Simple pitches itself as “Banking for humans, by humans.” It is an online service that seeks to change the way people manage their money by allowing them to store their money online without ever having to step inside a bank. The service is one of the largest innovations to how people manage their money we’ve seen in decades, but just how is it different from traditional banking?
Simple is a company out of Portland, Oregon offering an alternative to traditional banking. They don’t view themselves as a bank, even though they partner with Bankcorp Bank to store your money. Anyone who uses Simple, even though they may never step inside a bank, is still storing their money inside one.
The difference lies in the experience. Simple removes bank tellers out of the equation. While many people probably never set foot inside their local banks already, they have the choice. Simple erases that choice and replaces it with an online and mobile experience that is more straightforward and, well, simple than most of what the competition has to offer. The service frees people from being tied to banks that may only serve certain regions.
In the past couple of years, banks rolled out support for depositing checks by taking pictures of them using smartphones. This extra option for most banks is the norm for Simple. This limits people who can use the service to those who have a smartphone. Technically you can use an iPod to use the required mobile app instead, but that isn’t exactly opening the service up to more people.
Simple’s mobile and web apps offer a clean layout for managing money. Users can sign in to view their balances, pay bills, make budgets, and set goals. One nice feature is how Simple removes money set aside for goals from the balance available for spending, even though the money is still present in the account. While my current bank has this feature, my previous two didn’t. Simple opens up these tools to anyone living within the United States.
Users are given a Simple Visa Debit Card that can still be used wherever VISA cards are accepted. You won’t be given a checkbook, but you can still pay people using the web interface. Simple will write the check on your behalf, as long as it isn’t tax-related.
It is still possible to talk to a real-life person. While it won’t happen face-to-face, Simple does have help hotlines and online support available for those times when you just need answers. Quite frankly, much of the communication that goes on with bank tellers can take place over the phone anyway. It may be nice to put a friendly face on the person at the other end looking at your funds, it isn’t a fundamental necessity.
A sizable number of people still do all of their banking without ever signing into an online account, and Simple won’t get them to change their ways any time soon. For others, Simple offers what they like most about banking and gets rid of the cruft. It’s more evolutionary than revolutionary, but it’s still a breath of fresh air.