Unlocking the Bank.

The ATM is being serviced, and you are forced to go inside the bank to get cash. You can’t help but marvel at the huge monstrosity of the vault door, swung open during business hours:

Your money isn’t the only thing locked up in that vault. Your data is too.

Look at your current bank.  What can you do with your financial data? You can download it into Quicken to view some pretty reports or review your recent transactions.  Or you could view it on the bank’s own website, where you could transfer money between accounts, setup an alert, or use a bill-pay service to schedule monthly payments.

Or you could connect your account with Mint, where your transactions will be parsed out and categorized for you.  And if you have the extra time, you could tag each transaction into more detailed categories for improved reporting:

But your data is still inert.  Lifeless.  Motionless. And the only entity that has access to it is your bank, who often uses it to cross-sell you insurance, mortgage, loans, and savings accounts.  I know you get those offers in the mail just like I do.

What if that model was turned on its head?  Instead of your data being locked in a vault and being read-only to you, it could be dynamic, movable, and wrapped in a rich set of metadata decorations.

Last week BankSimple revealed that it will be publishing its own API that would let external applications grab that data and do something with it.  Think about that.  What applications could you build on a banking API?

Lets say I eat at Cheesecake Factory once a week and pay with a debit card.  Yet the restaurant knows nothing about me.  They don’t know who I am, how much I spend on each visit, or how often I am there.  But what if they had an application that I permitted secure access my transaction metadata at BankSimple?

Could they automatically take 10% off my check when they ran my card and saw it was me?  Could they send me discount coupons if they noticed I stopped visiting regularly?  A banking API might enable such an application to be built, and I wouldn’t have to remember to carry around another silly reward/membership card!  Wouldn’t that make for a more efficient restaurant loyalty program?

What other applications could you build on a banking API?