Whine and Dime #0004

Whine

As I whined last week, getting a bank account in the UK proved to be incredibly difficult. Now that I have managed to get one, it is worth reflecting on what happened. Whilst I'm all for security, privacy, and risk management, what drives me crazy is security theatre that just moves the problem up or downstream without actually improving security, reducing risk, or maintaining privacy.

As an ex-pat moving to the UK, I (obviously!) did not have a local address, which made "proof of address" a challenge. The list of documents that UK banks accept for proof of address is relatively short and quite prescriptive.

Banks rely on specific address documents in the list, and will not entertain any common sense variation. This is understandable, as their banking licenses rely on compliance. The problem is that the source documents have weaker original identification processes than the banks who rely on them. For example, getting a land-tax bill from the local council is considered enough to prove an address, but a signed and executed residential tenancy agreement is not. But, a signed and executed residential tenancy agreement is acceptable to the local council in order to get a council tax bill. And the council tax bill can then be used as proof of address. Which is an obvious hole.

I don't know what the solution to this problem could be, and as an ex-pat moving to the UK, I imagine that I make up a very small part of the population. And the UK government has other things to worry about.

On a positive note, the wife and I managed to assemble 450kg of IKEA flat-pack furniture this week. I never want to see an IKEA bolt again. Ever.

Industry News

On the back of the recent announcement that nine of the world’s biggest banks have formed a blockchain partnership, Santander InnoVentures has invested $4 million in Ripple. Cryptocurrencies and the blockchain have an awful long way to play out, but the pattern appears similar to the early days of the web - a lot of cowboys with a very cavalier attitude towards risk, but hidden within are the seeds of something transformative.

Sadly, it appears that some Australian banks are being less than friendly to cryptocurrencies. Australia does have recent form tilting at windmills, with ex-PM Abbott's 2014 claim that "coal is good for humanity". Lets hope that the Australian Bank's antipathy towards cryptocurrencies does not end up being a "they're-not-going-to-just-walk-in" moment.

MIT Technology Review makes the claim that Apple Pay’s slow start doesn’t mean it’s a failure. This argument is curious given Apple's propensity for playing a long game. The reason that uptake might be slow right now has more to do with the upgrade cycle of POS terminals in the US than it does with any inherent problem with Apple Pay. Any argument about uptake sluggishness could equally be levelled at contactless or chip and PIN. And once capable terminals are in place over the next 18-24 months, uptake should follow. As a counterpoint, eMarketer suggests that Apple Pay is making inroads for everyday purchases. Go figure.

Perhaps the answer to making money in payments is to find something other than clipping the payment to make money from. A lot of smart people like Bigcommerce and Square think that data is where it's at.

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