Chase Bank Loses Customer’s … No, Not Money, Just Email

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words – so here’s my 2k-word essay, straight from Chase Online:

OK, that should be easy, let’s click to get that email:

Oops – dear Chase, where’s my message?

Of course on the week when the IMF and the US Senate gets hacked, GoDaddy goes down (did they forget to renew their domain?), I should not complain.  After all, it’s not my money they’ve lost. (?)



(Cross-posted @ CloudAve » Zoli Erdos)


MinTuit: What’s Next After the Intuit / Mint Deal

mintuit TechCrunch50 could not have asked for a better start:  they get to announce that personal finance startup Mint winner of the $50K grand prize @ TC50 two years ago just got acquired for $170M.

Great exit for a startup – not so sure about concerned users.   But the big question today is why it made sense for Intuit and what the future holds for Mint and its users.  The consensus is that first of all this has been a defensive move.  Mint started to bite into the Intuit / Quicken pie, and Intuit just had to stop it.

There is some irony in this deal: the playbook had been written by Microsoft, against Intuit.

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Intuit Did Not Kill MS Money. Microsoft Did. Slowly, Over Long Years. Here’s the Full Story.

An era comes to an end on June 30th, when Microsoft discontinues their PFM (Personal Financial Management) product, Money

The story started outside Microsoft, with a startup named Intuit releasing their first DOS-based PFM software, Quicken.   The concept was simple and powerful: balance your checkbook, keep track of your financial transactions electronically. It worked; in fact surveys showed that Quicken became the driver for many consumers to buy their first personal computers in the late 80’s.   But it really became popular when Windows, especially the first “good”  version, 3.0 arrived. 

Intuit remained a one-product company until after their IPO in 1993, when they acquired Chipsoft and entered the tax-software market. 

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Citibank, Get a Clue!

 Email @ 9:20pm yesterday:

Your Citibank statement is now available at This notification is part of the All-Electronic Program you enrolled in to receive your statements online only instead of in the mail

Email @ 10:07pm yesteday:

Live the clutter-free life by replacing your regular printed statement with an electronic one.
It’s easy to enroll! Simply sign on to

This from the Citi that “Never Sleeps”smile_eyeroll

Update: While at it… Dear Citi, could you please take the monthly junk-mail (typically inviting me to credit cards I already have from you)  that comes to my house in multiple thick envelopes  and shove it.. no, you won’t, but at least send it electronically, so I can quickly and painlessly route it to the junk folder.  If you do that, you can launch a new marketing campaign… you know, about being Green.smile_wink


Blog Tracking Services Compromise Online Bank Security?

I’m not a security expert, but this warning at the Citicards site was quite a shock:

Customers using comment or blog tracking services on their computers run the risk that information submitted here could be displayed on those websites. Please disable your comment and blog tracking service before using Citi Cards Message Center.

Is this a real danger? What do you think?

Update (11/19): Several commenters here and on TechCrunch confirm what I thought myself: the warning likely refers to “tracking” products that offer a browser plug-in. In this case I was using FireFox with the BlogRovr plugin turned on. I know coComment offers a plugin, and whoever else does … well, Citibank considers it a security risk. Hm… food for thought. smile_sarcastic

Update #2: Wow, apparently this has been a well-documented problem for at least half a year, so Citi’s solution is to finally put up a warning message. smile_sad


Netbank: Online Banking goes Offline. Permanently.

If you think sub-prime mortgage defaults can’t effect you, think again. At first reading, I thought this was a bad joke:

The Office of Thrift Supervision closed down NetBank Inc. (NTBK) a thrift with $2.5 billion in assets, and appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as receiver.

But it’s not a joke. The online bank I’ve been using for almost a decade is reduced to this:

On September 28, 2007, NetBank, Alpharetta, GA was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver. No advance notice is given to the public when a financial institution is closed.

