March 28, 2016
What we’re reading this week
Banks and Technology
As you may or may not know, I spent a number of number of years working in retail banking. I ended up leaving the industry because technology was slowly making me and my staff obsolete. To that end, I was interested to read a report that came out recently called “Digital Disruption.” According to the report, “we are at an inflection point for retail banking driven by automation and digitalization.” I couldn’t agree more. Online resources and ATM technology is advancing to the point of eliminating the need for a physical network of bank branches. According to “Digital Distruption,” “the number of employees at American banks would drop to 1.8 million people in the year 2025, down from 2.6 million last year and 2.9 million before the financial crisis.” It’s only been about 5 years since I left banking and whenever I use the ATM outside the branch I look in the windows to see what the staff is doing. Often, they are sitting and looking at the door hopefully for someone with a pulse. It reminds me a lot of picking my kids up from the daycare at the gym. They are always sitting sadly by the door waiting to leave child purgatory. Working at a bank is like that, except much longer, and there aren’t any toys. Occasionally I will see customers in the bank and I wonder, what are they doing in there? Don’t they have iPhones? I do feel for the staff though, as a bank employee I spent a lot of time helping clients navigate our website and mobile applications. It was kind of like I was an assassin teaching a protégé that I know would eventually kill me and take my job.
My love of incriminating emails from a financial scandal is second only to my love my bad tweets from a business. I came across this article from Gawker on a hilarious and mildly offensive (people are too sensitive) tweet from the US State Department. The tweet said, “Not a ‘10’ in the US? Then not a 10 overseas. Beware of being lured into buying expensive drinks or worse – being robbed.” The tweet is of course referring to the practice of bars and night clubs in other countries hiring attractive men and women to feign interest in patrons to lure them into buying expensive liquor and bottle service and the less legal practice of luring them to another location and being robbed or extorted. Usually these latter is not employed by the club. I can appreciate the warning, not everyone is aware of this sort of thing but there has got to be a better way to say it. “Listen, if you are ugly in the US and no one loves you, then no one could possible find you attractive in another country” seems a little harsh. The tweet was eventually deleted and an apology was issued.
This article from Motherboard tells the story of how “CNBC Tried, and Massively Failed, to Teach People About Password Security.” I mean, the title tells the whole story but here is the synopsis. Consumers are increasing thinking (and concerned!) about cybersecurity. This is good. News media and other well-meaning people are trying to educate consumers about cyber security. This is sort of good. These people sometimes lack the necessary knowledge to do this well. This is bad. CNBC recently attempted to teach people that accounts secured by simple passwords can be easily hacked by guess work and technology. CNBC published a tool that allowed people to enter their passwords on a website that would tell them how secure those passwords were but did not encrypt the site. The tool then loaded the password onto a google docs spreadsheets. So people concerned about security could enter a password over a not-secure connection to be saved on a not secure spreadsheet. Not only are these passwords vulnerable to hackers but they are also available to advertisers and analytics providers that pull data from the internet. I guess the title is a little off point now that I think about it. I mean, they did teach people about password security, just not in the way they intended. Good job CNBC?
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