Category: Ramblings

Art & Money – Site Sessions Talk – May 2017

This is a write up of a short talk I gave in May 2017 as part of Leila Johnston’s Site Sessions events. This is what I wanted to say but not sure if I actually did or not (until the video surfaces that is).


Hello. My name is Aden and the title of my talk is not ‘make art note’ but I was in Amsterdam last week and this old warehouse was outside my hotel and it seemed fitting. My talk is actually called make banks open. I am going to talk to you today about banking regulation (sorry I will try and make it fun)…and hopefully how it will unleash art on the world of finance.


A little bit about me, I worked at HSBC for over 17 years i.e. 6258 days in total. I worked in a variety of technical roles and latterly in the innovation function (no sniggering HSBC customers) trying to make the bank better. I largely failed. But I still work in the industry but I am freelance now. I have unfinished business with banks.


I want to talk about 3 things in the next 10 minutes. How regulations are forcing the banks to be more open. How those changes are leading a lot of companies to believe they can solve the problems of our financial lives. And finally, thankfully a little bit about how these changes will let the art into banking, I hope.


In 2008 banks fucked the world. Over extended credit on massively complex and opaque financial instruments such a credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities brought the whole house of cards crashing down. Leading to massive government bailouts of the banks that were deemed systemically important to the worlds continued operation. This brought about mass austerity and can be blamed for a lot of societies ills today.


This crisis also fucked the banks, less so for certain but still caused them a lot of pain. Historically low interest rates rendered a lot of their old business models almost useless and they made enemies in very powerful places. The governments and the regulators. This should not have been possible and it should never happen again. A raft of huge regulatory programs were unleashed…


Now you may think this was too little too late….and you may be right but the changes that have been put in place have largely been about protecting consumers from the casino like attitudes of large banks, betting the house on fallacies. These regulations came in many shapes and size and with many weird names…two of the largest were…


Dodd-Frank a set of measures aimed at US banks (the ones that largely caused the disaster) to improve the transparency of the banks especially with regards to products like derivatives.

This also introduced the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency designed to protect consumers from banks treating them unfairly….

This set of measures is currently under attack from the Tangerine Despot who hates its figure head Elizabeth Warren, the scourge of banks in the US. This is a disaster that will hopefully not come to pass.


The other large global set of measures are Basel III. These measures mean that banks have to hold a far higher percentage of actual liquid capital i.e. real money to avoid them over extending themselves again. Also a series of stress tests are undertaken at regular intervals to test the strength of banks all over the world to try and simulate similar crises to test their resilience now.


There is a new set of regulation that is coming to our shores soon. It is an EU wide piece of legislation AND I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT.

….are you ready for this?


Boom. The Payments Service Directive 2: The revenge. Or PSD2 as it is more commonly known. It is, in my humble opinion, going to change the face of banking to a greater extent than anything I have seen in my adult lifetime (most of which has been spent working for banks).


Well my dear….let me tell you how and why it is so exciting.


There are a whole host of measures contained within the page turner of a document. Ultimately the ones that will impact us most are the following.

This set of regulations is an attack on the middle men of payments. Predominantly the big ones. Visa, Amex and Mastercard. When was the last time you did not buy anything without using those? This will introduce measures that will open up payments.

This will be achieved by the introduction of the snappily titled Payment Initiation Services and Account Information Services. New regulated entities that will be allowed to put in and take out money from your bank accounts directly in the case of the PIS. And for the AIS the ability to receive your transaction and balance data automatically in near real time.

And that is very exciting because it enables a lot of very interesting things to become reality.


Open Banking UK – doing great work to ensure the slow bureaucracy of Europe is not hampered by inertia, or lobbying from those affected etc. This is a shift that is happening across the world. Canada, Singapore, Australia and the US are all starting their own open banking programs and the tide is not going back out….

(Since I gave this talk the API specifications have now been published


These functions form around 90% of day to day banking functions for most people

If new regulated companies have access to these services they can be pseudo or neo banks and that means we should see some real innovation in the space which has been sorely lacking.

PSD2 is signed into European Law on the 12th of January 2018. The technical measures included need to be in place within 18 months of that law being in place. Which is a long time to wait but thankfully the Competition Markets Authority in the UK has stepped in and put some tighter timescales in place around the data part of these requirements. The first banking APIs for transaction data in the UK must be live by January next year…or else.


So the pipes are opening….what comes next? Efficiency dreams.



Throughout history the organisation of your finances has made people about as a happy as these two.  I am sure you have all been in similar situations where one person in the relationship weighs your money, while the other partner stares into space wishing they were dead. It is a dull affair for the majority of us. Either a chore of indifference or something that we blissfully ignore.

The Money Changer And His Wife by German painter Ludwing Von Langenmantel



There are some that love it of course. Accountants, Spreadsheet nerds, organised people that will pour over their finances and models for hours. Planning everything to the nth degree. You know, sociopaths.   For most that is out of reach both skill wise and desire wise. The stereotype I would like to lean on is that creative people are less organised / bothered by money? Anyway I hate managing money and I wish I was a spreadsheet nerd.


This is not helped by most internet banking interfaces. They may as well be bank statements sellotaped to a monitor for the purposes of making a point in presentations. This statement is from 2013. Nothing has really changed.


Little has improved since the desktop apps of the 90s that took money management to a fine art of budgets, bar graphs and pie charts. Their are lots of people who remember these so fondly.


Some banks have attempted to introduce money management features to banking. In the industry these are called PFM (Personal Financial Management). Does it really help you manage your money? Kind of I guess. Does it make you feel anything at all? Meh.


There are people that might be thinking but I have an app and it is perfectly acceptable. And I am sure it is lovely in a perfunctory kind of way. Most people have not seen what good really looks like.


In retail banking startups like Monzo are eyeing up current accounts and thinking they can build something better…something more loveable both from a using and viewing your money point of view but also as a compnay. Something that they describe as ‘the bank of the future’


And there are many, many others who are excited about being the bank of the future and what PSD2 brings to them as they can build better products, more quickly than the tardy old incumbent banks. So they see PSD2 as the second coming. They are right to think like that.


