Society. We hear that word daily. But basically its all about you, me, everybody. Society is the framework that binds us, defines us. How banks should be - great, working together.

We work best together. Get things done. Our lives are richer, we all achieve more. What happens when we build places that divide us?

That’s right. We destroy trust. And no trust means no sale.

Like banks. It’s just not us, its just us and them. And its gone wrong. Unsociable. Maybe we need something better. A social, community bank…

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Paying for the things you want in the blink of an eye. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You don’t sign, or PIN, or even touch. But who’s to say its you buying? How NFS back-end fraud detection must get smart!

You see, this speed carries one big penalty. Security. Not for the device, for you. The transaction is now so fast, it can’t be fraud-checked conventionally.

“Contactless” means just that. No contact from either side – counter or customer. There’ll be no alerts, no chance to stop a fraudster. Or is there?

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No, it’s not the latest story about National Australia Bank’s recent system woes. This is something just as radical, but far more positive.

NAB has split from the other main street banks to embrace the social web in style. They’ve suddenly discovered Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and viral marketing. It had to come, but who'd have thought NAB?

Maybe it was a realisation that NAB’s professional reputation was in tatters, maybe just a change of marketing agency. Either way, NAB’s changed course. And its a course that could change the face of Australian banking.

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I can’t believe how fast this technology is developing. Everyone seems to be at it. Mobile is big and NFC seems to be flavour of 2011.

NFC - Near Field Communications - is designed to tak the place of your cardsNFC uses your mobile phone to part you from your hard-earned money instantly. You don’t have to touch, key in or sign anything. Just wave your phone about.

Well, I say you – but what I really mean is it doesn’t necessarily have to be you, just anyone who happens to have your phone.

And I’m really, really not happy about that.

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Oh, how we would all love a new bank. A bank that did everything right. Perfect. Sorry, you’re dreaming. That’s not going to happen. we may not see a new bank, but we can string them along... The current banks operate a virtual cartel, effectively shutting out any new player. Now while the boutique banks may focus on specific products and find a niche, Chances of a new NatWest or Barclays appearing are small.

But there is a way to get a better deal. We just need to leverage the old deal…

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What a pity violent student riots took the spotlight away from real people power. Maybe we will yet see the Government shamed into action. vodafone too big to pay taxes?

While many at the lower end of the earnings spectrum are genuinely suffering, banks and big corporates seem to have been granted some financial immunity.

In fact it beggars belief…

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I feel I may soon know how the guy felt when he suggested the world wasn’t flat. I’m no where near as visionary – but I may get vilified all the same… When technology doesn't mirror life - why Internet security is wrong. Imagine this scene… You walk into a retailer – any retailer – with a stolen wallet. You pick a range of expensive goods. As long as you have the PIN or the cash, you can take away whatever you want, unchallenged.

No checks, no ID, no second glance. Now, let’s go online…

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As a bank marketing slogan, the co-operative’s good with money is pretty good. Just a pity then that the rest of the bank’s processes don’t match. good with money - bad with everything else Because behind the ethical façade this member-owned group strives to portray, lies a dark, Dickensian approach to those it does business with.

Here are three disturbing examples – from the inefficient to downright destructive – that soil the fluffy image it would prefer us to associate with it…

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When talk turns to the Cloud, the hot ticket currently is the location of information. Security’s no longer the biggest concern, its where data is stored which is key.

Maybe the future lies in clouds for the cloud itself – local skyline storage clouds… could this be the future of the compliant cloud? Local Skyline Storage

Cloud players like SalesForce and IBM are looking to their own national storage, but its expensive and inefficient. So why not use a storage Cloud for it?

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Have you noticed how TV media is featuring a lot of web-style graphics recently?

I guess with the closely-tied relationship between web and TV content designers, we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, the web is becoming …beautiful. Noticed how beautiful the web is getting?

No, our web designers haven’t suddenly become more artistic or talented, they’ve just found new tools. But corporate designers are way, way behind…

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It doesn’t look like National Australia Bank’s woes are going away any time soon. Conflicting stories emerging from CEO Cameron Clyne’s office sure isn’t helping. NAB bank's technology woes continue... First reports suggested that an upgrade failure took down all the Bank’s systems. But as the dust settles, a rather different picture is emerging.

NAB’s prolonged outage initially attributed to a glitch may have been deliberate. If its true, then NAB’s troubles are far from over. They may only be beginning…

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In fact, not a good weekend and probably this week won’t be a whole lot better. Australia’s biggest bank is still off-line after a routine upgrade went wrong.

Time for NAB to get their story straight...

While the other banks may laugh behind closed doors about NAB’s misfortunes, truth is, its a case of There but for the Grace of God goes I.

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It must be like a breath of fresh air working in the design department of a car manufacturer. You don’t have to jump through hoops or sell your soul to get an idea listened to.

You don’t have to justify innovation to a bunch of old farts, its part of the job description.

Its not as though in the other industries they work so efficiently your ideas are redundant, More like while the money’s flowing in, they just don’t care. They prefer the easy life.

The most obvious example of this is in financial services. You’d think the banking crash would have been a wake-up call. But no. Its business as usual in Complacent City.

Imagine buying a new car that was unsafe, wasn’t efficient had offered no cool features. Imagine it just not working right. Imagine financial services…

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Have you ever had to take a drive through the ruins of the UK’s great shipbuilding areas? Those once proud, thriving centres of excellence where skills were developed and honed. These ships set the standards of a great trading nation.

