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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Developer-Friendly Banks? 158

Posted by kdawson
from the or-how-about-friendly-to-anyone dept.
tyen writes "Any suggestions for a 'developer-friendly' bank for small businesses? The banking world is awash in data protocols that business customers who are/have coders would find useful, like BAI to extract all the raw data from an ACH or SWIFT transfer. Unfortunately, the ones I have spoken with about this access are still stuck in the Dark Ages of computing; they price the access like only big companies still have the skills to tap into these interfaces. For example, one of the four US banks with a perfect trading record this past quarter quoted us USD five figures for access to several of our accounts via BAI format. Per year. After waiving sign-up fees. Are there any banks out there that have a more progressive attitude about letting small, entrepreneurial developers work with their business accounts in a more modern, dare we say automated, way? With big businesses demanding EFT integration from small business vendors, and globalization rewarding premiums to nimble, lean businesses that automate wherever possible, automating the retrieval of this information (which is not available in consumer-oriented access like OFX) becomes an increasingly pressing issue for the small guys."
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Developer-Friendly Banks?

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  • Premium features (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) *

    If you can access it with a browser, you can script it too.

    Unfortunately businesses always ask more for not-so-common and premium features. This is also quite close access to their internal systems and since it's probably 0.01% of customers who need such access, they have to ask more from those who actually need it. Banks have to develop, secure and maintain the system too and it costs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jimicus (737525)

      Yeah, but the problem with screen-scraping is that you'll spend a large chunk of your life trying to turn HTML back into the structured data it would have started at before the bank's systems processed it and dealing with every tiny little change which may not be immediately obvious to the naked eye but may well affect the processing. Which is a PITA if that's not your main business.

      • by philj (13777)
        The amusing thing is that most banks have their web based interfaces screen scraping their old green screen systems because they're petrified of upgrading anything!
    • Flash? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @04:11PM (#32221744)

      If you can access it with a browser, you can script it too.

      That would be true for HTML. Unfortunately, many banks have flash-only access.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BrentH (1154987)
      My bank, ING, has MT940 and csv exports on any account here in the Netherlands, personal, small business, non-profits, any. Or are you looking for actual interfaces with which you can do the banking so as to circumvent the website of your bank?
  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @03:08PM (#32221376) Journal

    Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A friendly bank is one who uses lube before they bend you over, isn't it?

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by roman_mir (125474)

        No no no, friendly bank is the one that does not hit you on the head with a baseball bat more than 3 times after having its way with you. You don't want them to use the lube, they use the same stuff that kills the engines on cars in the 'cash for clunkers' program for that.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by sopssa (1498795) *

      I'm quite sure banks are really friendly to you if you have enough money.

      • I'm quite sure banks are really friendly to you if you have enough money.

        Yeah, good point. I'll bet Warren Buffet gets a better reception when he walks into his bank than I do when I walk into mine.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2010 @03:27PM (#32221488)

      I overheard this conversation between some programmers in my company about BAI, It was pretty heated. What I namely remember is:

      Ok! Ok! I must have, I must have put a decimal point in the wrong place
      or something. Shit. I always do that. I always mess up some mundane detail.

      I can't remember what happened to them... It was around the time that we had a big fire at our main office.

    • by Firehed (942385) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:49PM (#32222688) Homepage

      By and large, yes - but it's not impossible. Of course, it really depends what you're looking to do. Many merchant processors allow you to move money in and out of your account(s) via ACH, and plenty of them have APIs with varying degrees of crappiness. You'll find that initiating the transfers tends to be fairly straightforward with most of them; it's the reconciliation of which transfers actually went through that's a pain in the ass (download a rather nonsenisical CSV file over FTP that's only available after a seemingly random time of day, rather than just pinging an API every few hours with a cron job).

      I'm currently working with a company called Check Gateway which has a pretty good API at least by bank standards and staff that's quite helpful and willing to do stuff that a lot of other processors aren't comfortable with.

      • by tsm_sf (545316)
        You might look into becoming a client or partner with a smaller payroll company. They've got access to everything you need and will already be experts in dealing with the major banks' individual quirks.
      • Bank of New York Mellon is huge in processing. A main focus of their business is doing processing for other banks or other financial institutions so they process many times their internal assets as a matter of normal business. Because of this they have a whole department that all they do is customize processing. I don't know if they have a minimum $$$ of business but they are setup to help you do anything that is possible. One of the surprising things is how enthusiastic they are about finding ways to custo
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jvillain (546827)

      They are located next door to the consumer friendly movie studio.

  • Good Luck with that. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lil'wombat (233322) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @03:10PM (#32221388)

    Banking thrives on secrecy. That last thing they want are outsiders poking around with their data and protocols - lord know what you might find. You best bet would be to hit up the next bank president you come across on the golf course (private - not public). Barring that you could try dealing with one of the online banks like ING or perhaps a credit union?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      ING Direct is really crabby about letting individuals access their information through services such as Mint.com. They're also heavier on the security-theater than actual security, and their website keeps getting worse every year. Meh. They do have a pretty decent savings account rate, though.
      • Meh, interest rates not as good as my local bank, which allows me to pay all my bills online. The one thing I don't like is that I can't stop ACH without stopping all checks and online bill payment too.