The perceived path of all this is to beautiful place where we all have our own AI powered financial advisor. A digital private banker for the masses running our financial lives perfectly and removing all worry. That is the utopian dream of financial services…as a technologist I am intrigued as to how this utilitarian dream plays out…


But…it all feels a bit boring. More regulated industries making solutions they think fit in with what the mythical person of today (largely millennials) want from finance. That we want to be organised and efficient and that is the goal. It bores the arse off me.


What is not clear in these regulatory measures is can I have access to my own data to build my own things? In the UK it looks like this will be available for data. And this gives us some more interesting possibilities. If you can code then you can make. You can solve your own problems. Make niche solutions only you would use…but others may find useful. This has long been the source of real innovation.


And this is where I see real opportunities to let the art in. Because I don’t just want VC funded white men building the banks of the future. While they may well be perfectly designed to improve my white metropolitan elite life and reduce my flat white intake to save me money I want more…


Artistry in banking is largely limited to the notes we use. As I am sure you are all aware this is the bank note of the year for 2016. I will be honest I find it quite ugly and confusing.


This years hot favourite however is beautiful. I mean look at it. I want more if this but applied to the digital interfaces of money. And for that we need more artists.



I want interfaces designed by people like Stef and Giorgia. For 52 weeks in 2015 they set themselves a data recording challenge and then posted the results to each other. Their brilliant hand designed visualisation posted across the world every week a few years back are inspirational in many ways. A great book and now permanently installed at MoMA in new York.  What would banking services made by Stef and Giorgia look like?


What would Sheffields Own Universal Everything think finance should look like via their imagined new screens and interfaces? I don’t know but it would be nice.

You can see more of their work on this project at and



How about Manchester based artist Brendan Dawes with his algorithmic art. This is a piece of work he created last year in conjunction with dutch payments company Adyen to visualise payments

‘With this piece I asked myself what if you could peer inside this system and see payments being added to the network. Rather than create some kind of representation of networks I instead wanted to create a world where these delicate moments seemed to float down into the network and suggest they are almost delicate in nature. Each representation is constructed from various parts of the data — the shape is born from the transaction category / vertical whilst the texture is derived from the type of device that was used. The colour is then informed by where in the world the payment took place’ Lovely.


How about local pirates and purveyors of fine gadgetry pimoroni? What would they make from the mixture of transaction data and payment ability with their marvellous machines? The physical to digital and back to physical has not really been experimented with in financial services. I think this is a rich seam of wonder.


As James just said about his shop Makers, there are many ludicrously specific economies out there and I am hoping that the PSD2 regulations opening up access to more varied companies and individuals will lead to some ludicrously specific solutions that might be built for the few but actually end up being beneficial to the many….not in a Tory way obviously.



One piece of work from a few years ago that really stuck in my head was Heidi Hinders Money No Object. Heidi researched new ways to make museum donations more interactive. This image shows the handshake agreement, RFIDs contactless payment methods built into the gloves, there is also a hive five interaction, a tap dance payment where the payment method is built into shoes.

Using RFID to bring physical interactions to payments…here is the hug and pay. Bringing different gestures and human contact to payment.

You can watch a short documentary about the project there is also more written about it over here

and returning to currency this was also by Heidi…she took everyday coins and left them in petri dishes to see what delightful bacteria formed. A vice versa of where there is muck there is brass…either way I find it quite beautiful


This is what I want to see a lot more of. I want more poeple like those mentioned above building things to do with money. Thanks to the regulations forcing banks open and releasing new data and materials into the world to make with hopefully they can.


I will end with this quote from John Maeda on design and art. I want better and different questions than the ones currently being asked by banks of fintech firms. I want to see something truly different and I have a feeling art and artists have an important role to play in that. Thanks.


Easyjet Expense Claim Clusterfuck

When a company fails to provide the service it has sold then there has to be recompense. There has to be resolution for the customer. There has to be a finality to the issue. This is a story of how Easyjet has failed miserably on all fronts.

This long post is my tale of woe so I have a record of this mess and that it may help with the resolution of this problem. I expect very few to read it but I hope that at least one employee of Easyjet does so, maybe their CEO, Dame Carolyn McCall or their Director of Communications Paul Moore.

This ripping yarn also tells of how a company makes life hard for itself with some basic communication failures, poor systems, dis-empowered staff, departmental silos and all round incompetence. Whether this is by design or by accident depends on your world view. I will be optimistic and imagine it is incompetence by accident rather than willful incompetence in the hope that people give up chasing what Easyjet owe.

Some people will read this and say why did he not take them to small claims court or use a service like resolver or write a letter to the CEO, the answer is it felt like harder / unknown work. In hindsight I should have pursued other avenues but here we are.


The weekend away

On March the 18th 2016 my good lady wife and I flew to Bilbao on our way to San Sebastian for the weekend for my pre 40th birthday treat. It was a great weekend, sampling the local food and drink, seeing the sights, consuming cultural delights and rubbing shoulders with the stars etc. etc. a great weekend was had.


The cancelled flight

The problems came when it was time to go home. We received a notification via the Easyjet app on Sunday morning warning of delays due to the French Air Traffic Controllers Strike. I was impressed they warned us and slightly worried. We did not fly out until much later that evening, around 21.30. Upon arrival at the airport our flight was delayed around 30 mins, we had arrived quite early as we feared the worst. This soon escalated, the delay was over two hours and things were not looking good. the flight was finally cancelled at around 8pm (If memory serves me / my tweet timestamps are good).

Then it began. A garbled announcement. Confusion in the airport. Mass exodus to a service desk. There then followed a period of around three hours queuing for us and we were relatively near the front. It was never really made clear what we were actually queuing for as there was zero communication with the queue, no one walking the line, no announcements of any note. Rumours circulated, angered passengers multiplied, the desk was overwhelmed. They made a real pigs ear of the communication to the queue. We were at the half way point when it started. Further back there were families with small children. I was unaware at the time but this communication ineptitude was a portent of things to come.

