Calling Discover Bank or Schwab has always been this pleasant. I've even become so lazy that I'd just call them to ask for a workaround for their UI bug. The same cannot be said for most other banks, like Bank of America. If I discover a bug on their UI, I'd rather get into the software engineer's problem-solving mode and figure out a workaround by myself, assuming Googling the issue doesn't work.

the_mar said 7 months ago:

Not to burst your bubble, but this is not how it works for banks outside of the US. But since we are on the subject, we should probably address the complexity of universal healthcare first

vonseel said 7 months ago:

Do you think the age issue and familiarity with tech will change in the future though? Even technology should reduce fraud cases and risk, surely it is nothing like the days of CATCH ME WHEN YOU CAN.

I have only needed to visit a bank in person once in the last 5 years or more, and that was to deposit some old US $100 bills which modern ATMs did not recognize and the local credit union did not want to take the bills ( I am not a member of local CU but it has an ATM I can use for deposits with my out of state CU).

Which reminds me, to fix that issue I signed up for a Chase account online, drove down to the bank 5 minutes later and deposited the $700 pre-1980s cash to a teller, who verified the bills were real without any griping - they have the right machines and tech to be confident about those things, unlike the local credit union. So, I guess, on a surprising note I had a good story about Chase to share.

They also gave me a few hundred dollars bonus to open a checking account, which was cool.

cortesoft said 7 months ago:

If they care so much about fraud, why do they use things like phone numbers and social security numbers for verification?

manigandham said 7 months ago:

What else should they use that average people would understand?

closeparen said 7 months ago:

Well, they already run the world's largest infrastructure for hardware tokens with crypto processors in them.

manigandham said 7 months ago:

Cards are already used when they're available for transactions and interactions (atms, branch visits).

Also having a card doesn't mean it's your card, that's what the personal verification is for.

jariel said 7 months ago:

"risk aversion and fraud resistance over other attributes"

It runs much deeper.

Most of these functions are 'middle/back office' for the bank, they were never seen as important. The 'Ops' part was always just operational labour, things done by 'workers' etc.. It's not 'banking' to the banks.

Software at banks often parallels archaic processes, established for some very good reason long ago, but continue to exist only due to incumbency or possibly due to regulatory requirements.

And because it's finance, the security and stability requirements are much higher, giving new meaning to 'break fast and new things'.

When you add in the fact banks are incredibly incumbent and resistant to change, you get a Kafka-esque web of bureaucracy, inefficiency, arbitrary complexity etc..

I don't see any consumer oriented, 'Stripe-like' modern bank taking over either.

avianlyric said 7 months ago:

Yes this looks like a classic case of payment schemes not working anything like how people think they work (or even working in a sane way).

With regards to the credit card payment, my guess would be that it went over a dual message system. Which means one message reserves the money, and a second one moves it.

This is important because the first message will generally cause the payment to appear on your statement, and reduce your “available balance”. But doesn’t impact your actual balance. The money’s still yours so you earn interest on it, but you can’t touch it.

When the second message turns up the money moves and the transaction completes (sometimes called “posting” or “clearing” or “presenting”).

However if the second message never turns up (or a reversal is sent instead) then the money doesn’t move, it’s just un-reserved.

How banks represent this un-reversal is usually very confusing. Either the transaction simply disappears or a back dated transaction appears. This is because from the banks perspective the transaction never happened (it didn’t present, so no money moved and thus no transaction).

ACH is also a very strange payment scheme. I believe that debit ACH messages simply pull money from a bank account. The bank can’t stop this money movement (they always to have pay the bill or get disconnected from the ACH network). However in the case of fraud, your bank can send a message and claw the money back within a certain time span.

All of this sounds ridiculous and is a result of history. But replacing it would require hundreds or thousands of banks to agree a new standard, and there’s a good XKCD about new standards.

Animats said 7 months ago:

This is really a user interface problem. Payment systems have distributed state machines, but the state isn't exposed to the customer and the parties may not be in sync. Banking is a "consistent eventually" system, with delays in days.

The customer should be able to query "what happened with this transaction" from their account and get back a graphic of what's going on. That information is useful to fraudsters, though; some states are more vulnerable than others.

CaptainZapp said 7 months ago:

Banking is a "consistent eventually" system, with delays in days.

But why does it work within the same day (or partially virtually instantenous) with SEPA payments 1) between banks in different European countries?

Why isn't there such a thing as IBAN 2) outside of Europe, which really helps to make bank transfers seamless and unambiguous?

It sometimes seems that regulation and standardization is not such a bad thing.

  1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_Euro_Payments_Area
  2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Bank_Account_Number
lotsofpulp said 7 months ago:

> With regards to the credit card payment, my guess would be that it went over a dual message system. Which means one message reserves the money, and a second one moves it.

Yes, it’s called an authorization hold or approval hold. The customer’s bank returns back with an authorization code or approval code reserving a certain amount of money. Then the merchant goes back with it to retrieve the amount actually wanted.

This is for situations like filling fuel, or hotel stays, or car rental where the final cost is not known at the beginning of the transaction, so an estimated amount is placed on hold, and then whatever is used is actually taken.

kalleboo said 7 months ago:

It's also used routinely for regular e-commerce. A hold is put when you place an order, but the charge isn't completed until they ship out the item.

marcosdumay said 7 months ago:

> But replacing it would require hundreds or thousands of banks to agree a new standard

The Brazilian banks got their hand forced into changing their system recently, but this one feature stayed exactly the same way.

Hell, if you take enough details out, it is exactly the same as a two passes commit we use in distributed databases, where there is a single team (often a single person) defining the behavior.

Don't expect that one complexity to go away any time soon.

avianlyric said 7 months ago:

It’s frustrating because the two pass commit only really exists as a result of slow and expensive communication channels in the past.

Many payment schemes were built with idea that messages would be sent via post (on big tape reels) or expensive internet connections that can’t be run 24/7.

However none of these constraints really exist anymore. Which means that you can move money using a single message and synchronous communications, with a little protection to deal with the two generals problem.

egwor said 7 months ago:

how many messages a second can be handled synchronously? what happens if the message arrives twice? what happens if the data centre is blown up/goes up in flames? how did the other data centre guarantee to be in a consistent state? how did the backup system automatically take over?

These systems have to be up and running all the time and there can't be an option for mistakes!

avianlyric said 7 months ago:

When I say message I’m think of the equivalent of a TCP packet. So you have a bunch of error checking and ACKs flying about. But only one message to actually move money.

Single message systems already exist, most US card transactions move over a single message system.

> there can’t be an option for mistakes!

This is where you’re wrong. Mistakes happen all the time when moving money, a big part of any banks operations is cleaning up those mistakes.

marcus_holmes said 7 months ago:

and yet the rest of the world manages to do this instantly

mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

What happens when the com lines are down during a storm? Will this single message still work?

kyrra said 7 months ago:

For ACH: you are correct, banks always accept them. But after they are told the ACH happens and determine the target account has some issue (closed / invalid / insufficient funds), then the bank will send an ACH reversal. This reversal behaves almost exactly like the original ACH (the bank that they are issuing the reversal against cannot do anything to stop it until after it has posted).

pas said 7 months ago:

Banks are subject to banking laws and various oversight authority/agency policies.

Around here the banking authority started development on new ACH features (4 hour transfer, and they are developing "instant" transfer, and hopefully 24/7 transfer too), and the banks have to get on board in 1-2 years. (There's a deadline. Sometimes it gets extended because too many banks fuck up, but they get fined. It works up, progress happens.)

