What We’re Reading: Fin-Tech Startups, Small Business Bankers and Mobile Payments

Below are interesting stories the Banking.com staff has been reading over the past week. What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments section below or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

  • In Middle America, Amber Waves of Fin-Tech Startups

American Banker

Financial technology startups dot the landscape like grain silos mark the surrounding farmland. In Silicon Prairie, mobile payments, online banking and core banking services are the new cash crop. The geographic triangle drawn around Omaha, Neb., Des Moines, Iowa, and Kansas City, Mo., (one of several regions to share the Silicon Prairie name) has been a technology powerhouse for decades. But in the past five years that trend has accelerated, with numerous new companies taking root there to help retail banks keep ahead of technology trends, even amid the recession.

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  • The Future of Banking Could Include Palm Reading

American Banker

The future of branch banking might involve palm reading. For 2012, that means using palm technology to verify identities at an automated teller machine and not a mystical, soothsaying woman telling you that you’ll be married three times. The technology is found in prototypes of new branch technology at consulting firm Accenture’s financial services innovation centers across the world. Accenture on Thursday partnered with Filene Research Institute to give attendees at a credit union conference in Chicago insight into how branches will operate in the digital age. Although the conference was for credit unions, there were plenty of takeaways for banks.

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  • Resurgence for Small Business Bankers

Barlow Research Analyst’s Journal

Last year at this time, Barlow Research reported that the branch staff was the glue holding together the small business banking relationship. During 2010, a greater percentage of small businesses with sales of $100,000 to <$10 million that selected the branch manager as their primary contact was very satisfied with their bank compared to those selecting an account officer. At that time, branch managers were more accessible, followed up on requests and understood the company’s objectives compared to account officers. To be released in May, Barlow’s 2012 Small Business Banking Annual Report again analyzed customer evaluations of the branch manager and the account officer.

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  • It’s not just Instagram. The ‘app economy’ is taking off.

Christian Science Monitor

Facebook’s $1 billion purchase of smartphone app Instagram is just the tip of the iceberg. Apps represent a $20 billion industry employing nearly 500,000 people. Three years ago, frustrated in his search for a summer job, Valparaiso University senior Cameron Banga decided to try less traditional work: writing apps. The result? A battery-monitoring application for the iPhone called Battery Go!

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  • The Missing Tab at Banking Websites

Net Banker

You can debate whether branches are dead or simply need a good pruning. But, there is no argument about the importance of a well-designed website where prospective customers can learn about what you have to offer. Financial institutions do a good job showcasing products, rates, and available accounts. But shoppers, especially ones not already familiar with you, want to understand what it’s like to bank with you and whether you’ll be there for them if there’s a problem.

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  • A Bank Account That Helps Pay Off Student Loans

New York Times

A new online bank aims to help graduates reduce their student debts, by paying rewards when they use their debit cards. SmarterBank, an offering from SimpleTuition Inc., was introduced this month to help students and families save on educational expenses. SmarterBank isn’t actually a bank, but it offers banking functions through the Bancorp Bank, which provides the plumbing for various online financial services companies. “Increasingly, over the last year or so, the new problem in student lending is helping graduates find a way to manage repayment of their loans,” Kevin Walker, chief executive of SimpleTuition, said in a phone interview.

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  • Digitizing your personal finance life


Have you emerged yet from the mountain of receipts and financial statements you need to sort and calculate to complete your tax return? And is paper already piling up or 2012? Americans spent an average 22 hours last year filling out tax forms. Even at the office, we spend an average 30 minutes a week hunting for paperwork, according to Brother International. A bad organizational system – or no system – is both time-consuming and costly.

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  • Pew: 65% of experts say most people will adopt mobile payments by 2020


There’s no doubt that mobile payments are generating plenty of hype among the tech community, but how long will it be until they go mainstream? 65 percent of experts surveyed by the Pew Research Center agreed with a statement that said mobile payments would take off by 2020, according a new report released today, “The future of money: Smartphone swiping in the digital age.” 33 percent of experts agreed with a more negative statement, which said that consumers wouldn’t trust mobile payments to replace cash and credit cards by 2020. It’s worth noting that those surveyed only had two scenarios to choose from, so there’s additional complexity to consider from the experts. Most of those who said mobile payments will take off, for example, also said that cash and credit cards won’t disappear entirely. Consumers hoping for anonymity, or those simply refuse to change, will likely stick with current methods.

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  • Credit union attracts younger members with free tunes

Washington Post

Take your pick: Three percent interest on your checking account or $10 in iTunes downloads every month. It was an easy choice for Tim Klapac, 20, who opted for the latter. The College Park resident says his iTunes library has grown to include nearly 800 songs since he signed up for the Kasasa Tunes program at Money One Federal Credit Union a year ago. “Online purchases are huge for people my age, and this is just so convenient,” Klapac said. Largo-based Money One began offering the Kasasa Tunes program nearly two years ago in hopes of attracting younger members.

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Written by Banking.com Staff