My Banking Epiphany
How do you choose a bank to open an account in, when there is so many parameters to consider? I wanted to simplify the decision as much as possible and ruled out all criteria but one because while a lot of them might have mattered in the past, most felt irrelevant for the future.
Indicators of the banks' health are unfortunately irrelevant these days. Deposit insurance schemes and lender of the last resort rules have made consumers oblivious to how banks are managing their own money (resulting in massive monetary expansion and destructive business cycle). Plus this permainflationary environment with negative deposit yields makes it foolish to maintain balance higher than typically insured amount.
Number of branches and their opening hours should be irrelevant these days since any bank, which isn't able to cater for vast majority of requests in its internet banking and cover outlier cases via phone isn't worth considering. Number of ATMs around the city matter more, but my preference for less frequent and larger amount withdrawals makes it easy to plan according my daily commute. Credit cards are offered without bank account by many banks and issuers, so I ruled that out as a factor too.
Internet banking experience is much more important. I really don't want to be bothered going to branch or even calling customer service. It should be considered a defect in the system if customer needs to call the service. Problem is, how do you compare. There are no online rankings and the demos, which banks provide don't bring you close enough to the real experience anyway.
So I ended up narrowing down my criteria to a single one: rating of the bank's mobile app. Not only because of how important mobile experience is, but also because rating system at app stores allows for simple comparison. So I looked at mobile banking apps and chose the one with highest score. That was it. The whole multi-trillion dollar system with its massive legacy infrastructure, its overheads, its close relationships with governments, all of that boiled down to a few stars on Google Play store page. I loved the simplicity of it. It made my life easier and for sure will make again whenever facing similar decision in the future.
It might sound silly, but for me it was a small epiphany not only about how have our (my) consumer preferences shifted, but also about relationships we have with old world (financial) institutions vs. our beloved technology providers and other consumers we meet at their platforms. It paints an interesting picture about the world where WeChat and Alipay process more than 5 trillion dollars worth of transactions already and Facebook wants to replicate it within its own ecosystem. And it also makes me even more optimistic about future of Bitcoin, which for many users started and to date continues exclusively as mobile experience. And if that picture is not so rosy for banks, good. They suck anyway.