May 16 2011|08.00 AM UTC

Stan Reybern

The Future of Banking

Category: Personal Finance, SRTags: , , , , ,

When I turned nine, my grandmother gave me a bright yellow, circa 1980 Robie the Robot Bank from Radio Shack for my birthday. When I placed a coin into Robie’s hand, he lifted it to his mouth and swallowed my change, keeping it safe for a rainy day in his metal belly. The best part was always the little robot dance he did afterwards. I loved that little guy and was stunned by his cutting-edge technology as a kid. I remember thinking, as he twirled around on the floor, “Man, I bet we will all keep our money in robot banks in the future.”

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Well, 30 years later, I found myself wondering where a person could find a robot bank these days. I was able to find my old friend on eBay and, with my phone’s one-click shopping app, I easily ordered him and arranged for him to be mailed same day. Suddenly, I realized, maybe I wasn’t wrong all those years ago about the future of banking. While we may not be moving towards larger, fancier versions of Robie the Robot to accommodate our financial needs, the future of banking certainly lies in two of his key characteristics: device-based banking and mobility.

As more people adopt smart phones, the importance and potential of mobile banking continues to grow. Many banks have created banking apps that allow customers to access their accounts, pay bills, spend money and more.

One innovative app that’s out there is PNC’s Virtual Wallet. Users can clearly view a calendar of deposits and bill due dates to stay on top of their finances and even deposit money into their virtual piggy bank by shaking their phone.

ING DIRECT’s robust phone app is also quite futuristic as it not only allows users to monitor their ING accounts but also transfer money to friends and family by simply “bumping” phones.

Another futuristic app is Chase Bank’s Quick Deposit phone app, which allows users to deposit a paper check by simply taking a picture of either side of the check with their phone’s camera.

In 2007, Umpqua Bank released a short video, called “Branch of the Future” that showed a potential future of financial services. This video focuses on the ease of banking from mobile devices and the seamless integration of those devices into those at the bank or at home. As mobile banking apps continue to improve and the world becomes more trusting of technology when it comes to banking, the reality of Umpqua Bank’s “future branch” grows closer.

Unfortunately for all of us children of the 80s, Robie the Robot Bank himself probably won’t play much of a role to play in the future of banking. However, the phone that I used to order and pay for him on most likely will.

What would you like to see banks add to their mobile banking apps?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob May 18, 2011 at 6:28 am


I want banks to have a physical presence that I can go to, interact with a teller, cash or deposit checks on site, withdraw cash as needed with the teller handing me the money in the denominations and coins that I request, and be able to meet face to face with an employee to set up a certificate of deposit, etc.

If I want to give my friends money, I’ll hand them either cash or a check.

Phones are for talking on. Not bumping or shaking.

Nothing more, nothing less.


Jim June 4, 2011 at 3:43 am

Well, Bob, if you want to pay for that bank’s cleaning service, landscaping, air conditioning/heating, “free” coffee and lollipops, etc., be my guest. As for me, I don’t care if I never see the inside of a bank again. I want the highest possible interest rate and I don’t want to pay fees. I’d rather scan my checks and deposit them from home, set up CDs online and use ATM’s globally without fees. I can always get my cash in the denominations and coins that I want while I am shopping at the grocery store. My life is too short to spend my time visiting branches, paying fees and getting lousy interest rates. I’d rather be with my family spending the money I save on something fun with them.


Bob June 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Well, Jim, I also like to earn high interest rates. And I also don’t want to pay fees. And I am not charged any. If you want to do all your banking without setting foot in the door, it’s fine with me. However, by going to the branch, I don’t have to worry about some electronic transaction, card, or phone being hacked and becoming an identity theft victim as a result. It was announced today that 250,000 account holders at Citibank were victimized a month ago because of hacking. I’ll take my chances with a paper check and having one slight chance of having my information compromised, rather than going the electronic route and risking the same thing happening to me, along with hundreds of thousands of others at the same time.

Furthermore, I happen to like the idea of people being gainfully employed. Brick and mortar branches means people working. It means jobs. It means wages. Money being spent in the community and turning over multiple times as people buy groceries, things they need at the stores, spending it on entertainment, and the list goes on. I want my community to be successful. The growing reliance on on-line methods of commerce seems a pretty good way to boost unemployment and ensure an even larger chasm between the haves and have-nots.
Progress? Not in my book.

Finally, there is no reason to think that interest rates will go any higher or fees any lower if there are no local branches. Greed is much more the driving force.


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