The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

The Changing Financial Industry

It’s interesting to watch the finance industry attempt to catch up to the web and technology in general. In my experience of running a business and working on the web, no one struggles more with the shifting landscape than accountants, lawyers, and bankers. Most are firmly stuck in the brick and mortar world they grew up in.

One classic example of this was my US based business account for running Fusion Ads. If I wanted to send a wire transfer, I had to start up VMWare Fusion, load up my virtual install of Win XP, open the banking site in IE, then insert a USB key fob and log in. Painful! But that was the world in 2011–12 and things have improved.

Most banks now allow scanned cheques. And I’ve been impressed with my personal banking officer. He’s young, he understands that current generations want to do things differently and does what he can to enable that. And now we’re seeing new startups attempting to bridge the gap.

One that caught my eye a few months back was a Canadian based startup, Wealthsimple. With a focus on the overall experience, it’s clear that this team is putting good design at the forefront of a financially focused app. It currently exists as a web app, as well as being available on iOS and Android devices.

I signed up and adding a small bit of funds to check it out. So far, it’s more than decent in terms of the experience. Initially, the process is daunting because it’s far different than most SaaS tools or web apps. On signup, you have to start giving out some private details and signing papers. That is a scary first step and goes against the grain of current web products, where an email addy is usually enough to check things out.

But we’re talking finances here, a very regulated industry, so that’s to be expected. But once you complete all that and add some funds, things are very enjoyable.

Compared with traditional options, Wealthsimple is far superior. I’ve had a friend who runs a financial advisory firm who has handled our investments for years. And while I always enjoy chatting with him, I never log into the web portal they offer. It’s butt ugly, plain and simple. Wealthsimple makes the simple act of reviewing the status of your investments daily a pleasure.

It’s too good actually, as I’m a firm believer long term investments should be done with a bit of a “set and forget” mentality. A nice UI makes me want to check in more often, not a good thing in this are … and the screenshot above proves my point. It’s been a bad week for the markets :)

Another area that has impressed is personal banking. As mentioned above, the overall industry is improving. And although Simple is still US only, YNAB has been a joy to use the past couple of years. And that team has been hard at work making the newest version, which is completely web based.

No more Mac desktop app. And I couldn’t be happier. Why? Because now they can sync with my bank! For the past 18 months, I’ve been using YNAB by painstakingly adding in transactions manually, one by one. Along with that major improvement for this Canadian, they’ve improved a lot of the aspects of their app (the goals are great, as is the “age of your money”), as well as tightened up their overall approach to budgeting. It fits very well with modern spending habits.

It makes me happy to see design helping real problems. Let’s hope this trend continues to spread (healthcare, anyone?).

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