So, it's very, very, very far from impossible. If there's political will, it can happen in about 1-2 years.

said 7 months ago:
avip said 7 months ago:

It's just another example of the universal Chesterton’s Wild Boar fence rule


said 7 months ago:
77pt77 said 7 months ago:

I don't buy those arguments because somehow most of the developed world has moved on from the legacy systems still in place in the USA (eg: Europe).

avianlyric said 7 months ago:

Europe developed its own systems that are almost completely different to the US. (Even Mastercard and VISA networks were different, and there’s effectively two versions of each network running in the world at the moment).

They’re still old and have plenty of issues, just different to the US.

77pt77 said 7 months ago:

Having used both systems, the EU's is nowhere near as problematic as the USA's.

Not even close. In the states things just feel and work as if you've jumped 15 years back in time.

And I'm not even going into identity theft territory which is orders of magnitude less common in Europe.

I know americans don't like hearing this and always downvote me into oblivion, but it's the truth.

This time won't be any different, but maybe someone will be exposed to an alternate reality and reevaluate their biases.

spookthesunset said 7 months ago:

I don’t get the downvotes either. The US banking system objectively sucks. There is no excuse for system-wide ultra-low cost instant inter-bank transfers.

Why the hell are we writing checks in 2020?

The only thing that keeps it from happening is lack of political will.

And seriously, why the downvotes? Who is here actually defending the US banking system? Speak up!

Dylan16807 said 7 months ago:

I didn't downvote anyone but I was really tempted by the preemptive whining about inevitable downvotes. That's really bad commenting practice.

77pt77 said 7 months ago:

It was not preemptive. It was an edit after it was already at -5 in 10 minutes.

Plus after a while it just gets annoying to be punished for just stating reality.

mrep said 7 months ago:

I'm in the US and I've never written an actual check in my life (did write some fake ones in consumer economics class in high school though). For transferring money between friends, just use venmo or zelle.

What awesome features am I missing out on?

77pt77 said 7 months ago:

You are missing out on:

The ability to limit the frequency and amounts of direct payments. Pay for cable with direct deposit? Why allow the company to debit more than a hundred a month?

You miss Banks giving you virtual on demand credit card numbers for free, not as a service you have to pay with another company.

You miss by having anything years later than everywhere else, like nfc payments and contactless card payments. I had people think I was insane 2 years ago for paying with a contactless card. Many would think I was defrauding them in some way. This was in large cosmopolitan cities. Not the sticks.

You miss free transfers without the ridiculous low amount limits Zelle has and no restrictions on whether the recipient is a business or not.

You miss the ability to have all direct debits initiated by you on your home banking. Meaning someone having your account number is never a real issue.

And the list goes on.

77pt77 said 7 months ago:

Just to say that it's usually a lot worse. Meaning I get a lot more downvotes.

Maybe awareness is improving...

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Nothing wrong with having checks as an option...

bkor said 7 months ago:

Cheques were phased out in Netherlands in 2001. Even at that time it was hardly used. Cheques had a very high risk of fraud, plus expensive to process.

I don't get why you'd use something like that. Due to new EU regulation I can transfer money to other Dutch banks within 5-10 seconds. It should be EU-wide, but it seems the Dutch banks would some loophole to delay that. Anyway, what is the point of a cheque? Just pay immediately, this ensures your balance is way more accurate.

77pt77 said 7 months ago:

But you don't know the best thing.

In the USA checks have your account number. A number you are supposed to keep secret to prevent ACH fraud.

The first thing Banks ask you if you try to address any fraudulent transaction is whether you've shared that number with anyone.

The number that is in every check!

It's insanity.

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Because the person you make a cheque to might not have his banking information on him ? And it often goes with "please only deposit this cheque only after day X so I don't end up in the red".

christopoulos said 7 months ago:

As I’m not from the US, could you explain the differences or provide a resource?

syshum said 7 months ago:

>>>also worth noting is that a significant portion of a large bank's customers are over middle age

That maybe true today, 30 years from now those boomers will be dead.

>>The other misconception is why banks continue to operate this way, which I personally believe comes down to prioritizing risk aversion and fraud resistance over other attributes

There are many ways to solve for both, other nations have done it successfully

ACH for example is a shit show and should have been replaced decades ago, its biggest "security" features is that fact that it is slow to complete a transaction to allow humans to catch an error or fraud....

US banking is not about risk aversion or fraud control, it is about risk shifting and CYA. They do not care about preventing fraud, they care about making sure they do not have a pay for fraud by shifting liability to either consumers, businesses, or another bank

yellow_lead said 7 months ago:

This post seems to have all the qualities of a highly popular HN post

* Anti-incumbents in large industry

* Poor customer experience / hit piece

* The new tech company does it much better

* Doesn't try to understand the intracacies of the industry being criticized (wire vs. ACH???)

I know very little about banking and even I know (roughly) the difference between ACH and wire. My point is not that the author lacks intelligence, just that they should, as other commenters point out, try to learn about banking before you're so quick to criticize. I think us programmers suffer from thinking "this is all too complicated, it could easily be done simpler and better." That's not always the case and it can help us to understand how the current system came to be before making these judgements.

et2o said 7 months ago:

Agree. This is a prime example of a blowhard programmer making a bunch of naive and half-true accusations. I see things like this in healthcare constantly.

commandar said 7 months ago:

>I see things like this in healthcare constantly.

Cosign. I worked in healthcare for the better part of a decade and spent just over five years of that doing data interchange (mostly HL7).

It's always somewhat amusing when threads about it pop up on HN because it almost invariably winds up with smart programmers insisting that these have to be simple problems that would be easily solved if only we were using the right API, while having zero understanding of the business and regulatory requirements that, in reality, make many of the things attached to it very difficult to get right in a field where you literally have the potential of killing somebody with a severe enough mistake.

noelsusman said 7 months ago:

I feel your pain. I've had to stop clicking on any healthcare related threads around here. It's too infuriating.

ryanSrich said 7 months ago:

Totally. You have to work in Health IT to know just how fucked it is. Before being in the industry I was convinced it was low quality, shitty tech people.

In reality it’s massive monolithic slow moving orgs that data block, create black boxes, have poor documentation, and just generally don’t want to move forward.

Specifically I’m referring to EHR vendors and other legacy systems. Not necessarily providers or even payers.

RockIslandLine said 7 months ago:

"it almost invariably winds up with smart programmers insisting that these have to be simple problems that would be easily solved if only we were using the right API"

Because they are. Make the common case fast. There is no reason to expose all possible complexity to every transaction.

commandar said 7 months ago:

>Make the common case fast. There is no reason to expose all possible complexity to every transaction.

Hint: addressing that is exactly what HL7 has been doing for over 30 years.

The easy parts are easily solved because they're easy, and the easy parts are 90%+ of any given integration.

Those remaining hard parts are where the time and effort goes, and a lot of them are very fundamental things that seem easy until you try to actually do them.

"Simple" things like ensuring that you properly match a patient to their preexisting medical record are incredibly fraught with unexpected complexity that you can't handwave away with an interchange format.

bigwavedave said 7 months ago:

Agreed, 100%! It always reminds me of the episode of "The Office" where the warehouse wins the lottery, everyone quits, and the office staff are conscripted to load the truck with paper. Searching for a way to load the truck more efficiently, one of the main characters is astonished that the warehouse workers never tried backing the truck into the warehouse to be closer to the paper. Believing them to be morons because they hadn't thought of this, he implements his solution and causes a fair amount of damage to the truck and the building because he didn't stop to think that maybe, just maybe, the people who had been doing this work for years (work he had no real experience with or insight into) might have had a good reason or two why they hadn't already implemented this solution.

