Tag Archives: bank

A simple idea to prevent card fraud

I read about the German fraudster jailed in the UK recently. The BBC claimed his technology could remotely read card details allowing him to potentially earn up to £150m a year.

It makes me wonder why the UK, and other countries, do not adopt the very simple innovation most banks in Brazil use – though I believe it was initially pioneered by HSBC.

You put your card in the ATM and enter your PIN as usual, but then a new set of options, looking at bit like this is presented:

WXY              GHI

STU               JKL

ANC               MBO

DZF               PQR

The letters are in fact all randomised and different every time. Every customer not only has a four digit numeric PIN, but a three character password too. But you never type your actual password… in the collection of randomised characters you press the button closet to the character you want to type.

So, if your code is XYZ, even if someone watches or films you punching in the code, they cannot tell if you entered XYZ, YXF, XWD, WYF… simple, but very effective.
Ladybird on ATM

Feeling safe in Brazil

One thing that people from the UK often ask me is whether it is safe to live in Brazil. The image most foreigners have of living here is of the favelas… in particular the international success of the film City of God didn’t help very much.

At face value, the crime statistics are much higher than Britain and the police in São Paulo alone shoot someone dead everyday, but on a day-today basis I don’t feel any unease living here.

When I first arrived, I was endlessly surprised by the amount of security people use to feel safe. Windows have steel bars, shops and banks have armed guards, every police officer is armed, car showrooms offer bullet-proofing as an option…

It all becomes normal through osmosis, but I still question the need for all this security. It would be nice to see a house with a garden, rather than a steel cage “protecting” the residents.

As this Reuters article states, there is an obsession with security in Brazil, but there are also some encouraging signs. The murder rate in New Orleans is five times that of São Paulo and bank robberies across the entire country dropped from over 3,000 a decade ago to 343 last year.

The Reuters article points out some anecdotal evidence, such as people freely using devices such as iPhones on a bus, something unthinkable just a few years ago. In many ways the freedom to use expensive devices such as a smartphone, laptop computer or iPod in public now feels just as it would in any other major city.

Would you walk around an unfamiliar street in New York or London late at night with your senses dulled by music from an iPod and gazing into the GPS-powered map on your iPhone? It’s pretty much the same here these days.

I was with my wife in a local bar the other day and she was telling the bar owner about our plans to move to the coast. Not just for the beach, but also because a smaller town would be safer than the city. He said he can only remember hearing of one robbery in the entire neighbourhood this year so how do we define ‘safer’ than that?

Maybe he just wanted to keep us as good customers. We are the only customers at his bar that run a slate with credit, paying him advance rather than him chasing us to settle the bill, but he sounded genuine.

As with city life anywhere, you can be a victim of crime through sheer bad luck, but most of the time you make your own luck through choices about how much wealth, gadgets, and jewellry  you display.

São Paulo may well have more crime then London, but I’m not scared to ride the bus or walk down the street. I still get unnerved by all the armed guards at banks though. If I am ever nearby when a bank robbery kicks off then I’ll be more scared of the guards than the criminals…

Hob nob robber strikes again

Noise pollution

São Paulo is a big city, the largest in both the western and southern hemisphere and almost 20 million people if you include the suburbs. That means it’s also quite a noisy place, but one thing about all that noise that still annoys me is the alarms.

Shops, banks, cars, motorbikes are all alarmed and therefore “protected” from crime – at least that is the assumption.

But walk down the streets here and you will hear alarms going off all the time. It’s a cacophony of sirens that are entirely ignored by the population. The endless sirens have been normalised and are just a part of the background noise of the city.

Near to where I live there is a Chinese restaurant with a delivery service, meaning quite a few guys on motorbikes will be hanging around outside waiting for an order – so they will get the food and jump on their bike to deliver it. The bike alarms are always going off without anyone ever making any attempt to steal them.

So the alarms are faulty, and when they do go off, they are just ignored – so the alarm serves no purpose. There is a parrot living in a house nearby and he now imitates the alarms on the motorbikes. Even to the point that he copies the siren noise *and* the automatic voice saying “this bike is being stolen, please call this phone number…”

An alarm that is ignored, yet it gives out an automated message with a phone number to call. A futile gesture indeed.

Take a look at this video of a branch of Itau bank near to where I live. This was in the morning today at about 10.30am. The alarm had been screaming out for over 5 hours according to the people in the shops around there.

Five hours. Nobody from Itau did anything to shut down the alarm. No police or security paid any attention. What is the point of an audible alarm like this if nothing happens when the alarm goes off?