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @03:14PM (#32221412) Homepage

    ... they're in it for the money.

    Very few small clients will access their accounts in that way. As such, the service is priced with the large client in mind. They will not drop the fees for a small client because then the larger clients would insist that they drop the fees for them, too. Plus, it's a pain in the butt to administer the "small fish" they might pull in by lowering their fees.

    Tell you what... You think this is a brilliant way to make money? Open your own bank. It's actually legal (and relatively easy) in this country. It's a good time to open a small bank, too - people are sick of the big banks. Find a backer and let them know that there's this underserved banking market out there. I'm sure you'll find plenty of takers if the idea is a good one.

    But, in general, the main reason a banking service isn't offered to you is because the service isn't profitable enough to offer it to the market you're part of.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Tell you what... You think this is a brilliant way to make money? Open your own bank. It's actually legal (and relatively easy) in this country. It's a good time to open a small bank, too - people are sick of the big banks. Find a backer and let them know that there's this underserved banking market out there. I'm sure you'll find plenty of takers if the idea is a good one.

      But, in general, the main reason a banking service isn't offered to you is because the service isn't profitable enough to offer it to the market you're part of.

      I would second this. Seriously, if someone were to start a geek-friendly bank, with reasonable terms, I would seriously consider using it, and I've got quite a few friends who would as well.

      The issue, as mentioned, is finding a backer. To open a bank, you have to have a certain amount of cash on-hand, and that's where the sticking point comes for most of us, otherwise we'd all open banks.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        you have to have a certain amount of cash on-hand ...and the bigger you are, the less that has to be, proportionally; right?

    • by fm6 (162816)

      Tell you what... You think this is a brilliant way to make money? Open your own bank.

      Really? Have you done it? Can you point me to somebody who's done it?

      • by maxume (22995)

        Goldman Sachs did it just last year.

        Zing!

        • by fm6 (162816)

          I think it's pretty clear from the context that I was talking about somebody who wasn't already rich.

      • by jlarocco (851450)

        I don't personally know anybody, but there are thousands of banks in the United States, so it must be possible to start one...

        In fact, a quick web search turns up this news story [registeredrep.com] about people starting their own banks. And little more searching turns up the FDIC site for bankers [fdic.gov], which presumably has information and forms required for opening a bank.

        As others have pointed out, the main difficulty would be establishing credibility. "Hey, I'm some guy, trust me with your savings," just isn't going to c

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fm6 (162816)

          Sigh. Can't anybody on Slashdot read in context? Of course I don't think that banks just magically appear. I wasn't asking if it's possible to start a bank. I was asking if it's possible for an ordinary person with no capital or business connections to start a bank.

          When I followed the link you sent me, I ended up on an advertising page for some webinar or something. If there was a way past it, I couldn't find it.

          So a googled "Start a bank". Got nothing but links for schemes to avoid taxes by starting an off

          • by LanMan04 (790429)

            Why not start a Credit Union instead? That's got to be easier...

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_union [wikipedia.org]

          • by jlarocco (851450)

            Getting business connections and capital are two parts of starting a successful bank. Doing so demonstrates you're somewhat trustworthy and have some financial sense.

            How will you convince people to trust you with their money otherwise? Once you're big enough you can go by reputation, but until then most people will want evidence that you're not just some scammer. The easiest way of doing that is to get capital and business connections...

      • Tell you what... You think this is a brilliant way to make money? Open your own bank.

        Really? Have you done it? Can you point me to somebody who's done it?

        I can point you to thousands of banks where it has been done. Not good enough?

        • by fm6 (162816)

          Jeez, did you really think that I was asking for an example of anybody starting a bank? We're talking about banking options for a small development firm without a lot of capital. Which means that in this context, I was asking about somebody like that starting a bank, not some random capitalist.

      • by rjlieb (1714418) * on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:23PM (#32223212)

        Tell you what... You think this is a brilliant way to make money? Open your own bank.

        Really? Have you done it? Can you point me to somebody who's done it?

        I've been directly involved in the creation of two banks in my career and indirectly involved in a half-dozen more. Detail vary, but you generally need to raise less than $10 million. You also need a lot of patience. New banks take years to start making money.

        • by fm6 (162816)

          In other words, it's not true that anybody can start a bank. You have to have enough experience in the industry so that investors will give you the startup costs. Or have a few million of your own lying around. I think that excludes the typical developer who just needs a bank that will provide him with electronic services on a small scale at a reasonable price.

    • The idea of "working with a bank" is somewhat of an oxymoron. I agree with the Frank that opening your own bank is really the way to go. If you're not greedy I'm told it's very hard to lose money running a bank. You're guaranteed to make the difference between the interest you pay on savings accounts and the treasury bill rate at the very least. Maybe times have changed and that's not really true anymore but it's worth looking into IMHO.

