In this series, we’ll present a futuristic perspective on some aspect of the banking world. It’s not meant to recommend a course of action, but rather to consider the “what if” potential and discover some areas that might be ripe for disruption.
What if the banking world was always on? As in, 24/7 full-service banking — not the “you can always log in to your account to check your balance” kind of full service, but exactly the same level of service you get when the bank branch is open.
Right now, an account holder can buy just about anything regardless of time of day (thanks Amazon), and that means that you can overdraw your account, or have your identity stolen at any time of day. However, you have to wait until your bank or credit union opens during business hours to fix any problems. If your tragedy strikes on a holiday weekend, you could be looking at 72 hours before a human being can help you — meanwhile, any automatic drafts you have are going to make the problem worse.
So, why is it that with 24/7 purchasing power, we still don’t have 24/7 banking power? Perhaps it is simply a holdover from the days when money was primarily moved in a physical form, such as cash, or paper checks. Few people were conducting business at a time when the bank (or business) wasn’t open, and it took longer for mistakes to manifest. We still have daily and monthly calculating cycles, but as technology gets faster, and artificial intelligence can step in to check for errors, these age-old “rhythms” no longer need to be so out of sync with the rest of our lives.
What would a 24/7 financial institution look like?
First of all, you would be able to make a phone call, or hop on a website and talk to a live human being who could help you. This would be a huge boon for people who work long hours or can’t afford to take time off and visit the bank. You could open a new account (not just submit an application), deposit money (and have it available to spend), cancel transactions, order a new debit card, or a host of other tasks that require human assistance.
A 24-hour branch would function like a convenience store — actually, you could even put it in an existing convenience store. A person could get gas, satisfy their late-night snack cravings and talk with someone about a home-improvement loan, all in the same place. This level of service would also benefit business owners who tend to make cash deposits after business hours — a risky task for any employee.
Are we likely to see true, 24/7 banking any time soon? Nope. The momentum behind the current daily and monthly cycles seems all but carved in stone. And that doesn’t even consider how many financial institution employees would loathe to give up their “banker’s hours,” and end up working graveyard shifts.
Historically speaking, the government has even declared “bank holidays,” such as the one FDR declared in 1933 to halt banking transactions and prevent systemic collapse. So the built-in breaks of nights and weekends could be a natural hedge against disaster, even if they don’t work that way for consumers.
As with many aspects of the financial world, consumers only experience the limited availability of their bank or credit union as an inconvenience, whether or not there is a justifiable reason. It’s worth examining if the way banking is done today benefits the institution or the end-user more. Was the bank made for the account holder, or the account holder for the bank?
We want to hear your thoughts!
What do you think of this imaginary scenario?
Tell us some reasons you think it’s a great (or terrible) idea?
Do you have any ideas for things that will transform the banking world by 2030?