These places saw skills pass from fathers to sons, each generation contributing their own evolutionary change to age-old methods. Places where quality created value.

Those skills are gone forever. Lost in the vortex of a lowest common denominator market. These places should teach us a lesson about off-shoring.

Once the eco-system supporting a skills base is lost, its gone for ever, never to be re-built. Something we should think about when we use words like “sustainable”.

But there are more lessons to be learnt from all this…

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Have you ever been caught short?

I guess we’ve all had a moment like that sometime. Whether it was finding ourselves short of cash for some unexpected expanse or just needing to find a toilet. Fast.

Two entirely different situations, yet they both share the same need to be resolved quickly. This is the whole point about services. And that’s value – the value they are to you.

Like buying a bottle of wine at your local shop, finding you’ve no cash and being charged a fee for using your card. Or the 50p charge for using a public toilet, when its free at home. That’s what I mean by value to you at the time.

Imagine a friend loaning you £50 to pay an unexpected bill. You’d pay them back – and may be give them a £12 bottle of Scotch for helping you out. That’s appreciating the value.

I wrote about Wonga when it first launched and got a lot of abuse for endorsing a product with such a high interest rate. But it seems that I wasn’t the only one who saw the value. Wonga’s just won a string of awards, like a Webby for their website and for their service.

Wonga are a great bunch of guys as well – So well done and good luck for the future!

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Imagine this scenario. You’re living in a nice house, but the window frames need replacing.

You have a good look round and find a new window company offering you a great deal. Lower maintenance, more light, much better looking and adding more value to your home. Your neighbours down the road have switched to them and really love them.

But your window cleaner doesn’t want you to have them. So he says no.

What, he’s your window cleaner. You pay him to do what he does. He’s actually saying no?

You’d fire him, wouldn’t you. No way you’d accept a decision of yours questioned like that. But if he’s your IT outsourcer, that’s exactly what he thinks he can do. And you let him do it.

An outsourcer wants to make money from supporting you, I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is anyone trying to hijack your company’s future.

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First off, my apologies go to Sir Isaac Newton for ripping off his long-running science series. But by only having three laws, I think he may have missed some more, crucial ones.

The Fourth Law of Financial Motion

“For every commercial process, there is a ridiculous and disproportionate cost.”

And nowhere does this ring more true than in the dingy, dusty world of High Street banking. Nowhere is quod erat demonstrandum more absolute. Except of course, the Public Sector.

But its banking I want to concentrate on here. And specifically, opening bank accounts. Because this is truly, eye poppingly, unreal.

The sheer amount of bureaucracy, paper pushing and inquisitorial process could not have been conceived by one person, just doing what’s necessary to acquire a new customer. Clearly not. No, to do things this badly demands a committee.

Before all those bankers leap to the defence of process, let me say one name. Metro Bank.

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Credit unions. Always a bit of a mystery to me. An obscure part of some urban sub-culture. Almost the corner-shop of the lending world.

But a flyer dropped through my letterbox yesterday, one of those local news-sheets still produced in this world of websites and digital media.

A second credit union has just set up shop in the little rural town where I live, apparently. News to me. I wasn’t even aware of the first, so I kept reading.

I’ve just written about Zopa, the rapidly growing social lending site, I wondered how credit unions compared. After all these are local community driven, low overhead enterprises.

Would they be as competitive as Zopa?

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Here’s an interesting news item for you. Zopa has just grabbed 1% of the UK loans market. Now if you’re still brushing off the dust from the banking collapse and looking around you, you’ll be seeing a very different landscape.

The old banks are still shell-shocked and fumbling. But the new guys, leaner, more agile and more innovative are pulling the financial carpet out from under their shaky feet.

I’d just finished writing about Metro Bank and saw the Tweet about Zopa’s market share. And that news got my interest.

Zopa is a loans provider. But instead of just reselling finance at a stupid rate from some finance house, Zopa connects people with money to lend to customers who want to borrow. That’s called Peer to Peer lending, or P2P if you prefer cryptic sound bytes.

It may sound a bit left-field, not something that many would bother with. But consider this. Zopa has now arranged £100 Million of P2P loans for their customers.

Now that’s serious money. Maybe Zopa’s worth a closer look…

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Metro Bank announced recently it had met the twelve-month target it set for new accounts. What’s astounding is that it took the start-up bank less than 30 days to do so.

Metro bank - branching out as others prune back

Its easy to be dismiss this based on the millions the high-street banks spend on marketing. But to do so ignores the facts here.

You see, there was no high profile, A-list celebrity endorsed, multi-media campaign worthy of Hollywood here. No glitzy launch attended by the good and great at the new bank’s HQ. No, Metro’s launch barely made the financial pages at all.

Global banking is in crisis. Banks won’t lend, people won’t spend, so money’s not moving. How could one little bank attract so much money and be so well received?

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That bulging wallet that you’re carrying around in your jacket pocket, jeans or handbag is probably stuffed full of plastic, rather than the cash. But do you really need those cards?

Plastic payment cards are an old technology. Older than the Internet and mobile phones. Back then, They were the only way to buy without cash.

That was then and this is now. The Internet is enabling new ways for us to buy and sell. But the banks make a lot of money when you have cards, so they’d like you to keep them. Maybe its time to think about something that works for you instead…

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