    • by Rophuine (946411)

      Another big problem is relating to their Anti-Money-Laundering/Counter-Terrorism-Financing (AML/CTF) policies. Basically, the more unusual a client is, the more carefully you have to watch them. If someone walks in with a reference from his employer, opens a standard account, has a driver's licence but no passport (because he's never left the country), makes a typical wage which shows up in his account weekly, and withdraws about a quarter of his income as cash and spends the rest on his card and paying his

  • DIY Credit Union (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Legendre (634519) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @03:23PM (#32221464)
    Roll-out your own credit union for geeks. I'd be interested in a bank with the services you've described. I'm absolutely sick of big banks and their big fees for even minor infractions.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday May 15, 2010 @03:57PM (#32221670) Homepage Journal

      I'm absolutely sick of big banks and their big fees for even minor infractions.

      I'm not sure what your plans are for a bank that would use the protocols that you describe, but I can tell you that as a small business, the one that is most "friendly" to me is the one that doesn't structure its fees and accounts to milk you for every transaction.

      There was actually a time in this country, before "deregulation" when banks made money from taking in deposits, lending that money out and charging interest. They would pay you compound interest for the money that you deposited with them. Sometimes, they'd give you a toaster or a blender on top of the compound interest

      That was it: deposits and loans. And they were able to get rich beyond imagining from that simple, honest business model. They built huge, ornate buildings with cupolas and pillars and marble floors that squeaked when you walked on them. There made so much money that they built gilded temples with a tiny fraction of the profits. Generation after generation, they just got rich, bless their hearts.

      But then came "deregulation" when banks decided that the unimaginable wealth they could accumulate from the "deposits and loans" model was just not sexy enough. They needed more. Their shareholders demanded more. They not only needed to make even greater wealth, but the rate at which they made tons of money had to increase every single quarter.

      Flash forward a few decades, and banks don't really care for deposits and loans any more, because there are these exotic, sexy bits of fiction called "derivatives". They are the banking equivalent of scratch-off Lotto tickets. They fucked it up so badly that the entire economy went into a tailspin, from which we are only now beginning to recover. They fucked things up so badly that they can't even make money from the old-fashioned "deposit and loan" model that worked so well for so long, so now they invented a new profit center, known as "fees". But since their customers have things like computers and calculators and other modern tools for adding up columns of numbers, they have to make these fees hidden and confusing, like ninjas, so that unless you are very, very careful (and maybe even then) you will end up paying a fee. For example, for years my business account has been "free" as long as I keep a certain balance. Then, one day, in a codicil buried three pages deep in a special agreement rider that they mentioned on the back side of page 3 of my monthly statement, they said that unless I used the debit card for that business account at least 5 times within every month, I would be charged $100 for the privilege of letting them hold my money. Further, the "month" is counted not the way we count months, from say April 1 to May 1, but from some shifting day which is tied to the statement period. And by the way, that "month" ends at the open of business tomorrow, so sorry, but you've been charged $100. Don't worry, though, because we deducted it from your account without mentioning it to you before. If it wasn't for a lady that I went to high school with who works at the bank who clued me, I'd never have known about this little trick and would have been hit with that $100 at least once, if not for several months because I didn't expect this kind of sleazy behavior from a business with such a spiffy and noble-looking building with marble floors, so I don't pour over my monthly statements like the Torah, because the only people who can use the account are me and my wife and I know how much money is supposed to be there, give or take, so if it's in the ballpark, I assume that money isn't being funneled out with such arcane practices.

      When President Obama and the liberal Democrats in congress proposed requiring the banks to actually disclose this innovative profit center known as "fees", there immediately went up a hue and cry that these regulations were Marxist and Communist and Fascist and Czarist and probably Muslim in some secret way, because

      • by cos(0) (455098) <pmw+slashdot@qnan.org> on Saturday May 15, 2010 @04:24PM (#32221820) Homepage

        You must like listening to yourself talk.

        Flash forward a few decades, and banks don't really care for deposits and loans any more, because there are these exotic, sexy bits of fiction called "derivatives". They are the banking equivalent of scratch-off Lotto tickets.

        Sounds like this is taken verbatim out of some bestseller that's popular with the masses. Derivatives are no more "fictional" than other types of securities -- they're just slightly more complex. They're also nothing like Lotto tickets. Please learn about actual derivatives in the real world, such as options [wikipedia.org] and credit default swaps [wikipedia.org]. Both are derivatives, both are useful to our society, neither is fictional, and neither is anything like a Lotto ticket.

        Don't worry too much about the protocols that the banks data comes in. Just try to find a local bank or credit union whose business model is not completely based on fucking you over. Try to create a relationship with a human being at the bank itself.

        In other words, "I don't know anything about the topic at hand, but I have strong opinions about something unrelated, and I'll be damned if I don't ejaculate them every place I can."

        Please, don't bring down the average IQ of this discussion.

