The Kimono Opens Wide in Banking Technology

  • JJ Hornblass
  • August 12, 2013
  • 2

geezeo_homepageKearney Federal Savings Bank isn’t the type of financial institution in America that garners many headlines. It is, by most measures, middle-of-the-road with $2.9 billion of assets and 41 branches in New Jersey. Its last big news was the hiring of a chief risk/investment officer last February.

Considering Kearney’s stature, you might wonder, as I did, why Fiserv — market capitalization $13 billion — decided today to issue a press release touting the fact that Kearny had decided to buy the Fiserv Premier product for online and mobile banking.

The truth is this type of promotion by Fiserv has been part of an opening of the kimono by fintech companies over the last couple of years.

There was a time not too long ago that if a journalist asked any of the major financial services technology companies for the name of even one client, he would be scoffed at. “That’s proprietary information,” would be the standard response. For many years, Jack Henry & Associates was the only fintech company that would release “wins,” the names of banks and credit unions that bought its products. Jack Henry published a monthly update that would list the FI and its asset size, as well as the product the company bought from Jack Henry. Most of the these FIs were small, so the information was somewhat inconsequential.

I recall years ago asking both Fiserv and FIS to send Bank Innovation similar updates. I got blank stares, followed by, “that’s a good idea.” Of course, nothing ever came of it.

The change came, in my view, with Geezeo. Geezeo was launched way back in 2007 as an online personal financial management provider to compete with Mint. It quickly learned that going B2C with a PFM tool was about as smart as trying to climb Mount Everest in Converse All-Stars. The company pivoted and began offering its PFM to FIs on a private-label basis.

Since that shift, Geezeo has not just disclosed its customers, it celebrates them. The “Geezeo Nation” as it is called is promoted with arguably greater fervor than Geezeo products, as evidenced by the screenshot of Geezeo’s homepage.

Around this time — it is hard to pin down an exact date, but I would say it was 2010 — other fintech companies started “loving” their clients, and promoting them with press releases. Fiserv, FIS, and Harland Financial Solutions now actively promote their wins, no matter how small. Harland, for example, today touted its sale of banking technology to Fulda Area Credit Union. This is a five-location credit union with around 6,400 clients based in Fulda, Minn. Bank of America Fulda Area CU is not.

This new era in promotion matters because it implies a refreshing democracy in banking. Even banking technology is no longer the purview of just a handful of companies — new options and opportunities are arising everywhere. And, yes, they might find themselves in Fulda, Minn., which is why banks are getting the “love.” Finally.

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at or 212-564-8972.

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2 thoughts on “The Kimono Opens Wide in Banking Technology

  1. JJ…I think that there certainly is more promotion by the big-name technology providers to who their clients are but in regards to your comment on “democracy in banking”, I would have to disagree. All too often, I see the big-name technology providers intentionally blocking and throwing up roadblocks to new and innovative solutions that their own customers have asked for. The old guard feels that it’s not in their own best interests and, therefore, refuse or quote outrageously high costs to allow a bank to take advantage of a new banking technology.

    When we start seeing those roadblocks being torn down, I’ll feel more comfortable with the state of democracy in banking.

    • First, thank you for your comment. Much appreciated.

      Certainly a fair point, and I would agree that the level of “democracy” in fintech is not where it should be. I was trying to make a comparison to a time farther in the past, say, 10 years ago, when even the thought of an attempted launch of a fintech startup was greeted with a chuckle and a “good luck, kiddo.” Perhaps you disagree with me, but in my view it’s more “democratic” than it was in the past when considered against that time period.

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