The New New Bankers

Simple’s Up and Running, But It’s Got a Long Way to Go

Banking ain't easy but it sure is fun?
Spiffy! (simple.com)

Spiffy! (simple.com)

Here’s something that’ll resonate if you’ve tried to communicate with your bank lately: “Banks make money by keeping customers confused.” That’s how Josh Reich, cofounder of Simple, explained his company to the New York Times. “There’s no incentives to make the experience better,” he added.

Today the Times writes about how Mr. Reich and his cofounder Shamir Karkal want to provide an alternative, in the form of a stripped down, perfectly clear alternative–one completely without sob-inducing hidden fees.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

It’s taken the team a long time to get just this far: The Observer first took notice of the service when it was called BankSimple and based out of a Brooklyn basement; in late 2011, invites finally began trickling out a few dozen at a time. One Betabeat reporter only just got her invite–a year and two days after requesting one.

Simple is now off and running, having amassed a customer base of 20,000. The Times says company has processed more than $200 million in transactions. Not too shabby! Plus, a suite of data analysis features offer customers an unusual degree of assistance managing their money. (Imagine a dash of Mint.com in your Bank of America dashboard.)

But Messers. Reich and Karkal still have a very long way to go before they ascend to the ranks of the J.P. Morgans of the world:

“It is extremely difficult to get consumers to change and leave their banks,” said Jacob Jegher, an analyst at Celent, a research and consulting firm. “Plus, although they are not a bank, they still operate like a financial institution, and they will face challenges that big banks have decades of experience with.

The course of startup success never did run smooth.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com