It's a silly example, sure- all I'm trying to say is that there are usually a few pretty good reasons why "the solution is so simple, just do x" comments haven't already been implemented and the commenters don't usually have the context to know that. It's been my experience that a lot of problems with seemingly simple or obvious solutions haven't been solved that way for good reason.

egwor said 7 months ago:

Yeah, one of the things this guy might not realise is that if they thought he was money laundering they'd not be allowed to tell him that's why his account was closed. (it is illegal to tip-off).

The one thing to remember about retail banking is that it is highly regulated. There might be restrictions on visibility. That means that different support groups can see different things and only those things.

dx034 said 7 months ago:

Exactly. I'm very glad that not everyone in a bank can see all details about my accounts. If the bank believes a transaction was fraudulent, only very few people will see why it was flagged to avoid customers gaming the system. Not nice to the customer but crucial for the financial system to work.

jopsen said 7 months ago:

Trying to understand the basic primitives of banking is hard.

When I lived in the US I asked my bank for documentation on how their stuff works.. I've done the same in Denmark.

I've never been able to get authoritative documentation that explains IBAN, routing/account numbers, transfer types, checks, signatures, credit/debit cards, etc.

I'm effectively left guessing, my bank can't even tell me if a given kind of number is secret or security sensitive.

How do you find out? Where is the authoritative documentation? The man page? The RFC?

robjan said 7 months ago:

They are all in various international standards. The specification for IBAN, for instance, can be found here https://www.iso.org/standard/41031.html

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Yeah lol, when the new auto-debut rules came around, a coupleyears after that, my bank still wasn't aware that the customers could set whitelist/blacklist rules !

pjc50 said 7 months ago:

The point about customer service failure remains valid, and other countries do do it simpler and better.

Learning about the current system is likely to make outsiders more, not less, judgemental ("how has it been so bad for so long?!")

mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

This would be true if there weren’t several examples of countries that know how to do it. EU and ANZ come to mind. There’s a thread above describing the details so I won’t repeat them again.

AndrewStephens said 7 months ago:

Banking does have some strong regulations around it (with good reason, IMHO) but I can corroborate the author's intuition about established company's disdain for self-service customer interactions.

I worked on a product a few years ago that would have turned our sales-led product into a turn-key hosted solution - just supply your credit-card and go. It was nearing deployment with 7 figures spent on development when the sales team got wind of it and immediately killed it.

Although I believe that the product would have been successful and brought in more money to the company as a whole, it would have gutted the performance bonuses for the sales team by bypassing a whole department. This could not be allowed to go live.

That is why real innovation tends to come from newer, smaller companies.

WrtCdEvrydy said 7 months ago:

This would have probably succeeded it if you had named it a sales suite that 'allowed sales people to allow customers to interactively choose the correct products'

said 7 months ago:
swagasaurus-rex said 7 months ago:

This sort of behavior is why people hate the man.

shawnz said 7 months ago:

By "the man", do you mean any human with an established life and career that they are willing to defend in spite of what's best for their employer?

pjc50 said 7 months ago:

In this case it's not just their employer but other employees and customers. It's a negative-sum kind of action to retain yourself as a middleman.

wayoutthere said 7 months ago:

Which is why collective bargaining and unions make life better for everyone in the long run.

barry-cotter said 7 months ago:

Those are two different things, with different effects. Unions don’t make things better for everyone except their members in the long run, or the short run. They make things better for their members. Unions are economically labour cartels. Like any other cartel they don’t make the economic pie bigger they make sure their members get more pie. Pie either goes to consumers in the form of lower prices, owners in higher profits or workers on higher wages. There’s no free lunch.

Collective bargaining can actually make things better by reducing labor unrest and allowing for industry wide coordination such as greater investment in training or German style Kurzarbeit during periods of low demand, where more people keep their jobs but their hours are cut.

wayoutthere said 7 months ago:

> Like any other cartel they don’t make the economic pie bigger they make sure their members get more pie. Pie either goes to consumers in the form of lower prices, owners in higher profits or workers on higher wages.

I agree with you completely, except owners currently take a disproportionate slice of the pie. That is the cause of wealth inequality -- the power of unions to demand a bigger slice of the pie ultimately impacts the entire economy. Somewhat paradoxically, unions have much more of an interest in the long-term survival of the company than shareholders, who often take a short-term view of profitability. This ultimately leads to better decision-making.

pbhjpbhj said 7 months ago:

I'm going to guess union action has no effect on price relative to same-country business operations. Market affects price.

Unions often are negotiating to not get lower wages: owner has bumper year, offers below inflation pay deal ... unions can say that is not good enough.

Without unions workers have no leverage, owners and politicians have all the power.

Or, could someone give examples of price increases due to unionisation [where no-one was taking a profit]?

Or can you give examples

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

You realize that we have the unions to thank for most of the employee-protecting laws, right ? Who do you think is doing the collective bargaining in question, hmm ?

Dylan16807 said 7 months ago:

Depends on what the union is doing.

A healthy severance package is good for employment stability. Preventing jobs from ever going away hurts everyone.

ByzantineO6 said 7 months ago:

"Which is why collective bargaining and unions make life better for everyone in the long run."

When a labor cartel extorts above-market wages [that they ARE above-market is proved by the ferocious denunciation and violence against "scabs"(people willing to work for less than the cartel is demanding)], the money is not "liberated" from the "capitalist oppressor" existing only between the pages of "Das Kapital", but ultimately from the consumer, who responds. "In the long run" "everyone" stopped buying overpriced low quality UAW crap. And THAT,Comrades, is why we must liquidate the Kulaks! How DARE they?!

hinkley said 7 months ago:

That Twitter thread touched a nerve. My Credit Union does the same thing. The Fraud Dept calls me, and if I don't send them to voicemail they'll try to ask for PII. Like Citi, the number is also not posted on the website, and getting to them through the phone bank is harder than it should be.

Belonging to the Fraud Department does not mean you're in charge of creating fraud. If they left "Prevention" out of the title that's because it's implied. Don't train your customers to fall for phishing attacks, geniuses.

philipov said 7 months ago:

In fact, that's likely not your credit union's fraud department. It's probably the fraud department of the provider of your debit card, which is a different company.

hinkley said 7 months ago:

I'd be very surprised if you're wrong about that.

I think maybe the smartest thing I've ever heard Michael Dell say was related to pulling the plug on a plan to outsource a tech support unit.

They realized the perverse incentive: if you get paid by the call or incident, and some calls are cheaper than others, you "benefit" if there are more easy calls. Even though it's better for the company if you recommend fixing the root cause of those calls (eg, changing the packaging, documentation, or design of the product so that people don't have to pick up the phone).

Outsourced Fraud seems like it would have some of the same moral hazards.

tal8d said 7 months ago:

Having worked in loss prevention for more than one company, I've only seen cuts to that budget occur in one of two ways: departments working themselves out of a job by solving the root cause, or vendors absorbing enough counter-party risk to make in-house anti-fraud programs a net negative. I can't imagine any decision-maker outsourcing LP without simultaneously outsourcing risk, because it would not only be a bad idea - but would be nearly pointless in even the best potential outcome.

tempsy said 7 months ago:

I completely disagree with this prediction. People have been betting against large banks for awhile with record investment in challenger banks, but both Citi and JP Morgan recorded their most profitable quarter in their entire history this morning. And most of the big banks have actually invested very heavily in their IT over the past decade.