        • Re:DIY Credit Union (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gd2shoe (747932) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @04:34PM (#32221876) Journal

          Many of those derivatives really are treated as lotto tickets (you brought up options), and the those MBS tied to the CDS really were sold in a fictitious way (using imaginary non-truths). Yes, GPP likes to talk. That doesn't make him wrong.

          Do you work for Goldman Sachs? You sound just like them.

          • by cos(0) (455098)

            Well, ok, I think we're talking past each other. I agree with you that derivatives sometimes "are treated as lotto tickets"—the same way that individual investors treat shares of some random company as lotto tickets.

            Derivatives are powerful tools. As such, they can be abused and misused, and certainly it seems that this is what happened in the last few years. However, does this mean that derivatives as a whole should be banned?

            I don't work for Goldman Sachs, but I try to follow the ongoing investig

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by gd2shoe (747932)

              However, does this mean that derivatives as a whole should be banned?

              Only the most ill informed make that claim. Rest assured that I do not. Certain classes of derivatives need to be reevaluated (and regulated at a minimum).

              ... I try to follow the ongoing investigation. An executive officer of Goldman Sachs made the statement, "We gave our customers as much risk as they wanted." I certainly don't know whether the customers knew the risks (that seems to be what's under investigation), but on face value, that statement is exactly the goal of an investment firm.

              Then you know that the deregulation PopeRatzo referred to (with no specificity whatsoever) was the separation between commercial and investment banking. His depiction was certainly long-winded, over-simplified, and lacked some accuracy, but is very close to what happened.

              And yes, Goldman's made that claim. That is the theory -- providing reward-poten

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by gumbi west (610122)

          Okay, I'll take the bait. Setting aside covered shorts, name a derivative that is useful to our society. My stance is that uncovered shorts are, essentially insurance and should be regulated as such.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cos(0) (455098)

            No bait. Theoretically, all derivatives are useful to our society in the same way that all free-will economic transactions are useful to our society. They allow both parties to be better off—otherwise the transaction wouldn't occur.

            Every book on options discusses the benefits (and dangers) of every options position—they all have a role. Some provide insurance, others provide leverage.

            Whether insurance (or amount of leverage) should be regulated is another matter.

            • So it's just a "free markets = pareto improvement" argument, you've got nothing more than that? I'm going to assume that you know some economics and point out that there is no reason a Walrasian auctioneer needs some players to select negative quantities of some goods. In English, efficient markets have no need for people to use uncovered shorts.

              Did it ever occur to you that all of the benefit comes from annualized bonuses for agents who play with principal's long run investments?

            • by sjames (1099)

              But not all free-will economic transactions are useful to society. For example, hiring a hitman or selling explosives to terrorists, or a bank loaning a bad risk more (other people's) money than it can afford to lose.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by stdarg (456557)

            Any business that deals with commodities benefits from the availability of derivatives like options and futures because it helps them plan for future costs and protect against sharp volatility.

            I have a great example for you. There's a big problem in Pakistan right now because of fluctuations in the price of cotton. Two related industries depend on cotton -- the yarn industry and the higher level textile industry (t-shirts and towels and such) -- but handle the business risk of cotton prices differently.

            The

            • The first instance is a covered short--the producer is selling something that they already know they will produce next year (cotton). It is a great example of why covered shorts are useful, something I would not argue against. You are the second person to point out the usefulness of covered shorts in response to my request for a useful uncovered short.

              As for the yarn industry, it really has no bearing on the question of derivatives. I know of no derivative that offers protection against government regulatio

              • by stdarg (456557)

                The first instance is a covered short--the producer is selling something that they already know they will produce next year (cotton).

                Since the cotton does not exist, any contracts written against it are not covered.

                As for the yarn industry, it really has no bearing on the question of derivatives. I know of no derivative that offers protection against government regulation, but presumably you can see why there are all sorts of problems with allowing that type of contract, right?

                You asked for an example of a derivative that was useful to society.

                Let me summarize it again: the options contracts for the yarn industry were helpful (they were profitable this year even with wildly fluctuating input prices) whereas the lack of options in the higher level textile industry have harmed society (there's going to be massive unemployment in the yarn sector).

          • by portscan (140282)

            How about foreign exchange swaps/forwards? Any company that does substantial international business, but reports earnings in the currency where it is domiciled is exposed to significant foreign exchange (currency) risk. The strength of a company is making and selling its production, not speculating in currency markets. Using derivatives, a company can "lock in" a rate of exchange so that its success or failure depends on its business performance, not on fluctuating exchange rates. In fact, any internati

            • Okay, you are the third (fourth?) person to point to a covered short. Something I specifically said I think is valuable.

              So, I'd love to hear about an uncovered short that is valuable.

