This is a writing sample by “nycghostwriter,” AKA Barbara Finkelstein. It is “Regional bank business book,” a ghostwritten self-help book for a Pennsylvania-based regional bank. You can get professional ghostwriting services from a published non-fiction writer. Email me or fill out the short form on my contact page.
Boy, Does Banking Ever Need a Makeover!
If our book is about banking, why are we talking about Uber?
Because Uber changed everything. And not just the way you hail a cab.
If you’ve ever used Uber, you know it makes getting from Point A to Point B laughably simple. Open up the Uber app, tap a couple of prompts, and presto— a clean, comfortable, roadworthy vehicle, driven by an individual who has passed driving and criminal checks, arrives at your door to take you wherever you want to go.
But Uber changed more than just getting around.
It changed the way we think — and not just about the taxi and limousine industry.
Remember when people used to say, “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they . . . ?”
And they’d finish the sentence with whatever they thought should be super easy to do but was complicated for no good reason.
Today people say, “If they can create an Uber — and completely change the taxi and limousine industry — why can’t they change . . . ?”
Everything we do, from the way we travel to the way we shop, from the way we eat to the way we entertain ourselves, has been turned upside down by some Uber-like company or idea.
Everything except banking. Why doesn’t your bank behave more like Uber — and Amazon, airbnb, Facebook, iTunes, Pandora, Fandango, Waze, Seamless and Netflix for that matter?
In an era where you tap an app and buy a book, a plane ticket, a stock, a song or a vacation rental, banking is stuck in the nineteenth century. That’s because banks still spend money on branches, or stores, in the parlance of the industry, in every neighborhood and business district around the country. What they haven’t done is create the kind of experience you get on your smartphone from Uber and thousands of other life-enhancing apps. That’s because the money banks could be investing in an Uber-like banking experience is going toward rent, security and utilities at branch offices instead.
Ever think about the security guards watching over the premises?
You’re paying for them.
All the advertising for those banks, all the expenses associated with traditional banking — the money for their upkeep comes out of your pocket. Your paycheck. Your savings.
Need a new bank card?
Get ready to spend another hour sitting there, proving to your “customer relationship manager” that you are who you say you are — even though they should know that by now.
Need more checks?
Hope you aren’t in a hurry. They’ll take a couple of weeks to arrive.
Need anything from a human being? Get ready to waste even more precious minutes from your life waiting, waiting, waiting.
We haven’t even gotten to bank fees yet.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Banks don’t see you as a customer.
They see you as a piñata.
It’s party time, and they’re going to keep whacking you with fee upon fee until there’s nothing left in your checking account. No exaggeration. In one case, a fintech CFO opened a checking account in her five-year-old son’s name to teach him about the benefits of managing money. The boy’s first statement showed a twelve-dollar service charge. At that monthly rate, his one-hundred dollar investment would all but drain away in eight months. And when he got down to his last dollar, the bank would charge him a fee for running out of money.
Better not even try to close the account because the bank charges for that too!
You cannot make this stuff up.
The dirty little secret of banking is that banks charge you fees — outrageous, unjustifiable, and all too often illegitimate fees — for trying to use your own money the way you want to.
Getting money from an ATM outside your network?
You’re going to pay a fee.
Bounce a check?
You’re going to pay a bigger fee. Do just about anything at any bank and you will trigger a fee.
That’s how the banks pay for all those shiny branch offices.
That’s how bankers pay the salaries of tellers, officers, security guards, cleaning staff, and everyone else.
That’s how banks pay their executive management the big bucks.
By nickel-and-diming you.
In the age of Uber, how can this go on?
Isn’t there a better way?
The better way is here and it’s already an essential part of our everyday lives. It’s your smartphone. We’re using it not only to search, compare, shop, tweet, snap, post and chat 24/7. We’re also using it and other smart devices to access nearly everything in our lives — education, healthcare, exercise routines, entertainment, vacation plans, job searches, dates. We don’t have to tell you how central digital is to the way we live now. More and more of us, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, have bought into the Internet of Things — the new world order that is turning our phones, tablets, wearable tech, TVs, cars, refrigerators and much more into one synchronized computing system. Banks, stuck in an antiquated system of fees and outdated products and services, don’t get it that a new technology paradigm has changed how we live our lives. Banks are hellbent on sticking to their passé systems and products.
The Internet of Things has done a lot more than give us streaming video in place of videocassettes or home automation systems in place of mercury-bulb thermostats. It’s changed how we experience our world. Sites and apps so different from each other — Facebook, Uber, Amazon, Zappos, YouTube and Kayak, to name a few — all give you options. Look at Amazon. It developed Firefly, a technology that lets you scan stuff with your Fire HDX tablet or Fire phone and buy it through Amazon or its Amazon Price Check app. (Okay, the service would be much more amazing if it let you compare and buy products anywhere online. Some day somebody’s going to come up with that better mousetrap.) Who knows how much shoe leather Zappos and Shoebuy have saved by letting your “fingers do the walking.”
The value of all these apps/sites is greater than the sum of their parts because they also recommend books, movies, shoes, vitamins, household goods, etc. based on your searching habits. Then when you’re ready to buy, you can decide how you’re going to pay and when you want delivery. And when you want to purchase another product, you can review an index of your complete buying history. A truly useful app will show you what you’re looking for, but it’ll also arm you with information.
It’s not about the product anymore. It’s about you.
We designed a mobile banking app with this customer-centered mantra in mind. When you bank with BankMobile, you’re getting pretty much the same experience you get from Uber, Amazon, Zappos and Waze. You’ll access your checking account the way you access everything else in your life.
With BankMobile, you’ll get an exponentially better way to do banking.
No more nonsense and hype, which is what you get from bank ads all day long.
“We care about you.”
