The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

Wesabe does it again | “Your bank has a REST API now (shhh! — don’t tell them)”

This is another industry shifting change announced by Wesabe here.  While the implementation sounds, and is, technical in nature, the implications are, in my view, profound. 

Wheaties for Your Wallet

… … as a tool for getting your data out of your banks and credit cards, and into whatever form or program is going to most help you manage your money.

Banks and their customers information is proprietary, and Banks have historically owned and treasured that information.  Internet has been all about information becoming free and available.  Open Source is a watchword for internet.  I am typing this blog post in ScribeFire, a free extension within Open Source Swiftfox browser, all running on an open source Xubuntu Linux operating system.  Everything sacred is turned on its head by internet.

I say all that because Wesabe grabbed yet another leading edge position that not only differentiates them, but will force Banks to reconsider how they deal with Wesabe.  How do you compete with someone how is competing with you on data, when you thought the business was about money.  This takes us back to that famous quite from CitiBanks Walter Wriston.  In 1992, no less, he said, “Information about money has become almost as important as money itself”.

Banks never understood that comment, and have, generally speaking, continued on the track of pushing products to consumers.  Co-incedentally, I was speaking with Ron from MarketingROI this morning, and we spoke about the difficulty in defining customer centric, and the issue that no-one company can be customer centric;  at best Banks have to learn to fit within a customers environement, that includes much more than Banks.  Ron has spoken much about ‘customer engagement‘, and he may be on to a better way to think about customers with that.

So what should marketers do?

Invest in customer engagement.

Many marketers consider engagement to be a buzzword. But engagement is a valid concept, if you use the term to describe the extent to which your customers interact with you in meaningful, emotional ways. Not just by checking their balances every day, but by relying on you for advice and guidance on how to manage their financial lives and make smart financial decisions.

For more on Rons thoughts on this, go here.

Back to Wesabe;  their new API simply provides access to an assortment of customer information across all their activities that involve money.  This transcends Banking, and covers insurance, movies, restaurants, telecommunications, etc etc.  Wesabe have that data, and they have customers views on the quality of those services, the quantity used, and co-relation with geography, demographics, and other information.  I will let Wesabe speak to which pieces are being made freely available through the API, but I suspect all of it. 

They anticipate new services for consumers based on their data, that consumers can use to be better informed.

The key for Wesabe, is that they have turned that data over to consumers, and redress the balance of information power that has existed.  Banks know everything about consumers, and not vice versa;  Banks are paternalistic towards consumers, and that is in large part a result on unequal information and knowledge.  As Mark says ….

We want to take the idea of a credit bureau (where businesses report
their experiences with consumers so that other businesses can benefit) and turn it on its head — building instead a value bureau, where consumers can share their experiences with businesses, so all consumers can benefit.

Citi, Wells, Bank of America, Royal Bank of Canada;  they are all large enough to have a set of information which could be used, and compared, analysed and related to Wesabe type data.  The opportunities are considerable, not for pushing products, which is where many will go first, but rather for understanding customers in different and new ways, and working from an environment, where customers are equally or better educated about financial matters.

Anyhow kudos again to Wesabe.

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Written by Colin Henderson

July 12, 2007 at 11:57

11 Responses

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  1. […] you may have noticed, we at Wesabe just released an API allowing you to access your financial data on your own […]

  2. This is yet another great step ahead from Wesabe!

    The principle of turning the table around is very promissing too. What would you like to know about your bank? Do you get better or worst services than other clients? Better terms?

    Very interesting and quite promising!

    Martin Hudon

    July 12, 2007 at 18:58

  3. This is great news and should put Wesabe ahead of its competition. Curious to see how the facebook application helps grow this information exponentially.

    David Litsky

    July 13, 2007 at 09:26

  4. Very cool. I’d been wondering if they would drop something like that on us! Between Wesabe’s API and Prosper’s API, anyone can get a new and interesting look peopole’s financial lives.

    Robbie Wright

    July 16, 2007 at 10:05

  5. @Robbie … and it helps consumers to become better informed and educated in advance of conversations with their financial services providers. It levels the playing field, through what Marc at Wesabe referred to as the ‘value bureau’ [taking that from the term, credit bureau].


    July 16, 2007 at 12:19

  6. You must be easily impressed….profound? Wesabe providing a basic API to get others to develop apps for free that helps Wasabe attract more users….big surprise. With their basic functionality, Wesabe clearly needed to do something to make it worth a peson’s time to load their banking data.


    July 16, 2007 at 23:22

  7. @Winston … thanks for the comment, and the opportunity to clarify ‘profound’. There is no link to your site, so I will just comment here. Its profound because no-one else in financial services is sharing detailed transactional and rating information, until now.


    July 17, 2007 at 10:07

  8. […] 18th, 2007 · No Comments After the post on Wesabe and their new API, I was fortunate enough to be able to pose some questions to […]

  9. […] Henderson at Bankwatch also has a nice post discussing Wesabe’s new […]

  10. […] you may have noticed, we at Wesabe just released an API allowing you to access your financial data on your own […]

  11. […] above. This means they are really interested in the Open Source Model of making things happen. As another blogger points out: The key for Wesabe, is that they have turned that data over to consumers, and redress […]

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