              • by portscan (140282)

                Well options are very useful for all the situations listed when the quantities are very uncertain. Credit Default Swaps are useful for investors to hedge against default of bonds (or to specifically assume just the credit risk component of a bond). For all the harm they caused, CDOs (really more of a structured product than a derivative) help to keep mortgage (and all other type of loan) rates low by enabling more capital to be deployed into loans. A pension fund, for example, will not make loans directl

                • Okay, lets focus on credit default swaps. Here, there is no natural seller: the entity that can pay out when things go bad for every firm it has a CDS sold on, unless they have reserve ratios like... an insurance firm, at least for the CDS in their portfolio.

                  Also, what purpose is there to naked CDSs?

                  Finally, there is no finance theory that says puts are useful, you have to have lots and lots of poorly informed owners for this to be a useful tool and not just a loto ticket, and then you have to wonder, why a

        • by astar (203020)

          Volker now attacks glass steagall but a few months ago he was pushing it. But in any case, it is well reported that he said not too long ago that the only useful banking innovation in the last few? decades was the ATM machine. And i think he challenged the assembled parasites to name one good thing all these wonder banking innovations have done. But Volker is universally understood to be stupid and such. Well, at this point, I would give you gutless.

          McCain Cantwell amendment to the Dudd bill is getting s

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          You must like listening to yourself talk.

          It's not that so much as my many fans have come to expect a certain level of eloquence from me.

          I'm nothing if not accommodating.

          OK, now go fuck yourself.

        • by aminorex (141494)

          > ejaculate them every place i can

          interesting lifestyle

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by roman_mir (125474)

        Can I interject something into your post?

        OK. So it used to be that banks did what you said: they took your money and loaned it and made money on interest and that was great.

        So what happened between then and now?

        Government producing giant amounts of money happened. Government printing money, getting off the gold standard happened. Government setting up minimum wage laws and taxing income and in various ways regulating and thus creating Giant Monopolies happened.

        The economy of savings (like putting money i

        • Re:DIY Credit Union (Score:4, Interesting)

          by hibiki_r (649814) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @04:59PM (#32221996)

          Maybe they got keynes wrong?

          Under a Keynesian model, the government sets policies that will charge up an economy when the private sector is in a bug slump. However, the government should also try to cool down the economy when it grows too fast, precisely to contain possible bubbles. You can't really do what Keynes suggested by just looking at one side of the coin, which is what we saw for the last decade and a half.

          Now, you could argue that the Keynesian model still fails due to the complexity of the market, or because the government intervention can be gained, but at least describe it right.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by roman_mir (125474)

            Keynes is wrong all around. 'Charging up' the economy that NEEDS the bust is wrong, it only delays and worsens the inevitable collapse. Boom and bust are totally normal parts of a cycle - bust is the fix for the boom. Boom is expansion, boom allows inefficiencies to grow, bust removes the inefficiencies, restructures the market. Before the US Government decided to control this with Keynes ideas the market in US had normal boom/bust cycles and busts normally lasted months, no more than a year and happened

        • Re:DIY Credit Union (Score:4, Interesting)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday May 15, 2010 @05:09PM (#32222086) Homepage Journal

          Government producing giant amounts of money happened.

          The government has been printing money for a long time, and banks did very well taking deposits and lending money during that time.

          It was the deregulation that started around '80 when the banks really decided that investment banking was a better business than retail banking.

          • by roman_mir (125474)

            Not like this they weren't. The money was printed but the Government created Monopolies still did not leave the country. Monopolies leave countries with high production costs and go to countries with low production costs and then the jobs disappear and then people live more and more on credit and then Government prints more and more to supply money for the party.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ncgnu08 (1307339)

        Amen brother! And while the following posts seem to argue the validity of derivatives, the are purposely designed to confuse and mislead the average person. You can find interview after interview with the people that actually work in these markets in which they acknowledge A)these are very confusing and hard to follow (in fact many of them do not fully understand all of the principles involved), and B) they are designed this way to avoid scrutiny and create "privacy by confusion" allowing banks and these m

      • by DaveGod (703167)

        There was actually a time in this country, before "deregulation" when banks made money from taking in deposits, lending that money out and charging interest.

        Yep, and loans were much more expensive, which is why there was deregulation.

        That was it: deposits and loans. And they were able to get rich beyond imagining from that simple, honest business model. They built huge, ornate buildings with cupolas and pillars and marble floors that squeaked when you walked on them. There made so much money that they built

  • ACH (Score:5, Interesting)

    by astar (203020) <max.stalnaker@gmail.com> on Saturday May 15, 2010 @03:23PM (#32221468) Homepage

    I do not know about stupid bank fees, but I recall that ACH is as you say extremely well documented. And there is a setup for a testing protocol built in. There is a spec book that I imagine is say $100 and freely available. If you were not particular about language or schedule or, what is the word, maybe track record, I figure you are talking $10k to do the client software from scratch. If you want it done this quarter in C++ by a name, say $200k. But no real cost analysis here. This was a long time ago, but I think I called my bank to see what sort of obstacles they would put up. As best I understood from a single conversation, there were no obstacles or fees. I suppose it might be relevant that there were personal relationships. For what it is worth this was a regional chain and if you want the name, email me.