The FDIC has assembled useful information regarding your relationship with this institution. Besides a checking account, you may have Certificates of Deposit, a business checking account, a Social Security direct deposit, and other relationships with the institution.

The NetBank web site will be closed from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm EST, on September 28th and will reopen in a read only mode. Normal online services will be restored in the early evening Sunday, September 30th.

To read more about this event please select the link below:

FDIC Bank Closing Information for NetBank

Frankly, under the circumstances I find the “Connect with your money” slogan rather comical. I guess fixing it is the last thing on their mind.

NetBank isn’t wasn’t some shaky Web 2.0 outfit, it’s been (well, appeared to) a solid bank for 10 years. They pioneered the concept of “brickless”, internet-only bank long before online transactions became the norm. I switched to them because at the time they were the only bank offering decent integration with both Quicken and Microsoft Money.

Now as a final act, they offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience: I’ve never seen a bank failure up close, personally. I guess I will soon (?) find out just “FDIC insured” means. I can’t even think of further implications now, but they can’t be good. We’re heading into shaky times.

Update: Peach Pundit wins the Best Title Award: NetBank becomes NotBank.

Update (9/29): Not everyone reads Friday afternoon news releases, but many do their online banking on the weekend. Or at least they try – now the Netbank failure is being noticed:


Microsoft’s Software plus Service: The Missing Component

Microsoft laid out its web-based strategy at their recent annual meeting with financial analysts. Pressed by first of all Google, but even smaller players like Zoho and ThinkFree, Microsoft announced they will add similar services to their Office products, first of all Word and Excel.

We’re not moving toward a world of thin computing,” said CEO Steve Ballmer, referring to systems in which simple processing takes place on a PC, but more complex processing is moved to a centralized computer through a network connection. “We’re moving toward a world of software plus services.”

A few days later Microsoft’s half-hearted announcement (leak?) about giving away free, ad-supported versions of its baby-office, MS Works 9 sparked speculation if this would in fact turn out to be a Software plus Service offering.

Let me reveal a secret: I’ve been using Microsoft’s “software plus services” for years – long before the term was coined. Microsoft Money, the product I was forced to switch to when my bank abandoned Quicken support 7 years ago is a classic example of software plus services. The client software came with a browser-like UI, smoothly connecting online services into the basics ran on my PC. In fact switching between screens I often did not realize whether I was working offline or online. Isn’t that what “software plus services” is all about?

Money was a latecomer to the personal financial management scene, clearly dominated by Intuit’s Quicken, and in the first few years it got better and better … perhaps Microsoft’s intention was to kill Intuit after they could not buy it. When it didn’t happen, they must have lost interest – the annual Money upgrades brought less and less new features or even bug fixes, and smart users started to skip releases between upgrades. Then trouble started left and right: weird things happened to my accounts beyond my control. Categorization? I’ve long given up on it, most of my downloaded data is associated with junk categories. The real bad part: data changed in existing accounts, very old transactions downloaded again into already reconciled months..etc. This is my bank account, my money we’re talking about! The very data I meticulously took care of while in my possession now got randomly changed. The only way to be really sure I have the right balances was (is) to go and verify them at the individual bank or broker sites.

But none of this compares to the total ignorance Microsoft showed when they “upgraded” Online Banking on the 19th of July. There was no prior warning, or an option to upgrade at a later time when I logged on, I was simply notified that an upgrade *had taken place*, and that I no longer have access to my online accounts until I do a bunch of house-cleaning:

In order to update successfully, you will need to disable the existing online services for some of your accounts, set up those accounts again so that they will use the updated service, and then merge the old and new accounts.

Of course it’s not that simple, first I had to process all pending downloaded transactions, then back-up Money, then proceed with the task above. Oh, and the poison pill: merging accounts. I had the misfortune of doing it at a previous Money upgrade, and merge it didn’t… I ended up with zillions of duplicate entries to be cleaned manually. But I had no choice… I wanted to make a payment, and Microsoft locked me out of my accounts – so I started laboring away, around midnight. This time (unlike many) I was actually lucky: after about two hours, I was all set, the merges worked this time, and I was ready to make the payment – the 2-minute transaction I started 2 hours earlier.

