Banks are more trustworthy data guardians than Google

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Editor’s Note: A version of this piece first appeared on The Finanser, Chris Skinner’s blog.

Someone made an interesting comment about Google this week: Banks can attack Google’s soft underbelly.

I know what you’re thinking. “What? Google? Soft underbelly? And banks can attack it? You must be joking.”

As the presenter who made the comment, Conor McAleavey, the chief innovation officer with Leveris, went on to outline what he meant, I thought his idea expressed at a private Financial Services Club meeting in London had merit. The real question is whether banks have the gumption to actually think about attacking the underbelly.

Could financial institutions use their trusted role as data guardians to monetize that trust and compete with the big tech firms?Bloomberg NewsSo Conor’s idea is this: Google gives us searches, email, storage and more, for free — in exchange for letting the search giant mine and use our data. Google claims that it won’t be evil, but is the company using our data ethically and is it all aboveboard? Not everyone thinks so. On Natural News, Mike Adams claims that Google is the most evil corporation in the world “for its outrageous censorship, collusion with spy agencies and blatant attempts to propagandize the world with dishonest, deceitful information about everything from politics to natural medicine."

It is interesting that I found that article via Google. That aside, the next question is why a consumer would trust a bank more than Google with their data. Here’s the thinking: Banks are trusted stores of data about money because they are insured and have a license from governments to operate. If the bank started to monetize our data on our behalf and give the data back to us, wouldn’t financial services be more trustworthy data guardians than Google?

Let’s say every banking transaction is free if you’re happy to watch an ad. The advertiser pays the bank 5 cents per viewing, which gives the bank a revenue stream and benefits the customer with free services. Take it a step further: You watch the ad for a new Audi A4 vehicle, and then an option comes up to fill in a survey. If you complete the survey, you get $5. If the survey discovers your car’s age and that it may need to get replaced soon, then you would get another option to test drive the new Audi A4 for a $50 payment. Audi wins with a potential new client and the customer wins with a potentially new car, funded by a bank loan — all operated in real time.

Now I don’t buy into this whole idea — where will searches take place if Google disappears (Bing?) — but I can see that there is and always has been potential for banks to do more with data. In fact, we talked about the concept of infomediaries 20 years ago. Then, as now, the idea is to delegate our digital lives to information agents with artificial intelligence who would do everything on our behalf. They would find our insurance for us, for the best price with the best coverage. They would sort out our shopping and groceries, coordinating between the fridge and the supermarket. They would advise us on the weather and what to wear.

The whole idea was one step more than Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa by combining the personal knowledge of our needs with proactive artificial intelligence to find things. In this context, a bank could also integrate into this ecosystem through application programming interfaces and work in synchronization in getting deals and discounts, creating loyalty wallets and cashing in points as needed.

Perhaps the combination of chatbots, intelligent agents, machine learning, and coordinating and integrating data across social, commercial and financial channels, will get interesting. If a bank could find its way into that ecosystem of data sharing, then yes, I could see the financial services industry getting a leg up on Google.

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