Dec 08, 2005

Wells Fargo One-Look Discontinued...

When I recently moved back to the US, one of the things that surprised me was how much more prominent the Internet was, but I think this is actually more of an illusion. In reality, I think that when you move (and particularly more so when you move across borders), you get to setup all kinds of services, and compared to when I did this in 1998, everything is more on-line than then.

One of the sites that really amazed me was that of my bank, Wells Fargo. Their interface is particularly smooth, throwing you directly on an SSL connection, supporting web standards, the ability to display scanned images of your cheques (which they do for free, and I see that my Canadian bank now does this service, but charges $1.50 per cheque), but what really impressed me was their One-Look Service.

Now forget for a moment all those security and privacy concerns, this web application is a perfect example of what web services and web applications are intended to deliver: to aggregate information from multiple providers to make one seamless view to the customer. Their interface effectively allows you to see all of your bank accounts, regardless of the bank, and you can see your current balances in a nicely designed summary page. From the summary page, you can dig down and see the account activity, login directly to that organization's accounts (you must login) or refresh the current snapshot that it has.

The truly amazing part in all of this is how it was so interoperable. All of my 401K, mortgages, credit cards, brokerage accounts, and everything is right there in one place! In fact, the only account that I was unable to add directly was my autoloan, and well, based on their website, it aint surprising why you can't. But even for such accounts, it provides you an interface to manually enter information so that it is still available, albeit not realtime (I have never tried this; my impression was that it was not as powerful as it could be).

Unfortunately, however, Wells Fargo has announced that this service will be discontinued in February 2006. According to this, the service was started in March 2001, and Citigroup had a similar service that was discontinued earlier this year.

And while there are some security concerns around one site having all this information (especially given the number of banks that have "lost" customer information in the last couple years), the interoperability of this service and the customer's ability to get a great, quick summary of all their finances with an easy-to-use interface would seem to be the future of usability. It is unfortunate that this could not be secured sufficiently well to gain customer confidence.

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