Making Banking…Fun?

In my last blog post, I wrote about Bank of America’s effort to bring the human touch back to banking with its video-conferencing tellers. This week, I’m exploring a bank that’s taking the tellers completely out of the picture: prepaid debit card provider Green Dot’s new, entirely virtual bank, GoBank.Though announced in January, I only recently came across this Mashable article describing GoBank’s launch. With a little digging I came to find that GoBank is not the first bank without any brick and mortar locations– Bank of Internet USA, for example, was founded back in 1999 (its tagline is “America’s Oldest and Most Trusted Internet Bank”). But what I find most interesting about GoBank isn’t that it’s online-only. Actually, I’m not even interested in its mobile app or extraordinarily low and often nonexistent fees, which seem to be what most coverage has centered around. The thing I find most striking about GoBank is all of the completely nonessential, but very fun, features it offers its customers. The very first amenity highlighted on GoBank’s website is the fact that users design their custom Visa debit card with a photo of their choosing. Far from the sports teams or generic beach scene options typically offered by banks or credit card companies, GoBank facilitates direct upload from Facebook, so each card is completely individualized for the customer.

GoBank has integrated a Fortune Teller feature in its app, which gives you a quick thumbs-up or thumbs-down as to whether or not you should make a purchase based on your finances. If a user is wavering on whether or not to buy a new laptop that month, they can plug in a few recurring or anticipated expenses (rent, utilities, gym membership), enter the price of the computer in consideration, and the bank lets them know if they have “enough cents for the purchase to make sense.”

And, my favorite feature GoBank offers is the Peek at Your Balance bar. This tool appears on the app’s front login screen and, without having to input your login information, allows users to do a quick balance check.

While these offerings are all very amusing, and probably features I would use, they raise the question of where entertainment belongs in banking. GoBank’s gimmicky amenities grabbed my attention and made the app look fun to use, but they also made me slightly suspicious of the bank’s legitimacy. GoBank’s objective is to make banking fun and simple, which comes across in all of its messaging and branding– but do cheeky humor and game-like applications belong in an industry as serious as banking?

In the current, staid landscape of the finance industry, a bank with an overall tone that’s casual and playful is an interesting contrast. I will be curious to see if my generation and the next will prioritize user experience over big-bank name recognition and established trust in personal banking. In the meantime, I think all banks could take a page out of GoBank’s book and infuse a little more fun into their image other than just the bowl of lollipops at the front desk.

Lucy Muscarella is an Account Executive at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @lucymuscarella