We were hoping that we were queuing for over night accommodation and to be booked on the next flight back to Manchester. Downside being was that the next flight back to Manchester was not until Friday. We used the Easyjet app to look at available alternatives. There was a flight to Stansted the following evening which we booked ourselves onto.

We continued to queue for accommodation and when we finally made it to the desk we were told there were no other flights home. Nothing from nearby alternatives like Santander either until Wednesday at the earliest. Our two children were being looked after by my parents thankfully. My wife was due in work Tuesday and I had job interviews in London that day too. They put us up in a hotel in Bilbao, we got on a coach and after a short wait were ferried to the hotel. Quite a nice hotel too.

Our flight to Stansted was was around 9 the following evening. This meant we had a day in Bilbao sampling the local food and drink, seeing the sights, consuming cultural delights and buying clean underwear.

Jump to airport arrival time and our flight already had a 30 minute delay when we arrived and a strange sense of Deja Vu swept over us as the delay climbed again and reached the two hour mark once again. Thankfully however a plane did arrive at around 11.30



We flew to Stansted, arrived around 1am, stayed in the hotel we had booked (a dour Holiday Inn express) as there was no easy / affordable way to get us to Manchester to collect the car and then get me back to London the following day. We had decided to get the train from Stansted to London, I would stay there my wife would then travel to Manchester from Euston, collect the car, pay the excess parking and drive on home to see our children. And that was the end of our journey. A bit of a pain and quite a bit of cash shelled out because of that pain. Around £350. My wife had also missed a shift at work and she could not take it as holiday so we were out of pocket too. All in it cost us around £550.


The attempt to claim expenses

After getting back home, I did not get the job I had gone to London for, I gathered up all our receipts and tried to work out how were were going to claim for it. Lots of people has said we would be due some compensation but our excitement on that front was quickly dampened as it turns out that French Air Traffic Control Strikes are extraordinary circumstances even though there have been over 40 strike days over the last seven years.

To claim for the expenses I needed to submit photos of all receipts, along with an itemised list of all expenditure. The form states that ‘We aim to review all claims within 21 days.’ which is reassuring. I had to submit it via this form which as you can tell by looking at it was designed with just this very task in mind. The ability to upload BMP files is a nice touch especially with that 10mb attachment limit.




I submitted the receipts on the 4th of April. I received a case ID & confirmation and all seemed well. I then got an email saying the receipts had not uploaded correctly. I then emailed them over again, twice. Still no confirmation of receipt. I then tried to call and contact via any means available. Clearly I did not get much joy


A pattern of communication being one way was established early. I called and chased to try and get an understanding of whether my expenses were actually received and on their systems. I was promised answers and call backs and none came. I was quite/very angry/frustrated throughout.

Then on the 25th I snapped and called Easyjet for an update. I also took to Twitter to whine because that is what we do in 2016 to make us feel better and because we are all entitled shits etc.


While I was busy whining I actually missed an email. It was a great email.


Dear Aden Davies,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

I can confirm that I have assess your receipts for you.We will not refund for the not itemize receipts. We will be refunding you the following:

Food:94.34 GBP

Transport:678 GBP

Total Amount:772.32

It will be refund as a cheque once you confirm that these amounts are correct.

We look forward to be hearing from you soon.
Get in! They were willing to not only cover my expenses but to pay and extra £200 to cover the pain of this last month. What nice people they are behind all those frustrating process.


I got a follow up email from another department the day after, the 26th of April….


Dear Aden,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

I am sorry to hear about any inconveniences caused regarding the flight being cancelled.

I can confirm that I have issued a cheque of 772.32 GBP which you will receive within 14 working days, please note that the voucher is valid for 6 months.

Thank you for choosing to fly with easyJet.


Now the mention of a voucher worried me and I asked and it apparently it was nothing to worry about. In 14 days time this unpleasantness would all be over. I even apologised publicly to Easyjet.



I should not have wasted my metaphorical breath on an apology because 14 days came and went with no cheque in sight.

Then I got another email.


Dear Mr Davies,

Thank you for your response.
Some of the receipts which you have sent are just credit card slip and are invalid as we need the actual itemised merchant receipts.
As per our policy we do not reimburse for car park and underwear.
Please reply with itemised copies for the credit card slips without corresponding store receipts.
We look forward to your response.


Then on May 12th


Dear Aden,

Thanks for reaching out. We´ve just checked your profile and we can confirm with you that your cheque has been issued on the 10th of May and it will take 14 days to reach your address.


What happened to the cheque that ‘I can confirm that I have issued a cheque of 772.32 GBP’ on the 26th of April? Why was a cheque issued on the 10th of May? Why was it issued if one had already been issued? What exactly does the word issued mean when issued by Easyjet customer service staff?

I received this Twitter DM on the 27th of May.

Thanks for getting in touch with us.
As I can see in my records there were no problems with your cheques.
Could you please confirm your postal address again, before I escalate your case?
Our finance department authorized 2 cheques for you, one for 165 GBP and one for 92.68 EUR.
Thanks in advance for your reply!
Enjoy your day


They had actually been posted to my old address that somehow Easyjet had on file from old bookings. Somewhere between April the 26th and May the 27th we went from my expense claim repayment going from £772.37 to £165 and 92.68 Euros. No cheques for any of those values have ever arrived at my house, I have no way of knowing if they arrived at the old house either (it has only been 4 years since I lived there). This was the first time I had been asked to confirm my address. As you can imagine I was not best pleased.

I then made the first of my empty / powerless threats.

I never followed up on it of course.

It is just born out of frustration. There is no recourse in this situation. There is no ombudsman. I had no means of escalation and felt entirely powerless. I wanted access to my file history. The company must have a log/several logs across several systems of all interactions with me. I wanted to see this picture. I wanted to understand how such a screw up could happen.


Nope. Then on the 6th of June another rubbish email.

Dear Aden,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

I have checked your booking and 2 cheques have been issued on 04 March 2016, one with the value of 165 GBP and the second cheque to the value of 92.68 EUR. The cheque will take 21 working days to reach you and is valid for 6 months. The hotel will not be refunded as we have checked our flight time and the flight arrived at 22:00 on the 21 March 2016.