If you are complaining about their customer service, don't hold your breath when it comes to startup bank customer service. Chime, the largest funded neo bank in the US, had a 3 day outage in the fall when nothing worked (app, transactions, ATM) and could not handle the volume of calls or chat requests at all. People were literally stuck at the grocery store or gas station. That can't be the future of finance, either.

lol768 said 7 months ago:

>but both Citi and JP Morgan recorded their most profitable quarter in their entire history this morning.

Does this say anything about their ability to provide a decent user experience, or good customer support though?

A few years ago, I had no choice but to use a bank like RBS for my business account. It was rife with unreasonable fees, a terrible website and a ridiculous sign-up process. They got my custom because there was no alternative.

Monzo, Starling and e.g. Tide are doing pretty well here as a result of the poor show that other banks have been putting on for years.

>If you are complaining about their customer service, don't hold your breath when it comes to startup bank customer service. Chime, the largest funded neo bank in the US, had a 3 day outage in the fall when nothing worked (app, transactions, ATM) and could not handle the volume of calls or chat requests at all. People were literally stuck at the grocery store or gas station. That can't be the future of finance, either.

Not all challenger banks are like this, though. I've found Monzo to be much, much more reliable that the various incumbents in the UK (who don't operate a status page, don't inform customers properly when things are broken and _still_ schedule multiple-hour maintenance windows every year when BST begins/ends).

Customer support can be variable, unfortunately, but I think this is a problem which has arisen mostly as the bank has grown. It's still better, for me at least, than a legacy bank.

tempsy said 7 months ago:

I assume you're not US-based. I'm a long time Chase customer and am completely happy with the user experience and customer service. I've found the Citi, Amex, and Capital One digital experiences to also be good to very good.

The app is fast with an intuitive UI and does the job. If you don't believe me check out the app store rating.

My understanding is banks outside the US have not invested as heavily in their IT, and totally understand why challenger banks in other countries might have more success there. I've used in the HSBC app once, for example, and it's slow and terrible.

manacit said 7 months ago:

I agree with you completely -- I switched from a local CU to Chase because the experience was, almost uniformly, better:

- The iOS app, website and other digital tools are significantly better. My local CU's app is some whitelabeled third party app that barely works

- With nationwide set of branches, I'm able to get individualized support for whatever I need in most cities in the USA

- Chase offers significantly more functionality in general - wiring money via their website, longer transaction history retention, etc etc

OTOH, my local CU's customer support is horrendous, most of their branches don't even deal with cash, and if you're outside of the metro they're based in, you're SOL.

I've experienced the same with Amex, Capital One, etc. They were slow to ramp up, but their digital properties and tools are excellent in 2020.

taylortrusty said 7 months ago:

Fully agree. My experiences with Chase as a small business and personally have been great for over a decade. Local branch bankers get things done if need be; their email support is great and prompt; the app on iOS is fast and works well; transactions clear quickly; ATMs are modern and do everything I need.

There's a value to in-person banking when you need it, though I think retail banking has become too prevalent in NYC. No complaints otherwise.

gamblor956 said 7 months ago:

Same experience here for Chase and BofA. BofA is a bit trigger-happy at detecting fraud when I try to buy videogames or computer parts, but otherwise no issues in over a decade.

oarsinsync said 7 months ago:

> Monzo, Starling and e.g. Tide are doing pretty well here as a result of the poor show that other banks have been putting on for years.

We're going to see a serious decline in the number of challenger banks in the UK soon. Monzo has yet to post a profit. Yep, the bank we trust with our deposits is losing money every month, and Monzo is the poster child of the challenger banking movement. How healthy do you think the other banks are?

The strength of a retail bank is on the back of the strength of it's loan book. At historically low interest rates, that doesn't make for great profit opportunities for retail banks.

buckminster said 7 months ago:

> the bank we trust with our deposits is losing money every month

Meh. I don't trust the bank. I do trust the government deposit guarantee.

pbhjpbhj said 7 months ago:

>Monzo has yet to post a profit. //

Do you mean "Monzo are making losses", because not making a profit is not at all a problem for ongoing operation.

dx034 said 7 months ago:

It usually is a problem, companies need to make a profit most years so that they can use it up in bad years. Also, investors at some point would like to see a profit. There's a lot of "free" VC money at the moment but that's (hopefully) gonna end at some point.

pbhjpbhj said 7 months ago:

Reserves don't count as profits AFAIK.

oarsinsync said 7 months ago:

I think so, given that's what I wrote: "Monzo has yet to post a profit. Yep, the bank we trust with our deposits is losing money every month"

user5994461 said 7 months ago:

Consumer accounts is a very small fraction of the activity their provide.

Having worked at JP Morgan, I think it's exclusively B2B or very wealthy individuals (for which the support is top notch). Chase, the US consumer bank is a separate entity.

Dylan16807 said 7 months ago:

> Chime, the largest funded neo bank in the US, had a 3 day outage in the fall when nothing worked (app, transactions, ATM) and could not handle the volume of calls or chat requests at all.

That's a problem, but not a customer service problem. No company can handle that many calls, and those calls were all pointless.

jbverschoor said 7 months ago:

Startup banks (at least 4 of them) have a chat (which needs to work, otherwise tough luck). The chat is operated by unqualified, anonymous people, who's rotate even within the same conversation.

They're complete shit. Esp. if your transfer does reach the counterparty...

hinkley said 7 months ago:

This is my prediction: People don't like feeling trapped. If they have an out they might take it, or they might not. It depends on the context.

I've mentioned a few times recently a particularly memorable job that went from pretty great to head on fire. The moment I decided to start looking for a new job, my stress levels went way down. Even though I didn't even look at job openings or my resume for another three weeks. I ended up staying more than 6 months, in better spirits than I'd been in a couple years.

I also discovered at some point that verbalizing that you have a Plan B makes it easier for coworkers to swallow your Plan A. They have a gut feeling that it won't work and it makes them feel better that contingencies are in place. And I have some suspicions that much of the ornateness we accumulate in code is hitting that same button in your brain. We can always swap this out later.

oarsinsync said 7 months ago:

> I completely disagree with this prediction. People have been betting against large banks for awhile with record investment in challenger banks, but both Citi and JP Morgan recorded their most profitable quarter in their entire history this morning.

Are you sure those profits are in their retail banking sectors, or in their investment and corporate banking?

jdmichal said 7 months ago:

Looking at JPMorgan Chase's 4Q19 net incomes (numbers in millions):

    All = $8,5xx 
    CCB = $4,231 (50%)
    CIB = $2,927 (34%)
    CB  = $  938 (11%)
    AWM = $  785 ( 9%)
Those are, in order:

* Consumer and Community Banking, aka Chase retail banking.

* Corporate and Investment Bank, aka JP Morgan investment banking.

* Commercial Banking.

* Asset and Wealth Management.

(NOTE: The extra 4% above is accounted for in corporate overhead.)

tempsy said 7 months ago:

literally everything. banks are making money hand over fist right now.

empath75 said 7 months ago:

BlackBerry made massive profits after the iPhone was released.

reaperducer said 7 months ago:

On my way over, I noticed that there were a cluster of banks at the corner: TD, citi, chase, and like one or two others, all within a one block radius in a relatively high-rent district.

Servicing customers is just an ancillary function of most American bank branches these days. If you go into one with a problem, in 90% of the branches, the person helping you can only pick up the phone and dial the same customer service number you would call on your own, and wait the same amount of time you would on hold. It's been a very long time since bank branches were allowed to handle anything but ordinary everyday functions.

