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Banks cut data to personal finance tools

By Claes Bell · Bankrate.com
Friday, November 6, 2015
Posted: 4 pm ET

banking-blog-banks-cut-data-to-personal-finance-toolsYour bank is sick and tired of giving those newfangled personal finance sites your info, dagnabbit.

For years, personal finance management sites like Mint have relied on a fire hose of financial information from banks to keep users up to date on what's going on with their money, but some banks are openly considering turning off the spigot, according to a report by Robin Sidel of The Wall Street Journal.

Chase recently "throttled," or intentionally slowed down, the flow of data from their computers to Mint. Another megabank, Wells Fargo, recently made a change to its login procedure that cut off access to Mint for some users.

Banks have expressed a variety of rationales for this behavior, mostly centered around the security implications of providing large amounts of sensitive financial data to 3rd parties who may or may not do a good job keeping it safe. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has reportedly expressed exactly those concerns to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, according to Sidel's report.

Banks also complain that the constant automated data requests from personal finance sites are weighing down their (no doubt very up-to-date and sophisticated) computer systems.

Decision just happens to line up with business interests

No matter what banks say about security, it seems pretty clear that banks' business interests are also figuring into moves against personal finance management tools.

First off, Mint and others make a significant part of their revenue off of ads for financial services providers who are ultimately competing for banks' customers.

But in a broader sense, this comes down to a competition for consumers' hearts and minds. Banks want customers to be interacting with them directly, not with Mint or anyone else as an intermediary. They're scared to death of becoming so-called "dumb pipes" -- a term many are using to describe phone and cable companies that are increasingly just a conduit between users and the Internet.

In the same way, banks don't want to become utilities that handle transactions and financial data behind the scenes but rarely interact with customers, because that makes them less important to consumers and, in the end, a replaceable commodity.

Instead, banks want you using and loving their apps, their websites and their branches so that you remain a loyal customer (and they have lots of chances to "cross-sell" you on other products they offer).

Risks involved

Of course, banks run the risk of alienating customers who use Mint-type services to manage their money. But it seems like JPMorgan and Wells Fargo feel that the risk of being disconnected from their customers outweighs potential losses from turning off their data spigot to Mint and others.

So no matter their public justifications, I expect to see banks be less and less willing to play ball with anyone who seeks to get between them and their customers.

What do you think? Would you switch banks if they refused to send data to Mint or other personal finance management tools?

Follow me on Twitter: @claesbell.

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1 Comment
peg
January 15, 2016 at 11:32 pm

>>"What do you think? Would you switch banks if they refused to send data to Mint or other personal finance management tools?"

No I would not! In fact at one time I was going to sign up for mint at the urging push of one of the tax filing software companies, however as soon as I came up to and then *required to put in an account number for them to link to to get info to load into the mint program, I backed out and exited. I wanted to enter my info myself sans the account number,for utilizing it as was its usefulness point - budgeting- but it would not let me. So ta ta and never looked back.