Some of the receipts which you have sent us are just credit card slip and are invalid as we need the actual itemized merchant receipts. We also do not pay for purchase of personal items.

This email again mentioned these random two cheques and was just nonsense. The flight was late by around 90 minutes in the end. The fact that we had flown to Stansted 24 hours after our supposed flight to Manchester which is over 200 miles away and where our car was seems completely lost on this representative.

After more gnashing of teeth, futile messages and empty responses I finally called and spoke to someone who actually gave a damn. Leanne was her name and she was shocked at the state of my case. She actually told me she was going upstairs to speak to the team involved, the most effort anyone had put in so far. She reassured me it had been escalated and that the team it had been passed too would resolve it quickly as they were empowered to do so….



They didn’t. I never heard a thing until a crap email on the 4th of July, I thought it was independence day not incompetence day.


Dear Mr Davies,

Please accept my apologies for the situation regarding the refund that was due to you.

As it has been an error of process I have escalated it up to my Team Leader and as soon as he gets back to me which will be in the next few days I would get back to you.

Once again I am sorry that for all the inconvenience and hope that it does not deter you from future use with easyJet.


More escalation! Whoopdefuckingdoo.

I did receive a call in July, although I missed it but they left a message where I think I was promised the full amount. Nothing transpired.

I had run out of steam. Also I had to go on my honeymoon. Nothing really happened for a month or so and then all of a sudden it was August. I was rested, suntanned, fatter, skinter and ready to try again.

Then I called. it must not have gone well



A day later a Twitter rep got in touch. We exchanged some DM’s. August saw a lot of DM’s exhanged. It was a fucking shambles of a display. It started badly and went down hill from there.




This turned out to be absolute bullshit. Not only was this random figure of 534 euros plucked seemingly out of thin air but it was also the first and only time the ability to pay me back electronically was mentioned.

I was livid at this point. I called sometime in August and properly did that annoying thing of just demanding to speak to someone more senior. I got up to some mid level nobody and basically kept him captive on the phone until he made some sort of promise of resolution and put it in an email so I had it in writing. They were still banging on about the two cheques for £165 and 92 euros and that they needed to be cancelled. FFS.


Dear Aden,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

I do sincerely apologise about all frustrations and inconveniences you have incurred.
I have sent the details to our Finance Team so that they may cancel the cheque and as soon as I receive a response, I will be able to contact you with the next steps. The reason this cheque is being cancelled is because the address was incorrect and has to now be reprocessed.
The time frame I was advised is 3 days, how ever I confirm that I advised you of 48 hours. Once they respond to me, I will be able to contact you.
Your case number is 101435698.
Thank you for your patience.


I was a bit of a twat to this man and I am sorry for that but I was completely despondent. My pitiful pleas of ‘What would you do in my situation’ ‘I have no idea what on earth else to do’ were futile at best. I then spoke to someone and demanded a breakdown of the situation. I wanted an explanation of where these random figures had come from. Basically what the hell was going on.


Dear Aden,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

Please be advised that the receipts below was received from you to be reimbursed. 

  • 79 Gbp for hotel (valid)
  • 14.72 Euro for meals (valid)
  • 26.10 Eur for taxi (valid)
  • 3 Euro x2 bus (valid)
  • 40 Gbp for parking (valid)
  • 26.30 Euro meals (valid)
  • 14.50 Euro meals (valid)
  • 81.40 Gbp train (valid)
  • 2.12 Euro hotel (valid) 
Please note that the following receipts is not legible:
  • abello stansted express (the amount looks like it could be 38 gbp)
Please note that the following receipts is not considered valid, as we need itemized receipts in the claim for reimbursement. The following receipts are c/c copies which we cannot accept: 
  • 36.70 Euro- bilbao tezenis  copia de recibo (personal items) 
  • 32 Gbp -BBVA
  • 8.50 Gbp – elavon?
Kindly note that the following receipt will not be reimbursed as we do not reimburse alcoholic beverages:
  • 2.32 Euro beer
Also please note that our finance deparment has authorized to reimburse you the amount of Euro 534.27.
Having checked your booking I can confirm that a cheque was processed more than once but was declined because of the incorrect amount processed. 
Also please note that when the cheque was declined the second time it was because the following receipts was already processed and authorized in the form of a cheque on 04 May ’16:
  • 165 Gbp for transport and
  • 94.34 Gbp for meals 
Should you need any further information about your claim please contact our contact centre on 0330 365 5000.
I wish you a good day and look forward to your reply. 

The figure of 534 euros has never been explained to me but this email I got again referred to the previous two cheques seems to suggest that they thought I had been paid the £165 and 92 euros and that the 535 euros would cover the rest to get close to the mythical £772.37. This was never clarified. Also refusing to buy me one beer after all this shit is just plain rude.


I also wrote a little ditty in August about Easyjet. to the tune of the old Spiderman theme tune. I think I may have been on the verge of some sort of breakdown.

August came and went with more pointless exchanges, into September where things got progressively worse my temper included. I think I had been quite polite up until this point considering the incompetence on display. A call around the 23rd of September after being told to wait a few more days, and then ten more days and never ever getting anything back but always having to chase and I had again reached a point of fury.

I don’t even remember what the screw up was. My DM’s or email reveal nothing either.



If you are not familiar with the work of Ian then you should be. He was good enough to provide me with some top notch swearing.



It was the high point in this clusterfuck.

Strangely though it was a less abusive term that got me told off. This bizarre DM exchange happened around this time.




I am sorry for calling the service rep an idiot. Apparently my case had also been closed. Nope. Me sticking the boot in on Stefani over her DM incompetence was uncalled for but felt good at the time, I mean I can’t even spell not correctly. Sorry Stefani.

More emails followed saying cheques for 534 euros had been ‘issued’. Even though I said I did not accept that amount. The cheques never arrived anyway because issued means something other than ‘supply someone with something’ in the land of Easyjet.

Then I think I rang up again. I spoke to someone who informed me the amount had become £534, this was around about the time that the currencies were pretty much on par. At this point I would have accepted 534 guineas…or gummi bears. I was done. They issued yet another cheque and told me to wait 14 days.