Here is a radical suggestion to the mayor of São Paulo… ban all the audible alarms. Bank and shop alarms could send a message to the security people. Cars and bikes would just have an immobiliser instead of an audible alarm.

The alarms would be a lot more effective in protecting against crime, and the people in the city would be able to marvel at their new-found peace.

The mayor did something similar with his Cidade limpa legislation in 2006 – where all billboards and public advertising were banned and removed. How about dealing with the aural, as well as visual, pollution?

Santander please sort out your customer service

Santander, what’s going on? I have a poor experience every time I interact with you to discuss my business bank account.

This weekend I have a number of expenses where I need to pay cash. It comes to more than the £250 limit on ATM withdrawals. I have never needed to get more than that as cash before so a week ago I called the bank and asked how I can withdraw a larger amount.

They told me it’s no problem. Call us again one day before you need the money and we will authorise the local branch to give you the money. Great.

I called the call centre today. First they transferred me to the local branch, who did not have a clue what I was talking about. Then the local branch just cut me off the line – clearly not sure what to do so they just ditched me.

I called back. Then the call centre told me that business customers cannot get money from a branch – branches are for personal customers only.

Next, the branch asked me to detail what is the money for…? Since when did I need to get permission to spend my own money?

Eventually Santander refused to let me access my funds. I’ve had to setup a CHAPS transfer to another bank account. The only saving grace is that they did not charge a fee for the transfer.

Santander – what is the story? Can’t you have a consistent line? If you had given me the correct information in the first place I could have just transferred some money to my personal current account… but now you made me wait until a day before I need it.

Abbey HQ

CW500 Club on Innovation

I went last night to the Computer Weekly CW500 club to hear the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) CTO, James Gardner, speaking about innovation. I was tweeting during the event on the @cw500 twitter account to ensure that there was a live feed of information about what Gardner was saying. You can read my tweets listed below – the most recent is at the top, so if you want to read them in order then you need to go to the bottom of the page and scroll up.

There will be more comprehensive coverage of the event in the next issue of Computer Weekly – this is just the immediate coverage I was writing online as James was speaking.

James is a very good speaker and once again the CW500 club had a really good event. The speakers only talk for about 10 minutes and then do the rest of the time as an ongoing Q&A with the audience. Why aren’t more events like this?

I did really like his view on innovation, especially the observations around how much academic literature there is out there. We know innovation is good for us, but while things are running smoothly nobody wants to innovate. It always takes a near-death experience to create innovation.

How true. And how refreshing to hear it from a senior guy in the public sector, rather than an innovation ‘guru’ claiming innovation will do everything you ever wanted for your company…

Angelica Mari from Computer Weekly

now its time for drinks… Wine is getting warm
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: all the literature is there but if things are all going ok then why innovate
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: you really need a near death experience or it will never happen
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: innovation units fail because they dont create regular demonstrable returns
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: peer support and recognition and making a diff worth more than money
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: best to co-opt the enemies as you lose political capital fighting all the time
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: therefore most innovation plans die within 18 months
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: focus has to be on keeping the lights on
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: the cio is in a very hard position. Hard to ever innovate
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: if people innovate outside their area they need support
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: you can find people get *too* involved in innovation
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: cultural change is very hard to achieve
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: staff engaged in ideastream are better engaged
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: service is not just functional
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: we expect people to start demanding better interactions soon
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: disconnect between type of service offered and what people expect
about 21 hours ago via dabr
gardner: maybe if we had an art mentality in the dwp rather than engineers it wd be better
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: technologists can build beautiful systems
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: i disagree that technical work is not creative and artistic
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: i dont believe in the single hero innovator #cw500
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: egg or first direct are not just one leader. More than just an idea #cw500
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: if you build it they will come does not happen often
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: network effect really important to get more involved
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: is it to keep up or to get ahead?
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: #cw500 only a few places you can innovate anyway… Radical or incremental
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: not always possible to bring everyone along
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: present environment is a great opportunity for change
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: when you have a burning platform you can make changes
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: you need a near death experience to make innovation happen
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: better to get innovation in a silo than none at all
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: time of austerity… Need to collaborate across public sector
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: if you are going to manage innovation you must be prepared to be fired
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: at lloyds we processed about 1200 new ideas a month
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: most people are resistant to change anyway
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: public sector innovation is no different to private
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: you can shift a direction. Much harder to create radical change
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: what radical innovation has microsoft created?
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: pfizer did a great job repurposing viagra
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: apple just knows the direction of travel and creates paradigm shift
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: apple is not innovating. They are creating revolutions
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: microsoft is a failure in terms of innovation
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: caixa navarra is an amazing example of play to win innovation
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: imagine a bank telling you how much they made from you
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: but most people want play not to lose innovation
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: play to win innovation means you put it at the centre of all you do
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: we ask the crowd to manage the suggestion box?
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: do any suggestion schemes really work?
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: we pay our own currency to staff who have great ideas
about 22 hours ago via dabr
gardner: many of the bank systems i worked on are similar to the dept #cw500
about 22 hours ago via dabr
james gardner cto at dwp now speaking on innovation #cw500
about 22 hours ago via dabr
all present in lancaster hotel now for the #cw500 event
about 23 hours ago via dabr