The larger reason those branches exist is advertising and branding. You see the brand everywhere you go in an average day and subconsciously put together, "$bank is everywhere I go in an average day."

It's similar to how banks used to always be constructed to look like ancient Greek and Roman temples: To make you think of banks as solid, trustworthy, safe, and like they'll be around forever.

Now that we all know that banks merge, split, are born, and die like herpes germs on an infected lip, they scatter branches all over the place to play the same architectural influence game.

jeffmould said 7 months ago:

This is completely the case with Chase. I had several accounts with them over the years and increasingly had issues (i.e. false positive fraud alerts, unexplained account locks, etc...). At one point the closest branch was an over an hour away from my home (I had moved since opening the account). When I would call the phone support they would tell me I needed to go to the branch. I would then make the drive to the branch only to have the branch manager call the same phone support I had. It's so bad that I once was locked out of online banking for over 6 months on one account and no one, both at the branch level and corporate level, seemed to know how to fix the issue. When I would go to the branch they would call support, support would tell them it is a branch level issue with needing to verify my identity, and the circle continued. I finally just gave up and closed all my accounts with them.

On the other hand, I have an account at BB&T, and their in branch help is phenomenal. Most issues are resolved direct in bank without having to call outside support. Only time they have contacted outside support is when they don't know the answer to a question. On the other hand, if I call support they are quick to answer questions and provide detailed explanations.

I have other accounts at another local bank and the same holds true. In branch support is where it is at.

There is no question that as a bank grows in size and territory the level of support at the branch level and via phone support seems to degrade rapidly.

VRay said 7 months ago:

That's interesting, about 5-6 years ago I had a great experience with Chase in person. I lived in Seattle but was on a 2 week work trip in Cupertino, and I forgot most of the contents of my wallet in Seattle. All I had on me was my ID and a Chase credit card.

The Chase card got shut down due to someone stealing the number, so I was suddenly in a tight spot.

I went into the local Cupertino branch, and the manager was able to put in a rush order for a replacement card to be delivered directly to that branch for me in 48 hours, and then he called my cell to let me know when it arrived. All in all it worked out great.

On the flip side, I'd had TERRIBLE experiences with Chase when I was in college years earlier. Just the classic situation of having an account with $3 in it, getting a "minimum balance fee" that pushes me negative, and then a bunch of chained-together overdraft fees.

nunez said 7 months ago:

I thought they were useful for customers that use their private banking services...?

reaperducer said 7 months ago:

Not every branch is authorized to handle private banking customers.

pjc50 said 7 months ago:

The branches can do one extremely profitable thing: sell you mortgages.

empath75 said 7 months ago:

Capital one branches are basically coffee shops.

reaperducer said 7 months ago:

I've heard about those, but haven't seen one in the wild.

When I lived in Chicago ING used to have a bank/coffee shop on Rush Street with pretty good coffee. It was free for a long time, and you could use the wifi as long as you liked, you just had to be surrounded by ING/Orange ads.

orf said 7 months ago:

It seems that without regulation and legislation, if left to its own devices, the banking industry settles in a terrible equilibrium where you end up using cheques and signing for card transactions in 2020. This extends deeper into the technology that underpins the banks.

The USA has a _ridiculous_ amount of banking fraud compared to Europe, more than an order of magnitude higher for some types.

So, say what you want about government overreach but Europe has legislated lower fraud rates, better technology and even a banking API for interoperability. Not to mention fostering a lot of new fintech startups and challenger banks.

nerdkid93 said 7 months ago:

Do you have a source for this "_ridiculous_ amount of banking fraud"? I have seen stats around credit cards that show higher fraud now compared to Europe, but that's because we were late to the chipped credit card game. To be fair, until France switched to chipped credit cards, they had higher levels of fraud. Source: https://youtu.be/2IksSNiEo2g

orf said 7 months ago:

The one that comes to mind is the federal reserve report.



For reference, according to the last ECB report in the EU the total value of fraudulent transactions from cards issued by SEPA countries was 0.041% of the total value of transactions (€1.8 billion - That's over 5x less fraud). Only 19% of that was point of sale fraud

$3.6 billion card fraud in the US is point of sale - 10x more than the €342 million point of sale EU fraud.

Overall there is $2.62 billion of counterfeit card fraud, $3.46 billion of "Fraudulent use of account number" (whatever that is), $810 million "lost or stolen card" fraud (not an issue with chip and pin), and $360 million "fraudulent application" fraud.

tribune said 7 months ago:

Ok this is bad but maybe shitty customer service and slow processes are the price of a functioning financial system. Say what you will about the dated technology and opaque processes - legacy big banks work, your money is safe there, and there has not been a significant, system-wide technology error.

Not that things should never change - pieces of this puzzle should be replaced, but very carefully. A major technology exploit or bug at a major bank would be apocalyptically bad. The stakes are too high to rapidly entrust financial infrastructure to whichever fintech startup comes knocking. Consider the recent case of Robinhood, a big-leaguer as far as fintechs go, accidentally offering infinite leverage. This was enough to convince me not to want fintechs near the bones of the banking system for quite some time.

ForHackernews said 7 months ago:

For those who are unfamiliar with the Robinhood "infinite money cheat code": https://pennystocks.com/featured/2019/11/12/robinhood-left-u...

mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

Europe and Australia/NZ solved this decade(s) ago.

0xff00ffee said 7 months ago:

I don't follow Abe Winter's logic: he had a good experience with an online service and a bad experience with a bank, and the bad experience required significant time to correct. Therefore: banks are bad. To make an accurate comparison, he would need to document a fraud alert on his Stripe side. Otherwise this comparison is meaningless.

Anecdote: I had a massive issue with PayPal payments being held up due to a changing my business to a different state. It took literally 2 months of losing 80% of my online purchasing revenue (paypal vs. CC). I had a very difficult time getting in touch with a human, let alone a human with authority. I felt like I was never making progress.

So from my perspective, talking to a chatbot or sending emails to anonymous mailboxes is equally fraught as OP's experience and I could enumerate a similar list of gripes.

Bottom line: complex systems fail spectacularly when you encounter a new bug, regardless if it is some <10year old online startup or >100 year old banking system.

coredog64 said 7 months ago:

I swore off PayPal for ~5 years for something similar. I was part of a group buy of something, and PayPal got overzealous in recognizing fraud. They locked the target account for months, preventing the buy from completing. But they also decided that they couldn’t refund the money either. In the end it took a heroic effort by the guy doing the buy. TBH, I think he had fronted the money for the buy, and so had to do the work to recover it.

chipperyman573 said 7 months ago:

FWIW he probably did eventually get the money, paypal has a policy that they'll release your money in a maximum of 180 days from when they freeze it. But it's very likely he had to wait the full 180 days to withdraw it.

Source: Happened to me a few years ago as well

boh said 7 months ago:

The author is comparing two different things, forming an LLC vs initiating/executing transfers. Banks are highly regulated with tight fraud/AML restrictions. The risks are severe enough to demand caution over client experience. I'm sure creating a banking infrastructure from scratch can be done in a more effective way, but regardless of the firm tasked with executing the transfer, they currently need to comply with the existing structure. If, as the author mentions, fintechs will purchase banks for pennies, then they'll be banks and you'll still have your transfer problem. There's a reason why tech firms are making very limited strides towards financial services.

nemothekid said 7 months ago:

I relate to the OP's frustration but it's clear why these Banks get away this - there doesn't seem to be any money in retail banking at all and as a result most banks do the absolute bare minimum unless you are very high net worth individual.