Have a guess what happened folks?

…I snapped yet again. No way I was settling for £534. Pay me the £772.37 promised way back on the 26th of April. I am in for the long haul now. Fuck you, pay me.





More angry calls, DM’s, public tweets etc. Only this time it worked…kind of…


Dear Aden,

Thank you very much for your patience through this entire matter.

I confirm I have processed a cheque of 772.32 GBP to the new postal address you have provided me with. This will 14-21 working days to be delivered to you.

We hope the inconvenience caused does not affect your choice to fly with us in future.


and a follow up DM

Yes sorted! My credit card could be paid!

I was happy.

But cautious.


And rightly so because I have still not received that cheque. Over 30 working days after it was promised.

I have never received so much as a tracking number for the posting of this or any of the other cheques.

I have only once been offered a means of electronic payment in the year of 2016.

On the 30th of November I received this message



An email was sent to another team! Escalation in action five days after I was promised a call. The team will contact me soon. I believe soon maybe an acronym rather than an actual word. Sometime Or Other, Never. Once I again I am trapped. I refuse to call to have someone else go ‘Wow there is a lot if entries here, can you just go on hold for 20 minutes while I try and digest this shitstorm and then formulate the least efficient method to get back to you (circa 10-30 days) and give you another empty promise containing the words ‘soon’ ‘as possible’ ‘shortly’ ‘urgently’ and other weasel words that are not an actual date and time because you know…


Heaven forfend I should be given wrong expectations.


And this is where we are on the 30th of November 2016. 255 days after I flew back into Stansted on the 21st of March 2016. 250 days since I first submitted my receipts. 218 days since the 26th of April when I was informed a cheque for £772.37 was issued (apparently to the wrong address) that never arrived. 44 days since the 17th of October when I was told a cheque for that amount had been issued and sent to the correct address and would arrive within 30 days.


Here are a few other numbers

26 – emails exchanged
117 – Direct Messages exchanged on twitter. You can see them all here (I have edited address details etc. you can still feel my exasperation though)
5,100 – Words in those Direct Messages
153 – Public tweets, to from and about @easyjet. You can see them all here.
6,200 – Words in those public tweets
nn – Countless phone calls. Unfortunately I do not know how many as frustratingly I don’t have itemised billing with EE. I can clearly remember 4 calls that were all over an hour. I would guess I have called somewhere between 10-20 times.
3 – number of calls back I have had back from Easyjet if memory serves. 4 if you include the one where they left a message.
0 – Number of letters from Easyjet. Absolutely nothing on paper which strikes me as odd.
16 – the number of different case numbers I have had (that I know of)
31 – Number of times the word escalate or escalated was used in emails and DMs and tweets. I think it actually just means passed to another department.
742 – estimated amounts I have sworn during this farce.
5 – Hours spent writing this post, which adds another 3,000 words to the total.
4,000 – words in this post
15,000 – roughly the amount of words used so far. As way of context Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors is only 14,710 words long. Someone call Alanis Morisette.

0 – pounds paid of my expense claim from Easyjet as of the 30th of November 2016.


But wait! A call from out of the blue/orange

At 10.21am on the 30th of November I received a call from Easyjet, from someone empowered to resolve my case. They said that the figure they had in their records was for £534. I laughed. She did not take that kindly. I have been requested to provide details of the messages where I was promised £772 (even though they have access but don’t want to go through all the other messages) and to provide my account details to help speed the resolution of this matter (a glimmer of a cheque free future). Annoying my phone decided to reboot itself mid call. To their credit Easyjet called straight back



I have taken the decision to publish this story anyway even if it jeopardises that process as I have invested so many hours in its writing and in its wider creation.





How could Easyjet fix this? Assuming they want to that is…

Pay me £772.37 obviously. Beyond that though this issue is not really about me (although I have just written 3,000 all about my pain). I suspect there are hundreds in similar situations from both the strike in March but just through general flight cancellations and delays.

I could write another few thousand words on this bit alone. I am also available for consultancy, my day rate is £772.37. I will freely share three key themes though.



After things had started to go wrong in May this should have been truly escalated and consolidated into a single case, given to a specific team, assigned a single global reference number. that would have given me a sense that my case was important, that it has been escalated and that there was an owner of it. A named individual would have been even better. This is an unlikely scenario but 8 months in and all this effort on my part and cost on your part and maybe you should give it a try.

The other side of ownership is allowing staff to actually take ownership of problems. The UKs most recommended bank, first direct, (I should mention used to work for them briefly) are the most loved mainly because of their telephone service. What underpins this is the ownership taken on calls by the first person who answers to have that call resolved satisfactorily, even if it is passed to another department. There were a few notable people I spoke with at Easyjet who were genuinely shocked by the hassle I had been through and I believe they really wanted to help but everything was against them. Departmental and operational silos and awful IT systems.


Shitty systems

Both the computerised versions and the operational versions. Throughout these annoying interactions I could see the seams of the organisation. I heard phrases like ‘only the email team can see emails’ or ‘all we can do through Social Media is ask for updates’ which just show up the silos for what they are.

Onto the IT systems. Spend some money on a messaging system. Allow a customer to talk to you through that channel. Make it responsive, make it good. Allow people to see a full thread of the conversation over time.

Better yet get your shit together. Why more companies don’t make a record of contact history available to a customer is a mystery. Show the customer what you did and when. Call times, emails sent, tweets, live chat conversations, receipts submitted, people spoken to or at least some sort of number that identifies them. Give a high level overview of what happened / is happening, Make it transparent so that people can see progress. Notifications like this can avoid people calling back in. We know that human to human conversation is expensive.

I was, and will continue to, attack you on all fronts. Communicate via any and all means just to try and get an answer. You should either drive me to the most efficient channel for me or better yet be able to tie those threads together. Look at systems like the ones provided by the likes of Lithium. I know customer service costs money but I am sure shit customer service costs more.  You just need to think about it from a different perspective rather than the lowest common denominator one you seem to have today.

I must also give special mention to your expenses claim form. For Gods sake please spend a few grand on a decent service designer and a developer or two and build a better form.