James Gardner, CTO of the DWP

Is everything going to be nationalised?

The present crisis in Europe over the ash cloud from Iceland is fast moving beyond a joke. Of course, it’s no joke for the thousands of people struggling to get home and stranded all over Europe, but what will happen to the airlines?

BBC Business editor Robert Peston has estimated that BA alone is losing something like £20m a day. And as each day passes, the EU warning is extended to the following day. I’m supposed to be visiting Austria this weekend and it seriously looks like it won’t happen. Of course, I’m not choked about it because I am at least at home and able to just stay home rather than being stranded thousands of miles from home. But how long will this go on?

And what is the implication for the national air carriers if they need governments to bail them out? First the banks, then the airlines? The question will be asked that if the airlines are so essential to national economies then how come they are not already government owned – like the old days?

Who would have thought that in 2010 we would see nationalised banks on the high street and private airlines all over Europe begging to be saved by national governments. Next thing, the private power companies will ask for government help setting up new power stations, err…

So who offers the worst business banking in the UK?

The Co-operative bank business banking service has been under fire from the Radio 4 Money Box programme, with bank customers complaining that the system is difficult to login to, data is often lost, and sometimes information is just not available.

It sounds familiar to me, though my business banking service is with Abbey – which is now Santander and is about to be rebranded entirely so the old Abbey brand will vanish.

I’ve used Abbey for business banking for six years. One of the things anyone running any kind of business will know is that you need to be able to go back and check on transactions from some time ago. Accounts are often filed a year or more after transactions take place.

The old system Abbey offered was very good. I could enter a date range and export all my banking activity to a spreadsheet, then format it for my accountant.

When Santander took over, they implemented a new business banking system. Suddenly it was not possible to enter date ranges for statements. I could no longer export easily to Excel. In fact, I could not look back at transactions beyond the last 70 on my statement. So, it was not possible to look back more than a couple of months at most.

When I needed to start getting my accounts in order for annual filing with Companies House, I asked Abbey how I could get the information for the previous year. They told me they could send me the paper statements in the post and it would take at least six weeks to get them because they need to go to a microfiche archive.




How do I get that on a spreadsheet? They told me I would need to retype everything myself. Why can’t I get it immediately? Because all the data has been archived. Why on earth are you using microfiche rather than a datacentre? We use it for all our archives…

What on earth is going on with Santander? I called several times about this issue and I was told that a lot of businesses are complaining about the same thing. Of course they are. Companies need to be able to go back and look at historic transactions. Don’t deliver a personal banking solution to businesses and expect us to be happy – you idiots.

I’m in the process of sorting out my company accounts for last year right now. As soon as I’m all set, I’m in the market for a new business bank account, but it won’t be with the Co-op or Santander.

Tesco Bank. Your time has come…

The government is now throwing more money at the UK banking system.

As a nation, we really had no choice, but to bail out the banks. Hank Paulson allowed Lehman Brothers to collapse in the US thinking that the market would correct itself if a weak bank is allowed to fail. Instead, he tipped the whole banking system into further decline.

The government is seeking more competition in UK retail banking. They want to offload the public sector ownership of the banks they saved back to new market entrants. And it’s essential this happens. Listen to the press and the public on the radio phone-ins.

Nobody trusts the existing banks anymore. They are viewed as corrupt and with leaders like Fred Goodwin sailing into the sunset with millions in pension money, who can blame them?

We can go one of two ways.

State-owned banking is one choice. The government has already made it clear that they don’t like this option and they want to offload their present assets to the private sector – and this would happen even faster if (when) the Tory government is elected next spring.

So, our only really option is the new market entrants coming in and cleaning up the banks – like James Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’… walk this way Bank of Tesco.