    • Re:ACH (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @03:52PM (#32221636) Homepage Journal

      I've worked with various Multicash/MT920/940 variants. It was many moons ago, but I seem to remember that they're pretty well documented.

      Sometimes a bank also offers a simpler format - often a CSV. These are aimed at small/medium businesses between those that are big enough to run a beast like SAP or Oracle Financials and small ones that have so few transactions that they key them manually via the web or at an ATM. Normally the documentation for those formats are available to customers. I know because I did it once.

      To be honest (and it's hardly unusual on "ask slashdot") I'm not quite sure what problem the OP is trying to solve. Does he work for a company that wants to automate its banking, or is he seeing some kind of opportunity to develop third party software? Is he trying to bypass the bank and get right into the SWIFT/ACH etc "backbone"? I believe it's possible for non-banks, but the bar is exceedingly high - good luck with that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    many are free

    http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/714617/

  • by seifried (12921) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @04:03PM (#32221710) Homepage

    The Future of Money: It’s Flexible, Frictionless and (Almost) Free [wired.com]/

    Basically from what I can tell it sounds like you're going to have to go with a startup type bank/payment service like Paypal which has actually made an effort to open its platform up.

    I suspect most traditional banks won't change significantly for at least a few decades. My bet would be on ING and its brethren to open up first, try talking with them.

    • Thanks for being one of the only posts to actually offer information instead of just rants. I've been wanting this type of access for a long time too. I had a small bank whose web access allowed you to temporarily subtract checks from your pending balance until they cleared. When I switched to Bank of America, I've wished for that feature ever since, and the only option I can think of is to use a greasemonkey script to do it. Bank of America also started charging me fees for not having direct deposit, whic
  • by Cederic (9623) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @04:05PM (#32221720) Journal

    Five digit sums for remote access, per year? Hell, it'll cost half of that just for the security software licences, let alone administration overheads, hardware, networks... Corporate data exchange is not cheap, it's not easy and it's not something you throw together in a hurry for a bank relationship.

    Most banks offer corporate customers the ability to manage their own accounts. This includes web or fat client deployment, download of files/reports (including transaction histories and balances) and submission of payment mandates.

    Use the interfaces already provided, and shop around for the cheapest bank. Nobody offering the interface you want at the price you want? Deal with it.

    Or start your own bank. You too can put up with the horrendous regulatory framework, the stunning liabilities resulting from membership of various payment schemes and the complexity of managing multiple payment mechanisms for multiple customers in a timely and (above all) accurate manner at lower cost than all of your competitors.

    After all, you think everybody else is clearly doing it wrong. Go for it, show us how to be better.

  • by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Saturday May 15, 2010 @04:26PM (#32221836)

    Disclaimer: I write financial software for a living.

    First, I don't see why OFX can't be used for that purpose. You could manage several hundred accounts, payroll, billpay, collections, wire transfers, funds management, etc. Not only that, it's two-way. It's not just displaying account data, it allows you to perform the actual transactions. I know of some payroll processing centers that use OFX for exactly this - either it goes to printer or it goes electronic.

    Second, because there is no salable demand for individuals requesting the raw file formats for the backend transfers, those features don't exist. This is common sense - what motivation exists for a company to spend the time and effort providing a feature if there is no money attached to it.

    Third, certification. There is quite a bit of hullabaloo in the banking industry about certification, and they're serious. See, there's not a lot of security in the banking world. They rely on hard connections, network separation, and effectively, trust. What they DO have though, is auditing trails. They might not be able to stop a fraudulent ATM transaction, but they can tell you every node, clearing house, third party processor or financial institution it went through. Certification is the thing that allows them to reasonably trust members in their transactional world - you can't just show up with homegrown software and hook right in.

    Last, as you said, "The banking world is awash in data protocols". Lemme tell you something - the raw protocols are only about 1/20'th of what goes on. No protocol is perfect, and many systems have what you or I might consider 'undocumented features' that are handled by clever manipulation of the protocol (aka, hacks). The paper description, for example, of the ACH file format can be compressed into about 6 pages. There is a two volume set of books, each about 300 pages, of small print, so thin as to be nearly transparent pages that actually describes how those 8 pages work.

    That's one protocol. There are dozens of major ones, and additional complexities when you add in feature specific cores or sinks (back end systems that banks use to store the actual data on, like those provided by MISER or Fiserv )- do you support overdraft protection, provide memo services (a hold against an account for an amount prior to it's actual processing), and if so, which of the dozen ways do you provide that information?

    So in the end;
    * no real financial benefit to providing that access (especially when you say you don't want to pay XD )
    * no certification to provide that access
    * actual software knowledge requires domain knowledge many magnitudes greater than just file formats, including per-FI non-public knowledge

    last and not the least important items not discussed above;
    * financial institutions are slow movers when it comes to adopting technology.
    * early adopters are NEVER the small banks, and they always require a hefty ($$$$) reason to include it.

