In the history of online banking, has there ever been so many words written about a company before it’s even opened for business? I can’t think of any.
It’s a two-edged sword. Free publicity is great for building a brand. But it can also ratchet expectations up so high that delivering the goods becomes harder.
The BankSimple team is keeping things low-key on its website. You even have to search a bit to figure out how to get on its mail list (see note 1). But some of the press accounts are downright giddy over the yet-to-be-launched-nonbank bank (note 2).
Case in point: Friday’s Mashable post which generated 1,000 Tweets, 365 likes, 33 comments, and eight Diggs. The author, Jennifer Van Grove gushes about BankSimple, using terms usually reserved for a new Apple i-something launch:
The Banksimple formula is one that puts customers first and focuses on automatic, “worry-free” money management with a digital twist and penchant for social integration.
…the startup’s bleeding-edge approach to banking that we predict will be both controversial and groundbreaking.
And these were the subheads in the article:
- A New Way to Bank
- Predictive Money Management
- Social Media Meets Banking
- Fee-Free for Real
- The Zappos of Banks
But after all that setup, the reader comments were predominantly skeptical/negative. I think it all sounded a little too good to be true.
Relevance to Netbankers: Despite the skeptical Mashable comment thread, there is a real appetite in the country (world?) for fresh ideas in the banking sector. But there’s also huge trust hurdles for financial startups. BankSimple is planning a hybrid model. A Web-based, social-media-loving startup running on the banking rails (note 3). It worked for PayPal. It will work again (note 4).
1. Prospective customers must first click on the Join tab on the far right of homepage. Users are asked for their email address (obviously) and something I’ve not seen before, their bank balance. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems a little too forward for a beta invite page and may dissuade some from leaving their name. Also, it seems just a bit out of step with the bank’s populist message. Not a big deal.
2. And given that this is our third post on BankSimple, I guess we are in that category as well.
3. We’ve written about this theme many times over the years; the last time we published a full report was almost ten years ago: Online Banking Report: Building the Amazon.com of Financial Services.
4. This is a general statement. Until I understand what it’s doing, I’m not predicting anything about BankSimple, other than it will get a lot more press.