“We’ll give you a cup of coffee.”
Instead, our company, BankMobile, is what happens if you take Uber and apply it to the banking industry.
Add one measure of communications technology.
Take advantage of an existing network of ATM machines all over the planet. Eliminate the need for branches.
Eliminate all of those outrageous fees.
Use us to help you get to where you want to go — financially.
Serve when ready.
That’s the BankMobile approach to banking. That’s what you’re going to hear more about in this book.
We’ve been living and breathing BankMobile since early 2014. That’s when we first got to talking about the abuses of our banking system. With tremendous input from our Customers Bank team, we came to a realization. If we couldn’t craft a solution to help people learn how to save money, pay off their loans and live within their means, how were we any better than BoA or Chase?
We wrote this book to tell you what makes the big banks tick, why banking with them is a losing game — and where you can find a sane alternative.
First some introductions are in order. We are Jay Sidhu and Luvleen Sidhu, a father and daughter for twenty-nine years and now a banking team. We have spent a good part of our lives about sixty-five miles west of Philadelphia.
Let’s start with Jay.
I came to this country from India in 1970. My father was an army colonel. He and my mother wanted me to become a doctor, so they enrolled me in a pre-med program. Within a week, though, I knew medicine was not for me. I had a different vision: To study business and work in the U.S. I headed to Banares Hindu University for a bachelor’s degree in business management. The school was a ten-hour bus ride due east from New Delhi to Uttar Pradesh.
My best year was junior year. I was among the first Indian youth to hitchhike all the way from Delhi to Xxx and back again in three months on a budget less than a hundred dollars. That trip was one of my best learning experiences.
After I graduated, I applied to forty American business schools. My big problem was money. I couldn’t afford the twenty-dollar fee per application. I wrote to each of the admissions offices and explained my situation. Only one school, Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, responded. They went beyond the call of duty by offering me a scholarship. I was over the moon.
I arrived a day before classes started on a holiday called Labor Day. Little did I know that the school, and nearly every other institution in the country, would be closed that day. I didn’t know a soul. I wandered past the college library and administrative offices in a state of panic. I came to River Street and to the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River. I sat down next to my suitcase and cried. All I could think was, “What the hell have I done?”
What could I do? I regrouped. I got up and went looking for some kind of solution. I crossed the campus to the corner of South Franklin and West Northampton and came face to face with the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA. It was an imposing brick building with a “1934” cornerstone. To a twenty-one-year-old who had never been inside an American building, it was utterly intimidating. But it was open! I went inside and found out that the Y ran a shelter for homeless men. Well, I was a homeless man. That’s where I spent my first night in America. But that awful first day was the beginning of a wonderful life for me.
I haven’t had anything like my dad’s immigrant struggles. His courage and desire to come to the United States, opened many personal and educational opportunities for me. The fact is, I have always been given the freedom to “follow my bliss.” I attended Harvard thinking I wanted to study medicine, but my class in Organic Chemistry told me I was barking up the wrong tree. I was free to choose another path.
I got selected for the sophomore program at Lehman Brothers and worked there for two summers. I graduated with a B.A. in Government.
After college I became an investment analyst at Neuberger Berman and learned pretty quick that sitting behind a computer and crunching numbers definitely was not my path. I moved on to a job as a consultant at Booz & Company in their financial services practice. Sorry! I wasn’t any happier there. I realized that creating pitch books for clients was not my cup of tea.
I was starting to feel that despite all my advantages, I did not have a place in the world. Frustrated with my life and myself, I chose the route I had been avoiding my whole professional life. I went to work in the “family business.” There was a job opening for director of corporate development at Customers Bank. I accepted it — and enjoyed it.
But I wanted to go to graduate school. I got an MBA at Wharton and I’m glad I did. Studying there was a great experience.
After my MBA, I took four months off to travel around the world. Traveling was absolutely great, and it opened my eyes to educational opportunities I had never considered before. For example, I discovered I had a vision. I wanted people in my generation to become financially literate. And I wanted to work with my dad to help him innovate the banking industry. We both agreed I should rejoin Customers Bank and focus my efforts on creating the same “wow” experience we all have when we’re using our favorite apps.
Shortly after I was back at Customers Bank, I walked into the branch office of another bank to open my first checking account. I was astounded: It took me twenty-five minutes to open the account. I couldn’t understand. I had just booked a ticket to Australia the day before on Orbitz in less than five minutes.
Before I left the branch, I asked one of the bank associates if she could recommend some products that might make financial sense for me to have. She handed me a generic sheet of paper listing all the bank’s products. That’s it. No advice. No personalization.
I could not believe banking was so old school. So out of touch with the kind of technology advancements my friends and I took for granted. I walked out of that bank and thought, “This has got to change.”
I practically ran back to work. I was going to put together a team that would make banking as affordable and effortless as Orbitz. And I knew I would have Dad’s support.
To my great surprise, I really loved my job. I loved working on a project that I knew could change people’s lives for the better. What drives me to make BankMobile take off is my belief that people deserve to feel financially empowered. BankMobile can help give that to them. It hurts me to say it but the industry that gave my father so much has become the industry that is thwarting all too many of my creative and enterprising friends. I want to do my small part to help turn things around for them and the rest of our generation.
To that end, I now serve as chief strategy officer at BankMobile. I work with incredible people who are using their business acumen and social commitment to disrupt an industry crying out for innovation. We are all working to develop a business model that will be profitable and empower people through financial literacy. Innovate and empower. That’s what all the great start-ups of the past ten years have done. That’s what we want BankMobile to do too. I believe that with my dad’s forty years in the banking industry and my passion to think creatively about the big financial problems in my generation, we will shake this business up.
If you want to see for yourself how we are determined to transform the banking industry, keep reading. We’ve got an exciting story to tell you.