    So it could be done - and probably will in the next 20 years or so - but not today. ...

    as an aside,

    The reason you'd be getting billed 5 figures for access is because they'd end up assigning someone to manually pull your ACH records out of each daily batch and save them to one side. Manually. They may even need to have someone actually type the new entries in (separation of networks, removable media would be disallowed - of course.)

    • More reality (Score:4, Insightful)

      by daemonenwind (178848) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @11:33PM (#32224398)

      Disclaimer: I am a developer in one of America's largest banks.
      Of course, I do not speak for them - just for me.

      That said, think about what the OP is asking.

      He wants unfettered access to funds transfer information.

      Just to keep righteous with the Feds, we'd have to forcibly limit his access to accounts only his business has - it's not like we could open the tap and just let him run BAI queries on any account he can think of, the way our own internal users can.

      But a web portal with customer-keyed access is already present, and isn't good enough for Mr. LookAtMeI'mABigBadCoder.

      So we'd have to build him a distinct data transfer channel, test the hell out of it to make sure he can't break it and look at someone else's stuff or - God forbid - foul up our nightly batch cycle with stupid data requests outside of standard Banking hours. Then we'd have to test it with him involved to make sure it returns the data he wants.

      All that is probably a several hundred hour project. Per customer. For something no one ever wants but this yahoo.
      Of course, several hundred hours assumes the full banking software is Bank-owned. Most folks outsource this stuff, so we'd have to test cross-vendors with him, too, generating costs for us.....

      You want it for free?

      You're fucking clueless.

      • Disclaimer: I am also a software developer for a medium-sized financial services company (we have our own in-house transaction processing system, and interface directly with a crap-ton of ERP systems, each of which we had to code interfaces to ourselves).

        You want it for free? You're fucking clueless.

        I completely agree with this statement.

  • River City Bank (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Small progressive smart banking. I work for a small developer that makes software that connects their system to accountants across the country.

    Try to talk to Eric King, If you have a good idea for a service they could be offering, he'd be the one to talk to.

    http://www.rivercitybankky.com [rivercitybankky.com]

  • my experience with US and Canadians banks has been awfull, old systems either trought manual input forms or absurd flatfiles. on the other hand my best experience has been with European banks, they all have some sort of webservice either soup or RESTful service where you can access all you can need to integrate with your systems. i hope in the future they adopt some kind of standart to work with their data, like the OpenTravel thats being used more and more this days and make integration with travel syste
  • Hillarious ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @04:56PM (#32221980) Homepage Journal

    I stopped reading after like 5 insightful/interesting posts.

    Note to the Article poster: SWIFT is a bank to bank network. You will never get access to it as a non bank, and if you hack into it ... prey that no one figures it.

    To the others pointing out why the OP never will find what he wants:

    • face it, the USA has a banking system that is not even worth considered to be a 3rd world banking system, it is far far below acceptable standards. But well, you all adapted to it and don't know anything else
    • I have myself not written any paper cheque or paper advice of payment since 15 or more years
    • some ppl say here in /. that it is to expensive for a bank to let small customers use electronic access. Thats wrong, the opposite is true.
    • Every payment advice or any other transaction that comes in electronically does the bank cost nothing, as it can be processed automatically.
    • Every paper that the bank receives needs to be processed more or less manually
    • In my country, the bank account fees are between $10 and $100 per year (for a company) and that includes quite a high amount of transactions and free internet and other electronic interaction.
    • private bank accounts usually cost nothing (as the banks hope you overdraw your account and pay interests)
    • my sports club is using a Java Application to debit all the member fees from the member accounts every month, quarter, or year ... for free.
    • one of my companies has the bank account linked to the tax accountant. All transactions on the companies bank account get logged to the book keeping system of the tax accounted ... guess what? FOR FREE

    You ofc. can ignore all my "for free" claims above, as that is not for free but covert by the base yearly fees.

    To the OP: try Pay Pall, they have an oen API to access them, no idea how useful that is for you or which applications exist to use it reasonable.

    Regards,

    angel'o'sphere

  • by rjbrown99 (144423) <rjb@robertjbrPOL ... om minus painter> on Saturday May 15, 2010 @05:00PM (#32222012) Homepage

    I'll state at a high level that I work for a Credit Union, and there are a lot of us that believe in a model such as the one you are describing. Can I take this discussion in a slightly different direction? Rather than "where can I get this today", how about "what would you want from a service like this"? Reply with a list of features and describe the problem you are trying to solve.

    Do you want to only access your own account, or offer a service to multiple customers of the financial institution?
    Are you thinking along the lines of web services?
    What type of transactions would you want - realtime (i.e. what's my account balance now) or batch (show me all transactions for the last 6 months)?
    Are you talking about wire transfers, ACH, checks, etc?
    Are you thinking a pull model, where you query into the data or a push model, where you are alerted when things happen?

    Don't get dragged down in any pricing or cost at this point - just tell me in more detail what you want.

    • by soundguy (415780)

      I'll state at a high level that I work for a Credit Union, and there are a lot of us that believe in a model such as the one you are describing. Can I take this discussion in a slightly different direction? Rather than "where can I get this today", how about "what would you want from a service like this"? Reply with a list of features and describe the problem you are trying to solve.