With Stripe, you are the customer and treating you right is it their best interest. Retail Banks try their hardest to charge you $50/mo for the privilege of maintaining a database row.

I would imagine for CitiGroup retail banking makes up a small percentage of their revenues. The engineers CitiGroup hires that would rival stripes aren't working on Retail Banking products - those products are probably fully outsourced.

hello_marmalade said 7 months ago:

Reasons to use a credit union. People should be moving away from all these banks that essentially only abuse people on every level and move toward cooperative financial institutions.

Alternatively, better banks like Aspiration, which is a B Corp, but I wouldn't put all my money on that.

reaperducer said 7 months ago:

Reasons to use a credit union

Reasons to use some credit unions. Just as there are good banks and bad banks there are good credit unions and bad credit unions.

When I wanted to buy my first house, I called the biggest local credit union to find out what the process would be like. Nobody would speak to me on the phone until I went to their web site and filled out a "pre-qualification" form that would then decide if I would be given a different phone number to call and speak to someone to set up an appointment to meet someone in person.

No thanks. I took my real money to a real bank.

fossuser said 7 months ago:

Why not just have everything in Fidelity or Vanguard?

Fidelity has free checks, debit withdrawals from any ATMs, easy ability to buy/sell stocks and index funds.

Their software could be better, but it's okay enough.

I'm not sure why anyone uses the other banks?

aj7 said 7 months ago:

There’s a tremendous amount of “analysis” below on just how the convoluted payment systems work. Keep in mind that their first design principle is to maximize profit by limiting customer liquidity. At a certain point, as a consumer, I do not care about the problems within a system designed to reduce my utility to increase your profits.

bagacrap said 7 months ago:

I've heard this claim before and I think it's plainly false. They're mostly worried about fraud, which is far more rampant that anyone who believes in crypto currency likely realizes.

Symbiote said 7 months ago:

> why didn’t ATMs reduce the number of bank branches

At least in the UK, the number of branches has halved in 30 years:

"Over the past three decades, the number of bank branches has fallen steadily. In 1986 there were 21,643 bank or building society branches in the UK. In 2014 there were 10,565. Over this period, the total number of bank and building society branches fell by 11,078 or 51%."

Did this not happen in the USA?


kube-system said 7 months ago:

It hasn't.

It looks like the US peaked in 2009 and has had a tiny (~5%) decline since then.


mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

Still using paper checks here! Not far from where the internet was invented. Branches aren’t going anywhere until that is fixed.

Symbiote said 7 months ago:

How often do you go to a bank branch?

For me, for the last 15 years, it's less than twice per year, possibly even less than once per year.

I used to have cheques to pay in from my grandparents (birthday etc), although I think I usually posted them to the bank. Postage was free. Presumably the in-branch bank tellers have better things to do than process cheques.

There were a few visits when I emigrated to close and open accounts. Much of this could be done by phone, but I had some old accounts from childhood which I'd never used online.

It's not at all surprising to me that the nearest bank to where my parents live in England is only open three days a week, with the ones that used to be nearer long since closed.

mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

Very rarely, see my cousin comment.

mrep said 7 months ago:

What do you use checks for? My rent comes out of my bank account, I bought my car with zero down so I didn't need a check then, and everything else goes on my credit card. Thus, I've never written an actual check in my life.

twothamendment said 7 months ago:

Property taxes, car registration, school lunch. Those are the most common for me. The first two can be paid with a card, but they tack on a fee.

mixmastamyk said 7 months ago:

Didn’t mean to say I used them, but rather they are used. However, my bill pay mails one automatically for rent, can you believe?

therealmarv said 7 months ago:

In Europe we have really innovative Fintechs which build awesome apps like e.g. Revolut (which are also in beta in USA) or N26. But guess what: Also fintechs have to comply with regulation and need to comply with AML (Anti Money Laundering) with their software and you also can get in trouble there. When you have problems there then sh*t hits the fan too: You don't have a branch were you could go, not even a telephone number, only chat in the app and maybe twitter. It's like Google for finances.

Ideal would be a combination of both worlds I guess.

fogetti said 7 months ago:

Exactly, this is a recurring theme regarding Revolut which hits the media headlines frequently, how Revolut also sucks when the shit hits the fan. I guess there are also similar stories in case of Stripe too.

Keverw said 7 months ago:

> The chase operators told me a few times that ‘something is weird about these payments’ but couldn’t be more specific

Wonder if it got flagged as suspicious? Some banks aren't even legally allowed to tell you some things about your own account.

But it does seem banks are still brick and mortar. There's a bank that won't let you reset your pin online or over the phone, so have to psychically show up and show your ID to someone who presses something in their computer and tells you to type a pin into the USB key pad facing you on the other side of the desk. I guess it's just a small annoyance if you live near by, but the same bank doesn't have branches all over the place so if you end up moving across the country probably should get a new bank anyways. I guess tech wise could be done online as they could let you scan your ID and do a quick picture or video chat or something to make sure it's really you maybe. Plus some of the online only banks seem to pay higher interest too but not sure if people really care about interest as not sure if it really makes a big difference to some people. The local bank doesn't even pay 1% and hides the interest rate in the fine print somewhere while some of the online banks pay 1% and openly advertise such.

elric said 7 months ago:

Banks, especially big ones, are a special breed. I've recently had the misfortune of working with people who work for a large US bank ... boy was it eye-opening! I've worked in fintech for nearly a decade, most of our clients are in the EMEA region. And while banks generally don't seem to attract the biggest talent, and usually don't seem to be organized in a way that makes any sense to an outsider, at least they're somewhat functional.

The US bank, on the other hand, is the single most dysfunctional organization I've ever dealt with. Every single person I've worked with borders on incompetent. There are so many useless layers of organizational abstraction that everyone is always on the phone trying to make sense of their own organization. And when things go wrong, Someone Has To Hang™, so when they're not trying to figure out whose job something is, they're trying to cover their own asses. Doesn't leave much time to get actual work done.

As near as I can tell, the only reason many of these big old banks are still around, is because reality hasn't caught up with them yet. And, of course, because they're sitting on a pile of money.

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Wasn't the 2009 crisis caused by big banks' biggest fintech talent believing their ~~astrology~~ math a bit too much ?

twothamendment said 7 months ago:

When I was 18 I had saved about $10k. I noticed on my statement it said I was being taxed. What? I went into the branch to ask about it and they couldn't tell me why tax was being taken out or when it would stop. I asked for a cashier's check for the full balance so I could close my account. The teller's jaw hit the desk. What did they expect?

A bank that can't explain their own statement to me is no bank of mine.

stantaylor said 7 months ago:

> I’ve never understood how branches can be profitable. My theory after this week is that some unknown force is sabotaging successful self-serve systems.

If the Wells Fargo clusterfuck of several years ago is any indication, that "unknown" is very well known: upsell opportunities (or, in the case of WF, just surreptitiously adding services and hoping the customer doesn't read anything when they sign)

privateSFacct said 7 months ago:

It's really not clear what happened here.

Some misconceptions though I'm seeing.

1) Banks always pay ACH debit requests (that draw money from your account).

No - you can sign up for ACH positive pay if you want.

This generally gives you till 11AM PST to accept or reject an ACH request. You can set rules by originator -ie, always pay up to $X from originator ID $Y.

You can also set a default to either pay unless rejected or reject unless approved.

You can also put an ACH block on accounts that shouldn't have ACH activity.