Also what the hell is this screen? It is part of the booking details screen.


It feels like it has some glimmer of useful information i.e. the payments seem to match some of those promised. Fix this to cater for these kinds of situations. Show what has been ‘issued’ or approved for payment. Then show details of say posting said payment. It is not rocket science.

A special mention to your phone line. It takes over 90 seconds before you are presented with an option. I found that choosing cancel a flight (a fee incurring service) got me through to a person the quickest by far. Also stop using Human by The Killers as your hold music. Your service has very little human about it, I did want to kill though after being subjected to it.


And stop sending cheques….well start sending them but you know what I mean, it is 2016. Many forms of electronic payments are available.


Give a fuck

the amount of empathy shown by the vast majority of staff I have interacted with has been sparse to say the least and in the main cut and pasted. My grumpiness may not have helped but you drove me to this (mostly). The lack of caring about people started in the queue at Bilbao airport and has not ended since. I imagine you have a lot of these claims and many disgruntled customers because airlines are tricky businesses to run. Flying machines all over the globe is not easy. Customer service in comparison though is. If you give a fuck about it.


Ultimately this situation could have been avoided if enough people at Easyjet gave a fuck. I could have avoided a lot of sress and hassle. As it is though my stress and hassle is not over as I have still not been paid. I still have to chase empty promises, vague weasel words brought about by a lack of owenrship, shitty systems and the fact that you clearly don’t give a fuck about me or I imagine the hundreds of others in similar situations as mine right now.

The day Fintechbot died (sort of)

Halloween 2016 was a sad day. It is the day the owned Twitterfeed closed it’s doors. It is a brilliantly simple service I have used for years to power Fintechbot. Now it is gone and I need some new services to help replicate what Twitterfeed does/did.


What is Fintechbot and what it needs to keep it running.

Fintechbot is an automated fintech news bot for Twitter. It takes stories from a number of RSS sources and then publishes the post title and the URL in a tweet. It appends each tweet with the twitter account of the source of that story.

I currently feed through 120 RSS feeds. All my sources are here, this list probably needs a prune / check to see if these RSS feeds are all still working.  85 of those are unfiltered as they are pure fintech sources. Whenever a new story appears on those feeds it gets posted to Fintechbot. The other 35 feeds are filtered i.e. they only post stories that feature key words that I have assigned. It would be very nice to have a list of words that can be easily applied to multiple feeds. Editing this list (adding/removing key words) would impact all that are filtered.

I also control the outputs so that no single source can post more than 3 stories at any one time in a set period e.g. per hour.

And that is it really.


How to remake it

The obvious fix is to choose a solution such as Buffer, Social Pilot, Twibble or The only issue is the cost for such a great number of RSS feeds. looks like the best option as I use it for my filtered posts today but that would be $30 per month.

I could merge the RSS feeds into a single mega feed but that means I would lose source and be unable to credit the posters. I do not want to do that. I have however been looking at Yahoo! Pipes alternatives….most of them have gone the way of that amazing service too unfortunately.

IFTTT and Zapier have been mentioned as solution but their filtering and control of RSS feeds is very basic indeed. My first few tests with IFTTT failed to retrieve any articles from an RSS feed at all.

I have been looking for pieces that allow me to host this myself. This would be my preferred option…the big issue is that I do not have the skills to build something. Feedparser looks like a very useful tool for bringing in the posts and potentially formatting them ready for publishing. I would then need a publishing mechanism. My python skills are none existent though and I am a bit unsure where to begin.

I was hoping there maybe a couple of wordpress plugins that might be able to cover my needs but I have not found anything that fits the bill just yet. and have some of the features need but they are mostly aimed at taking stories from RSS and feeding them into a WordPress blog unsurprisingly.

My most promising avenue at the moment is using Google Docs. It looks like I could use the IMPORTFEED function in Google Sheets to pull in stories from the feeds. This little tutorial explains it well and how you can use it as an RSS reader.

From there I need a means of publishing each new RSS item into a new row and adding the twitter account of the source ready for publishing. This autotweeter Google Sheets template looks like just the ticket. If I can feed that spreadsheet with IMPORTRANGE I might be on to a winner.

I do however feel that may be a longshot. The tutorial that template is built on is by Zach Whelan and he states one thing missing is the ‘pull live data from a realtime API’. Zapier to Google Docs could create new row eveytime a new item appears. You can’t set up 120 Zapier zaps for each RSS for free though.

Nothing is easy for idiots that can’t code and expect something for free. I feel like I am missing some obvious pieces of functionality here I also feel I am overlooking some obvious issues too.

If anyone has any tips / ideas on alternative solutions then please do let me know. If anyone fancies helping me with Feedparser Python app then also please get in touch. I am sure you all want to save my sad little alter ego on Twitter as much as I do.


Update 05/11/16: My esteemed former colleague, Paul Dougan, reminded me about Feed2OMB a service for publishing RSS Feeds to Microblogs. He used it at our former employers to build something that would feed Fintechbot to an internal Statusnet. He also mentioned Microsoft’s new IFTTT clone, Flow. On first glance it looks like just the ticket. Far more RSS feed control than IFTTT and with better options for adding other conditions to flows so hopefully I can work out how to post limited numbers of links per hour. I am going to add some RSS feeds to it this weekend to test it further.


Update 11/01/17: Not got round to doing much with this yet. The services like IFTTT and Flow cannot give me the output I want as they cannot include @ symbols. Python looks like a decent option at the moment and the two programs mentioned above cover most of the functionality. A third is needed to work with the Twitter API, looks good to me. As does Tweepy. This article about making bots also of interest. Let’s see how far I get.


