Banking from behind

Are Canadian banks resisting better online banking?


“The big six Canadian banks…operate the worst banking websites in the Western world.” This was my estimation of online banking in this country in a recent column. Not less than one week later, CIBC has given some credence to that hypothesis.

Mint.com is an ingenious money-managing site, where you input your account number and the site aggregates all your spending, saving, debt and investments. It allows you to set up goals – like buying a new computer or saving for a vacation or paying of credit card debt – and monitors your progress on them.

After three years operating in the U.S. only, it finally launched in Canada this summer. It’s a sort of beta version – there are a few kinks to be worked out, like 401K investment plans that don’t translate to the Canadian system and the American spelling of the word cheque.

But even though it doesn’t even do everything it’s supposed to yet, I still think it’s an invaluable tool. If only to track how many service fees the banks are skimming off your account.

Perhaps because of that, CIBC has blocked Mint.com from accessing accounts. When I asked CIBC for a reason, they blanked me.

Here’s what Mint had to say about the issue: “CIBC has informed us that they are not going to lift the block on our aggregation efforts. We have no choice but to remove CIBC as a supported financial institution on Mint in the near future. If you have any further questions, please contact CIBC directly. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Bizarre for a bank that sees itself as the leader in online banking a bank that was the first in the country to offer mobile banking via their iPhone application.

But Mint.com is but a grain in the sands of the ocean here. As the world’s banking institutions move more and more online, it matters which Canadian banks are willing to follow the stream or resist. In places like Kenya and southeast Asia, mobile money is humongous. You can pay a cab fare or buy your groceries with your phone. iPhone apps are gearing up to do similar things in North America (like PayPal).

Basically, it’s a horrible time to resist technology. (Isn’t it always?)

If CIBC – or any other Canadian banks, for that matter – can’t lead the industry online, can they at least get out of the way?

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