All this costs money.

2) Wire transfers

Hard to rewind these, so lots of extra hoop jumping. New accounts may limit your ability to wire large amounts of money.

3) Fraud is real.

Consider your parents and their retirement account. How would you feel if someone wired out or transferred out their entire brokerage balance? Think of how they authenticate with bank - could someone fake this? YES! Your parents re-use their passwords, write them on sticky notes, and their PII is everywhere.

Many more (sad) examples here.

nisten said 7 months ago:

From a UX perspective there's one great service that the banks provide and that is identity managament.

In my opinion this is the main reason why things like cryptocurrencies have not taken off, and that is because their identity & fraud management truly sucks.

There's no person to talk to when you loose your access keys or forget a pin/password.

It's extremely hard to automate all that purely in software, and the very few that have succeeded in managing it(i.e. apple & google) have leveraged their hardware infrastructure plus partnerships with telecom providers and all their physical braches.

Yes old-school banks are inconvenient, can be hell to deal with, however it's very hard to scale fraud when you need to physically show up in person at a branch and I feel like this factor is very underappreciated.

Waterluvian said 7 months ago:

For me it's that they're CDIC insured and government regulated. The Government of Canada would have to collapse in some apocalyptic event for me to lose the money in my accounts.

They're also very stable (the regulated Canadian ones at least).

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Cryptocurrencies (or at least Bitcoin) has this major flaw/feature that if you fuck up (mistake or get hacked), which happens to everyone, eventually, there are no reversing/chargebacks possible...

markvdb said 7 months ago:

I guess it's different in the US versus outside. Banks in the EU work relatively well.

Recent progress includes much improved and cheaper SEPA payments thanks to EU legislation, and transparent "the customer owns his data" EU legislation pushing financial innovation.

ab_testing said 7 months ago:

Banks in the US also work relatively well. The problems happen when somebody - anybody can find your name, date of birth and ssn from the internet. With these 3 pieces of information, they can call any bank and pretend to be you. That is why banks jump through hoops to verify your identity. That is where questions pop up like

1. What is your mother's maiden name that you gave us when you opened the account

2. What is the phone number listed on your account - so that we can verify that it is really you.

And when all else fails.

3. Banks ask you to go to a local branch with your id before they will unlock your account.

That is what happened with the author in this case. However he thinks that just because he is calling - the banks know that it is him when the bank can never be sure.

miki123211 said 7 months ago:

I feel like European banking is so much better than the U.S. You can do so much on line, and everything is way more secure.

nraynaud said 7 months ago:

It really is, because the regulation is strong, faster and cheaper transfers, common account numbering system, nobody bats an eye if your money crosses the border (it was a nightmare in the US, BoA would reject my client's wires all the time without explanation), etc.

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

"Crosses the border", how exactly? (Countries = States, Schengen = Federal)

nraynaud said 7 months ago:

I have no issues sending money from the continent to the UK or the US if that's your intellectual model. But I don't think you're on the correct track.

edit: this sentence is weird, on the US, the money is blocked on the American side according to the EU bank.

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

mental model : USA as one gathering of states, EU (Schengen) as another.

vonseel said 7 months ago:

This is a fun article, and I’m still reading it, but my immediate thoughts are that

1) self-serve is a relatively new thing enabled by tech.

2) even in 2020 there are still clusters of people who aren’t great at using computers, smart-phones, and apps and prefer doing things in person or on the phone; yeah, you have some older people in there, but there are young people who still do things the old way, because they never had an interest in technology or just don’t know about other options.

3) Health-care and banking aren’t the only industries that don’t have slick self-service portals like Stripe. I’d argue the opposite; only companies built after the advent of recent web tech usually offer that, many of them, in fact, are tech companies.

Think about United Health, this company employs some 300,000 persons. CEOs at both United and Aetna are paid around $20M annual comp. Why does an insurance company need 300k employees? Google itself apparently has around 100k - and they do much more than just pushing paper. Why are these guys paid so much? To resist change perhaps, embrace too big to fail culture, and keep their 300,000 employees employed?

If private industry can seem this wasteful and inefficient, I don’t even want to know about the dark corners of government where people are paid to sit at desks and make photocopies on 30 year old Xerox machines everyday.

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Not to mention that self-serve can suck, and in-person interaction can be great. In both cases it's about effort (money) put into it. And into maintaining it once it's not "shiny-new" any more...

aj7 said 7 months ago:

Walked into a Chase branch with a $43,000 Wells Fargo insurance claim check. Informed there’d be a 10-day hold. I exploded. (I didn’t need the $ immediately. It was the principal of the thing.) Went back to the car and drove 1000 feet over to the WF branch. Same crap. 10 days. Even if I opened a WF account with a WF CHECK! Went back to Chase, giving up. Silver lining. I manage all my cash better today. It’s hand to hand combat, so you get good at it.

bullfightonmars said 7 months ago:

This is most likely relates to the Bank Secrecy Act and IRS regulations for deposits over 10k.


avmich said 7 months ago:

> the yubikey is the possession that gives me the most delight. I savor the click when I plug it in. I take it out and look at it sometimes, tipping the gold USB contacts towards the light, muttering about how it was a birthday present. One day someone will win it from me in a riddle contest.

Yeah, just don't try to follow the winner having gamer remorse. Rumors are Mordor Security Agency gets serious searching for used keys...

immad said 7 months ago:

I am the cofounder of Mercury.co. We built a modern bank to support US businesses.

I am somewhat surprised by the negativity on HN to this post. I think the author is on target with issues he identifies at incumbent banks.

The future is going to be customer centric, technology driven banks and the incumbents are going to have a very hard time adapting to that change.

chx said 7 months ago:

Speaking of going to branches, in the beginning my branch manager was awesome. He set up everything for my small business, many of which I had no clue existed which is no surprise since I was a new immigrant to Canada. He left and handed my matters over to someone else who was also quite competent.

And then the next contact answered my email with the subject "Issues / meeting tomorrow around 4pm?" with "Yes, I will assist you with all the issue, when is good time to meet tomorrow afternoon?"... things didn't improve from there (she prepared no paperwork for all the issues I detailed in my email and wasted an hour of my time) and only got slightly better when I escalated to the branch manager and got a different contact.

You can't explain this sort of attitude with being conservative etc. Nope, banks these days just suck.

kevindong said 7 months ago:

Citi is notorious for having some of the worst tech in banking. It's bad by even banking standards.

Anecdotally, I opened up a consumer Citi checking account. The account has two distinct web UIs for transferring money via ACH. One looked modern but outright didn't work (as I recall, I couldn't get any of the dropdowns to populate with my account info so I couldn't use any of the web forms). The other was clearly ripped straight out of the late 90s/early 00s, but it did indeed work. The new version was the easily findable version, the older version could be hunted down with enough effort.

Additionally, it was actually impossible for me to find my routing number initially. I had to actually start a live chat with a customer service representative to get it.

stevula said 7 months ago:

I just got one of their retail credit cards and it is the only card I own at this point that doesn’t work with Apple Pay. Even my local credit union has figured this out. I can believe Citi has some bad tech debt.

therusskiy said 7 months ago:

Russia is far from being the most developed country out there, but our banks are infinite times for progressive than in other parts of the world. I can do every single thing from their app or their site, never need to visit my bank (aside from getting from an ATM).

orthoxerox said 7 months ago:

You haven't hit the right (wrong?) use case yet. I had to wire some money to an overseas resort for my honeymoon. I hit the currency control restrictions. Except I only learned that because I work for the same bank I have my accounts in, so I went to the gal in charge of the payment processing system, she told me the status, then I called the right person in the currency control unit who told me I had to send a freeform message via the app with a copy of the invoice as an attachment. What did the app itself (or the web client) tell me? Nothing, "payment processing is in progress".

muzika said 7 months ago:

American banks are targeted by fraud more than most banks based in other countries, so they have to have more protections against fraud.

wnoise said 7 months ago:

[citation needed]

novok said 7 months ago:

Out of all the large banks, citi has the most obtuse, sensitive and brain dead 'anti-fraud' systems out there. I opened a credit card with them and had such a bad experience with the anti fraud (which involved waiting for a letter for 2 weeks to be able to use the card again) that I won't open an account with them again.