Update 18/01/17: I failed. Miserably. This is what I think I need to do. I think there are a few parts to this

  1. Hold a list of RSS feeds to be checked (Phase 2 check feeds still working / have updated in the last x days)
  2. Check periodically for new items (Phase 2 requirement allow checking by keywords i.e. if new post does not contain a list of key words don’t queue, only applied to some feeds i.e. ones that are not pure Fintech news)
  3. When new items are posted hold them in a queue ready for publishing
  4. Publish to Twitter in a controlled manner e.g. no more than x posts at a time, no more than x in an hour? (Phase 2 look at other publishing points e.g. Linked In, Tumblr)
  5. The ability to add a prefix/suffix to the tweet e.g. by @nameofpersonwhowrotethestory or #Podcast
  6. I think that is it…

I think the initial functionality is provided by Feed2OMB but that then needs an update to allow it to post to Twitter using a Python to Twitter tool like the ones mentioned in the comment above. I have no ide how to stictch those things together or how to install on my webserver.

Banks: We are so digital it hurts.

You need to be a digital bank! We are a digital bank! We are investing loads of money in digital! We are transforming to be digital! Digital, digital, digital. We profess how digital we will be at our annual investor days and our annual results days both attended by our most important people, our institutional investors. Shareholders love digital. We must be digital for the investors. We must show how digital we are by including lots of digital things in our 380 page, one star open data rated PDF that we publish on our world wide website and print out and send to our shareholders.

The experts have been telling us for years. Digital or die! You must have a digital strategy, a digital team a digital mindset and digital DNA other wise you are digital dinosaurs, digitally decrepit, digitally doomed. Digital superstars will eat your lunch (the only meal they ever seem interested in), they have mastered the digitalness of the information superhighway and the mobile phones of all the millennials and they are going to digitally disrupt our non digital banks and our non digital cheques and our non digital cash and our non digital call centres and our non digital branches and our non digital fax machines for ID verification. We are in the eye of the digital storm, we are knee deep in digital primordial soup waiting to pounce on the digital Cambrian explosion of innovation and digitalness. Experts you are in for a shock, we are digitally ready to do digital battle in the digital trenches on the shores of the digital dystopia.

Our middle aged rich white male dominated think machines are ready for digital. They have been in banking for decades and they have seen it all, they have conquered it all and they have the hubris to prove it. digital hubris, digital hubs, digital spaces, our offices are ready for digital, we have sofas, and open spaces and chill out rooms and breakout spaces and actual maternity pay and walls filled with post it notes (in the digital team office at least). We allow beards and we are burning our ties, on Fridays, and we are on fleek, digitally fleek, digitally fleet. We are agile, pure agile, agile all the way. Not wagile, not scrumfall just agile, every project agile.

Our annual planning cycle is so agile that the several months each year it takes squabbling about it is agile personified, squabbles = user stories. Annual planning is a digital epic. Every year we iterate. Iterate to disintermediate, iterate to operate, digitally operate, digital operations, developer operations, Devops, we are DevOps, we put the DO and the Spe(e)d in DevOps and the. Our digital infrastructures are so ready for digital that we can do releases every second, every minute, every hour, proven by our record of digitally recovering from our non-digital outages that regularly happen but that we iterate our fixes to in real time provisioning and fault resolution orchestration.These changes are in the clouds before before they have even formed. Our clouds are so digital they are higher than clouds, stratosphere systems, serverless yet stateless, temperature controlled, hot and cold. Our service are hot. Our micro serviced, dockered, 12 factor developmental, fully automated push button provisioning and release allows us to ship COBOL to the Z-Series at speeds those so called digital folk cannot even imagine.

Imagination, imagineering, engineering for digital. We know our aaS from our ELK, oh. We are building a Bank as a Platform for Misselling as a Service. We had APIs before they were cool. We had so many APIs we called them P2P (point to point) before P2P meant something way less cool about peers. We are peerless. We are fearless. Our APIs, They are pronounced A-Piss because the take a piss over our competitors, And we wash them off with SOAP, we tell them to take a REST because they are wasting their digital time trying to catch up with our digital APIs. They cannot compete with our platforms, our ecosystems because we have done it before. We have created the ecosystems that brought you CHAPS, BACS, Faster Payments, Direct Debits and PAYM. We are the platform players, the ecosystem slayers, the adaptive middleware layers. We apply ourselves digitally to our Application Programming Interfaces, while your so called APIs are disgraces. JSON? more like ONONE.

On one. We are all one. We collaborate digitally and ephemerally we are the realtime realists bringing digital to the CSV customer lists. Lotus Notes was Slack before Slack even existed, we are digitally literate in a digitally blind world. We are digital braille. We feel the bumps of digital and we turn touch enabled digital signals into pure digital gold. Gold standard UI, User Interface, Users in there face, experiences they can almost taste. Agile User Interfaces, User Experience agility, Design first, design with the customer at the heart of everything we do, design thinking, service design, service benign. Conway’s Law has been disproved, we con in ways that leave us moved. Empathetic > pathetic. We are customer centric, our centricity is our authenticity. Centric, tantric, digitally tantric, channeling energy into our beautiful creations. Our mindfulness comes from creating digital mindsets. We hackathon daily, we are so digital we don’t call them hackathons, we call them digital disruption dynanism days, because we are so digital and IT security said the word hack had too many negative connotations.

Hackathon, smackdownathon more like. Our cyber intelligence teams repel threats daily, like swatting digital flies round digital turds. We see the threats while they are just ‘threa’. We read the digital signs for digital whines complaining about the weakness in our digital spines. We send them packing back to script kiddy land and DDOSville because we are secure, digitally secure, digitally protected for the digital future. We are the only ones Lulzing about our sec. No one is anonymous to us. We have digital eyes that stop those who digitally pry.

We are digitally secure and digitally mature. We know our customers feel secure because we are secure. We are touch ID enabled, biometrics are no longer fabled, we will scan you face, track your digital trace, we geolocate to authenticate, we scan your voice to open the gate, we don’t care if our logons really grate because we are great at keeping you safe.

You are our customers, we don’t do KYC we do KOC, we take the our from the your, we are the future, future not yore, we know our customers inside out. Honest Mr Regulator we do. We are so digital we kept track of all our customers over the years. Our digital identity processes must quell your fears. We will open accounts with a selfie, we will ensure our digital records are healthy, we ensure our favourite customers are wealthy, rich in money and rich in data, data we mine using Machine Learned Artificial Intelligences to Deep Learn the sweet burn of money in their pocket. Propensity to buy is what makes us high.

