Money, Technology…and the Complexity Problem

The other day, I realized that I needed to change some details on a bank account and to switch to another class of account. While the representatives with whom I talked were knowledgeable and helpful, the process took close to two hours. Why? Because of the combination of federal regulatory and bank/federal security requirements, even though I’ve been a customer for more than thirty years. They could not legally use the information on file. Every bit had to be re-verified, and I had to listen to several federally required disclosures.

What’s interesting about this is that it takes far less time to open a new account than to make changes to, or close, an existing account.

I understand the need for such precautions, and, unfortunately, they’re necessary, in today’s modern economy, where bank accounts can be hacked and identities stolen. But it’s essentially a “modern” problem. Too many people have no realization that the first true credit card wasn’t issued until 1958 [although that’s in the dark ages for most people].

The simple fact was that, if someone wanted to buy something, they had to pay cash for it. Banking was strictly local. There were essentially only three types of financial crimes, high-level stock and financial swindles, embezzlement, and bank robberies. The growth of commercial credit, amortized mortgages, and, finally, the internet changed everything… because the user convenience and availability also increased access for criminals, with the result that the FTC estimates financial crimes in the U.S. cost the victims $50 billion annually.

And that’s despite all the security systems and procedures.

The bottom line is that when a society gets wealthier and technology improves, there’s more to steal and more ways for criminals to do so, and that means that simple matters like changing accounts become far more complex and time-consuming…and that requires more time and effort.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that improved technology results in my having less and less free time and being required to deal with more and more minutiae every year.

6 thoughts on “Money, Technology…and the Complexity Problem”

  1. Tim says:

    On technology being a mixed blessing: last year I decided to enable mobile banking as my device (hardly a phone any longer) had fingerprint access and access was quick.

    However I then found I could no longer use the PC using the secureID device which generates a code. Instead I have to enter a transaction code generated by … the mobile app.

    So I am at the mercy of my mobile app and dread losing my phone.

    I have decided not to go the same route with my another account in spite of pressure to ‘get with the times’.

  2. Loura in says:

    Yes, some of us believed in the lies about paperless offices, too.

  3. Michael Creek says:

    If you have an iPhone which you’ve mislaid, and you wish to use iCloud to find it, you have to login. Now to login, you need to input a pin which, you get it, they send to your iPhone. Perhaps there are other ways to do it, but the inherent illogicality is striking.

  4. John Prigent says:

    Try opening a new account with a certain publisher. You have to ask for a One Time Password – which they will only send as an SMS so those of us without mobile phones are out of luck. And I see that Paypal is trying the same trick ‘for extra security’, though at least it stll accepts my old account login.

  5. Tom says:

    … What’s interesting about this is that it takes far less time to open a new account than to make changes to, or close, an existing account. …

    Advancing technology implies improvement in technology; this results in increased quality, via added function or ease of function, thus enhancing life.

    The ultimate goal of data mining and processing, is deeper insight into the matter that should be conveyed with the data; namely, human lives.

    Given this, goal and this process, I also cannot understand why the result is increased complexity. I do understand that it is more expensive in every parameter to change what is already there; but in the end life is enhanced by original creativity and improvement of existing quality – not by increased complexity.

    So why do the Tech businesses, and other businesses, not do what is indicated? Quality without increased complexity takes time and money, which maybe more than society will be willing to pay for the finished product. Since the businesses charge more for the ‘new’ and ‘improved’ products this argument seems to be moot.

  6. Ryan Jackson says:

    It’s good and bad.

    You have more red tape and verifications today. But most of those get created by people understanding the crimes of the past.

    Once upon a time you could just trust the bank to know you or recognize your history and trust you.

    Then you had someone like Frank Abignale Jr come along and boom. It becomes apparent that people are inherently fallable and can be persuaded of nearly anything.

    Having spent more than a decade dealing with credit and banking fraud, the rules are annoying but they exist to a very real purpose.

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