Chase, schwab, capital one, discover and amex I've never any issues with like I did with citi. Even BoA was better.

I think my experience is a reflection of systemic issues at Citi, which is reflected in how they are doing fairly bad compared to the other big banks.

peterwwillis said 7 months ago:

Incidentally, TIL that Citi Commercial Cards' password policy is ">=1 letter, >=1 number, 6-9 characters".

Banks have zero incentive to modernize. They have a lot of customers that are never going to move their money, and they don't need to constantly release new products or compete for customers. All they have to do is not piss off their existing customers so much that they move elsewhere. And because that's usually a non-trivial (and potentially costly) process, they don't have much to worry about.

rolltiide said 7 months ago:

A lot of misunderstanding on the author's part. Not only would the author not have felt they were being gaslighted, they also wouldn't have had a nervous breakdown dealing with it.

Yeah, the user experience sucks, its an art to deal with though. So was Citi or Chase the brokerage firm, or was there a third brokerage firm like TD? Some people like the author's writing but some of the "who and what" is not clear, let alone the piss poor understanding of how the US banking system works.

jotakami said 7 months ago:

I just read The Phoenix Project so I feel like they just need more DevOps lol. But seriously, banking is a sales-and-marketing-driven industry and those are the least likely to understand and embrace the process improvement revolution that transformed manufacturing and is currently transforming IT. I think the author’s comment about the lack of technical expertise in management explains it most succinctly.

jijji said 7 months ago:

automation of an LLC seems like a pretty dangerous thing considering you are trying to automate dealing with 1) secretary of state and 2) irs and 3) creation of a business bank account.... does this really need to be automated? it seems like a solution looking for a problem. It also seems like a minefield from an automation perspective because there are too many errors that can happen through automation at each step in this process. Its mostly an information gathering process for step one and step two, step three is information gathering and verification of what you submitted... it takes a few hours to this by yourself online and in person at the bank, and when it fails, you will need various humans in each step to figure out what went wrong. For example, IRS.gov will block on SS4 filings for various reasons, i.e. only one filing per day.. Seems too error prone to try and automate, and I bet they are using screen scrape tools to do it and so its probably going to break when the endpoint changes any form variables too..

juskrey said 7 months ago:

US banks are simply not suitable for remote problem solving. I once have run US company remotely, which was completely blocked for three weeks after one typo in outgoing transfer. Never remotely again. I thought Stripe Atlas have solved this problem.. Turns out not..

nottorp said 7 months ago:

Hmm yes we know. US banks suck.

However, I'd tone down the Stripe praise a bit. I bet that if you had a need that isn't covered by their script you'll be in even more trouble than with a traditional bank.

xvilka said 7 months ago:

I like the approach of Chinese banks here - almost everything can be done from the mobile application, way more than in US or EU banks apps (apart a few exceptions). There is another problem though - they are riddled with advertisement on every screen. I wish more innovation in that sphere. It applies to both personal and corporate experience.

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Why is this guy still not using an online-only bank in 2020 ?!?

mrep said 7 months ago:

What's better about an online-only bank? From what I have seen, I could get some interest on my checking account but that wouldn't be much as I only keep enough in there to autopay my rent and credit cards. Other than that, my checking account is free, they have ATMs everywhere, and there are tons of banks I can go to if I need to.

BlueTemplar said 7 months ago:

Well, I don't know, I'm still using a traditional credit union (?) bank, but this guy certainly seems like it should have been an early customer of those ?

lewsid said 7 months ago:

I just feel compelled to share that this was a delight to read. This Abe dude can write. Especially enjoyed the bit about Chase gaslighting him.

notyourday said 7 months ago:

I call B.S. on Chase gaslighting him. For a bank to do what he is describing is a one sure way for the OCC to get involved and there's not a single bank regulated by the OCC that wants folks from OCC poking their nose in it.

Simply put - bank has zero upside backdating transactions and an enormous downside.

gamblor956 said 7 months ago:

I don't think it's gaslighting so much as it is him not understanding how transactions work.

There's the posting date, which is when the transaction appears on the statement. However, the details of the transaction, such as the amount or even whether the transaction should be cleared, have not been finalized, so they are still subject to change by the merchant. Paypal used to use this to authenticate bank accounts, and other merchants also use this to pre-authorize payment accounts (i.e., credit cards) or payments.

Then there's the clearing date, which occurs after the merchant finalizes the transaction. Legally, this is when the money actually leaves your account. Generally, the amount at clearing is the same as the amount at posting, however for restaurants, the amounts are usually different because the final amount includes the tip, if any.

viraptor said 7 months ago:

There's unfortunately no standard on which date is shown in the UI. I've used banks showing either one of those and also some that show both. You can sometimes also see both when downloading the transaction in some more structured file format.

It's useful to understand which one is being presented by default.

anonymoushn said 7 months ago:

I'd like to use this version of Stripe's product. The one I used makes you wait a month or so until you give up and use LegalZoom.

Justsignedup said 7 months ago:

To note, Taxi Medalions server a good purpose, but are also corrupt.

There should be NO ABILITY TO TRANSFER a medallion AND requiring proof that it is actively being used. You shouldn't be able to sell it.

Taxi medallions actually keep city streets clear of massive cabs, which is exactly the problem that happened in nyc once uber/lyft moved in.

chrono3d said 7 months ago:

The gaslighting comment really resonates with me. It's one of the reasons why I find the push to paperless everything a little disquieting - sometimes I want to keep records in case my dispute is with the record holder!

I had an issue with a credit card company a few years ago, in which I had to request a new card. Apparently, as part of the new card issuance, they also "helpfully" moved my payment due date -- which I found out about when I received a past-due notification via the mail. Had I not had a paper statement with the correct due date on it, I probably could have been convinced that I had just missed making a payment, especially as the initial customer service representative insisted there was no way a new card could change my payment due date. Only after escalating a couple of times were they able to figure out that I in fact hadn't requested my monthly cycle only be 18 days long.

Now my wife makes fun of me because I still receive and file away paper statements, just in case.

Edit: removing names since it's not relevant to the story.

ryukafalz said 7 months ago:

I’m still a fan of email for this reason. Once someone sends me an email, the copy in my inbox is mine, and the sender can’t later hide it/take it back/etc.

michaelhoffman said 7 months ago:

If I could get banks to send me financial statements as PDFs in an email I would sign up in a second.

viraptor said 7 months ago:

If it's really important to you, you can use one of the companies which receive and scan your post into emails. Then change your bank correspondence address to them.

michaelhoffman said 7 months ago:

That's a good idea. Thanks.

michaelhoffman said 7 months ago:

It's also so much easier to open an envelope than to deal with a passel of poorly-designed web sites and their poorly-designed authentication systems just to open a statement from each financial institution.

a_imho said 7 months ago:

And probably much more secure.