(Update: Telling quote from a Microsoft employee:

This past weekend I got the most horrible and scary warning from Money. Just reading the instructions on how to keep using Money with Online Banking is enough to make this computer professional run screaming from my office. The instructions are 24 freaking pages!!! longer than the manual for the product. I seriously almost went to the “Add / Remove Programs” Control Panel to fix the problem.)

Now, if you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed my anti-Microsoft leaning, and I don’t deny it: we all (well except Mac users) share the frustration of failed updates, the pleasure of patching the patches after Black Tuesdays – what is there to like? But none of that is comparable to a software company ignorantly cutting off their users’ access to their own money, (and I don’t mean *MS Money*smile_omg) and not even feel the need to apologize. It’s the absolute Cardinal Sin. And now this company wants me to put my trust in their services?

I’d much rather trust Wesabe with my money matters – their user groups are lively, full of advice, the CEO himself participates, in fact he is taking user calls 7 days a week. The full truth is, I have not switched yet, as they lack in functionality vs. Money, but I can’t wait….

Back to the title of this post – what’s the component Microsoft does not have to offer Software plus Service? It’s Customer Focus. It’s simply not in their DNA. It will be hard to deliver *Service* when your customers don’t trust you.

Update#2: Omar Shahine, a Microsoft employee responded – it’s worth reading in full, in fact I’ve just suscribed to his blog. I’m just quoting a few excerpts:

I absolutely empathize with this post on Software + Services by Zoli. As a long time user of Microsoft Money, I am this close to outsourcing the software part to Wesabe…

Now, I don’t agree that Microsoft lacks Customer Focus. That’s saying that all 70,000 employees lack customer focus…

I certainly don’t mean to imply that all 70,000 employees lack customer focus. They may all have the best intentions, it’s the end result that counts, the company’s interaction (or lack of) with Customers, and that’s often through products.
Money issue aside, I think it we add up the time spent with bungled patches, rebuilding Outlook profiles..etc, we (computer users) ALL lost days of our lives to Microsoft.
That’s bad enough, but can mostly be attributed to unintentional technical glitches. The Money Online Update was “Crossing the Rubicon”: Somebody in Microsoft had to make a deliberate decision that it was OK to cut off customers access to their financials without first telling them, giving them options, or even apologizing after the fact. That makes the *company* blatantly ignorant – despite the best intentions of those 70K employees.smile_sad

Update #3
: Further evidence of Customer Focus, the Wesabe way. I suppose they did not intend to pile on, but their comments got held for moderation, so they did not see each other’s.

And in perfect timing, here’s an article on Customer service 2.0, the Zoho way. The two stories they link to are worth reading – somewhat similar to what I’ve talked about here. Beliefs are important – but in our materialistic world, there is always the “What’s in it for them?” question. Well, it *pays* to focus on your customers. It may well be Zoho’s key differentiator, why users stick with them, instead of the default Goo-rilla. smile_tongue
It certainly paid another company, Atlassian which grew to over $20M in revenue without a sales force. “Support is Sales for us” – they claim (PDF), and the numbers back them up.

Update (8/8): Wow, interesting timing: Today Microsoft released Microsoft Money Plus, the 2008 version of the Money products. It comes in four editions: editions: Essentials, Deluxe, Premium, and Home & Business. Well, almost. Microsoft offers a nice comparison chart, which neglects to mention a small detail, available only at the footnotes:

* Important note – Microsoft Money Essentials will not be able to open previous Money or Quicken files. If you are upgrading from a previous version of Money or Quicken, Money Plus Deluxe may be the right solution for you.

Not opening Quicken … well, it’s their decision. But not opening data from their very own previous releases? And this is hidden in the small print?

I rest my case.

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