Slowly -- and sometimes not so slowly -- the bricks have been giving way to the clicks for the past 15 years. Plenty of formerly unassailable business models have suffered as a result. The tears flowing for these companies, however, have been few outside their own high, stony walls.
Users, customers, innovators, seekers -- the majority bottom sections of the social and economic pyramids -- these are the big winners in the many wonderful effects of the Web and Internet. And I for one have the freedom, productivity, choice and empowerment to prove it.
Except in one glaring area: banking. We are by no means done on the disruption front.
I have had it with the old financial processes, lack of capability, murky institutions, rips-offs, peonage fees/rates -- and especially attitudes. As far as I'm concerned -- as a consumer, family, and business -- I'm ready to fire them all and move to the inevitable cloud- and open source-based alternatives.
I have had it with credit cards, banks, mutual fund companies, PayPal, debit cards, MasterCard (MA) and Visa (V). As far as I'm concerned they are all fired. They do a lousy job, have suspect security, charge too much, stiff you with hidden fees and raise their rates whenever they want. Why pay 15 percent interest on a credit card when money can be borrowed for less than 2 percent? For their service? For their security? Because they can do a basic two-phase commit?
Merchants hate it, users hate it. Why are we waiting on this? Let the banking disruption rumpus begin!
You want financial industry reform? Screw the Congress, SEC and Fed. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd don't seem to have the stomach and/or power to make much difference. Same with Obama. What we need is real competition -- Internet style. The financial industry needs to follow the mainstream media (and others like car makers and hopefully cell phone networks) on a strict diet of lower costs, less egregious profits, less pitiful service -- and to be swiftly outmatched on their piss-poor online capabilities.
Like a lot of big, old industries, the banking function is essentially a function nowadays of software, standard protocols, high-performance (yet standard) IT systems ... and soon impeccable cloud computing credentials. But the key is good software making things work for the users and community, not just the providers.
A few good transactions
If I can order movies, rent a car, and run a small business online, I should be able to do a few basic financial transactions online. I'd like to do more micro-payments and automated financial and business processes. Credit cards are not the best way to do this. Yet I seem to be stuck with a loan shark when I simply need to be able to order and fulfill a modest online transaction.
So let's have those that are good at what really counts -- software and cloud computing experts -- offering the banking services that we as consumers and businesses really want.
I'm tempted to write a similar screed about health care and mobile telephony, but that will have to wait. But we need to nail banking, finance and insurance first. It impacts all the rest.
The last two years are and should be the last straw. Wake up. In these failed finance industries -- the corporate leaders of which we as U.S. taxpayers apparently own in no small degree -- "Too big to fail" needs to be replaced with too good to resist. The companies that should be subsidized are the ones that create productivity, lower costs, improve service and propel, rather than hamstring, the economy.
Why, as part of the stimulus, are the governments not creating the legislation to allow a new breed of bank to emerge? Why are the laws not being amended to allow for more -- not less! -- competition in the financial realm? What choice do we really have? MasterCard and Visa are not a choice.
In other words, we need a viable new cloud banking option era. Marc Andreessen told Charlie Rose when he set up his latest venture fund last year that new online banking was ripe for investment. He's right. Let's get on with it. I'll be your first customer.
Let the big guy do it
Meanwhile, how about Google (GOOG)? Like a dog on a meat truck, they have their teeth into everything else around them. Why not online banking too? You can't blame for being too big to succeed, can you?
If any of us can explore, learn, compare, shop, order, track, and share your experiences via Google, the actual monetary transactions scattered inside these processes should be a natural included component too. Right?
Is Google the best candidate to create a good, customer-focused cloud banking service portfolio? I think they would provide just the catalyst for change we so desperately need. We can then expect Microsoft (MSFT) to enter the field three years later, perhaps for an added element of choice and change.
MicroCard and Googlesta! Hey, it's a start, and almost certainly an improvement.