      Do you want to only access your own account, or offer a service to multiple customers of the financial institution? Are you thinking along the lines of web services? What type of transactions would you want - realtime (i.e. what's my account balance now) or batch (show me all transactions for the last 6 months)? Are you talking about wire transfers, ACH, checks, etc? Are you thinking a pull model, where you query into the data or a push model, where you are alerted when things happen?

      Don't get dragged down in any pricing or cost at this point - just tell me in more detail what you want.

      At certain intervals throughout the calendar month, I want to open a CURL SSL connection with a Perl script (running on my PCI-compliant server), read the current balances on all of my accounts, then transfer a specified amount from business account A and a specified amount from business account B into business account C.

      at 12:01 am on the 10th of each month, I want to open a CURL SSL connection with a Perl script (running on my PCI-compliant server), send a csv list of payments to be made to pre-register

      • by rjbrown99 (144423)

        It sounds like you are interested in something more along the lines of batches of data and not a realtime API.

        Banks / Credit Unions / FIs do this now to send transactions between their own networks. I'm not aware of a consumer-oriented version of this, but that's not to say it shouldn't exist. PayPal is starting to move that direction with their x.com API. But you are going to be hit with more charges routing through PayPal than you would otherwise.

  • Any suggestions for a 'developer-friendly' bank for small businesses?

    Translates into honest english as

    Any suggestions for a bank that will give me expensive features for free?

    The cost of providing such access in a stable and secure way and all the support that goes into it has to be split up between the handful of customers that want this functionality.

    Besides, I wonder what kind of information he want to extract that isn't provided in more regular formats. What interresting information does he expect to find?

    FWIW, I have some experience with maintaining parsers/writers for the shitfest known as SWIFT.

  • Yodlee is a service that back-ends online banking applications and payment systems. Maybe they would sell you a development license or something...?

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:05PM (#32223130) Homepage Journal

    It seems that there is an opportunity here.

    Put up or shut up. Does anyone actually want to *make* the geek friendly bank?

    According to the almighty internet, we would need (depending on the state) about $5mil starting capital. About 10-20% of that comes directly from the founders, the rest can come from shareholders.

    We would need some founders who have cash, some who have the knowledge and ability to implement the system, some who have the ability to *run* the system, some with the ability to negotiate the legal and procedural, and some with the ability to deal with personal interaction.

    If a reasonable project plan were available, I could be one of the cash founders of the bank.

    Anyone else?

    • Let me throw this out as an initial proposal.

      The purpose of the bank is not to make the maximum money, the purpose is to get the most customers.

      The bank makes money in two ways:
      1) Differential interest between Fed and Savings, and
      2) Lending

      Lending is done very conservatively.

      We cater to the geek crowd:

      1) Online access only (but administrative offices with real employees)
      2) Good web presence and features
      3) Comprehensive accounting and audit trail
      4) Excellent security
      5) Open API for access
      6) No charge for ele

      • by soundguy (415780)

        13) FREE Global access to a reliable and widespread ATM network

        14) Credit cards @ credit market rates.

        15) built-in line of credit on checking accounts and no-fee overdraft advances

        16) account approval require passing a test that shows at least a basic understanding of personal finances and credit

    • by shamir_k (222154)
      I already am. Check out banksimple [banksimple.net]
      We are still a few months away from launch - it takes quite a bit of time and money to start a bank. But its far from impossible.
  • I'm one of a number of people working on software for mutual credit systems (LETS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Exchange_Trading_Systems [wikipedia.org] ) and alternative money and local currency systems, especially within the context of transition towns: http://www.transitiontowns.org/ [transitiontowns.org]

    There's a list of software, including mine, Cclite: https://sourceforge.net/projects/cclite/ [sourceforge.net], at the end of the wikipedia article.

    The end point of this is to take back both banking and control of currency into a more responsible
  • by apilosov (1810) <alex@pilosoft.com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @01:01PM (#32228220) Homepage

    What you are looking for is generally called 'treasury accounts' - it is expected for bank in that case to provide some kind of electronic access with full details (in/out wires, etc). Most big banks do offer that.

    Try Chase - it's not cheap but not unreasonable either (something like 100$ per month plus some per-user fees etc). I have that and it's fine. Plus you get SecurID token to authenticate outgoing wires, etc.

    Unfortunately, you kind of have to write a screen scraper to get to the CSV reports, but the data is there.

  • I'm the co-founder of Banksimple [banksimple.net]. We are still a few months away from launch, but our entire front end is built atop and API that we intend to expose to the public. I personally started working on this project when I came to the realization that banks in American fundamentally make money by keeping customers confused. Banks make more money from fees than interest margin. Because of this, banks have very little incentive to let their customers better understand their own finances. We think that sucks, and ou
    • by zero0ne (1309517)

      how do I know you are not a scam?
      (site looks legit and all)

      Also, do you offer business accounts?

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