Higher plane, digital nirvana we have reached through our digitally connected workforce. Talking to our customers wherever they are, only 95% of our staff do we bar, for social media is a risk and brand damage explosions are brisk. We are trained to Tweet to show we are fleet and customers expectations we digitally meet, not because we have failed in other less digital channels. We don’t need to get better at the Internet, we are the Internet, the interchange net. We kept books before Facebook had a The, we were ephemeral in our conversations years before Snapchat deleted messages. We used to call it shredding. Now we digitally shred the superhighway.

Our surfboards are 5.5″ in size and they are where we run our daily lives. We are bank, we are mobile, we are the handheld branch there for you 24/7 in high res digital retina screen joy. Banking is no longer a place you go it is handheld thing that still says no. We are mobile first, we are customer first, we are API first, we are shareholder return first. Everything is first, our thirst for mobile shows our digital desires, our lack of wires. We are geolcating offers to augment your digital experience of the high street as you journey towards our branches to have an advisory meet. We are touch screen enabled for the swipe right generation. We were the first Tinder because our mobile interfaces are so hot that you need to swipe left and view full desktop mode occasionally just to cool down. Back to the browser because you exclaimed wowser, no way this journey can be completed on a screen so beautifully designed. Your heart would not cope, our servers would go up in smoke.

Smoking hot customer facing innovations. Frictionless not frictionmess, we are digitally slick, digitally sick, interactions with our customers make them stick, seamlessly pay, seamlessly play, seams never show as long as you interact during the day. We are digital payments innovators, mobile acceptance creators, we tokenise before your eyes, HCE yeah you know me, constantly piloting NFC. We had Apple Pay on opening day, Android Pay will show the way, their halo effect will save the day. We know our R3CEV from our EMV, we are smart contacts, smart contracts, our legacy code base will never contract. Distributed and decentralised, branches were that way before Craig Steven Wright’s lies. We are cryptographically current, we are algorithmically proved, we are on the blockchain, on the side chain, open ledgers since the 1800s, proof of work since our Lotus Notes calendars were jam packed full of digital meetings. We are digital because we gave some of our advisors in limited pilot branches tablets. Tablets is what customers need to take after seeing staff with their digital slate. Opening accounts in front of your face, real time credit decisions take place, digital interactions progress amongst the marble lined edifice. Walking customers through our digital application processes built for the web on iPads in branches proves we are omnichannel.

We are the O Mi! of Omni. We talk to our customers at a different level, our email addresses were AI years ago, DO NOT RESPOND passes the Turing Test with flying colours. We know conversations are markets, we listen first then broadcast later, two way dialogue broadcast, we talk, you buy. We talk the digital lingo, we are realtime in letter form, we are asynchronous in secure browser messaging, we are non-customer identifying on social media. All those channels to channel your aggressions. To lose your questions. To add to the digital exhaust.

Exhaust, exhausting, human interaction is too boring. We are AI first. We put the rhythm into the Algos. We make the market dance to our robo tune. We are high speed, high frequency, micro interactions via micro waves and under the waves. Digital bleeps while people sleep, having their pension pot traded from under their feet. We move markets, move needles, move faster than the speed of light, through microwaves and lightwaves and regulator waves, Oh hi Mr Regulatory yes of course we are not manipulating a thing, all done my machine these days mate. We are digital by design, we are the matrix.

The matrix of data. We are data first, data driven, from our silos fresh data insights are digitally riven. We dip or toes in our data lakes, Hadoop clusters make sense from waste, they crunch the data looking for fakes, and keep us compliant for all our sakes. We are big data, small data, realtime data, historic data, uncleansed data, data owners, data onus, we will never share with customers what the data shows us. We are open data, open to those senior enough to see, open for compliance checks, our spreadsheets are all up to date, our digital macros clearly state, the position of our digital bank, CSVs help us maintain our number one rank. Rank, rate, denigrate, our customers we will never hate, our digitalness makes us secure in our fate.

We are fintech, insurtech, regtech, bank tech, pay cheque. We are systemically important not systematically impotent. We are the the trendwatchers, the taste makers, the startup fakers. We are investing in partnerships to make us even more digital, we don’t acquihire we acquihigher. We are accelerating the Unicorns to breakneck speed. Their horns will not penetrate us for we do not bleed. We are digitally unbundling the bundled accounts that we bungled, we are digitally rebundling the unbundled to provide fun filled digital experience for the unfulfilled, underbanked, financially excluded who are rich enough to bank with us. Roboadvisors are here to surprise us, with algo run investments that run day today as long as market threats stay away. We are not afraid of Uberisation, uppity start ups are no match for regulation. Rules to keep us in line, rules that strangle startups until the end of time. Ever more regulation to run our banks, not because we have not innovated but because we innovated so much they had to slow us down. Governments bend to our digital will. We are protectedfromonhightech.

Hightech, Hi-Tec, running things digitally, digital processes allow us to be more efficient, we are lean, we are mean, on high staffing numbers we are not keen. Our efficiency is destined to reach a point, where human interaction is no longer needed. Machines have learnt, shareholders have earnt, wet signatures have been burnt, human capital has been rightsized, now dishing up nutritious fries. Surprise, delight, delight with surprise. Digital experiences deliver so much joy, redundancies will feel like bliss, return on equity targets we will not miss.

Miss. We don’t miss. We target, we zero in, we are zeros and ones. We are different, we are digitally different, we are digitally differentiatied from our digital laggard counterparts. Our legacy no longer lags, it is heritage now. We built the digital systems that have run for decades, moving money in batch form, overnight processing was the norm, we have shifted to real time because Monday to Friday 9.30 – 3.30 is branch realtime. It is the real time. Our systems take real time to evergreen and real time wipe away clean. Wipe the plate clean, our spaghetti architecture has been slurped up, and coated in a cloud native sauce with DevOps meatballs and iterative garlic bread. Start again the experts cry, you are not ready for the mobile wave of disruption, but they are wrong and we have proved that we are. We plugged our mobile apps into ATMs infrastructures. An invention from the 60s, built on proper standards and APIs before these experts were even born. We have always been digital and we always will be. People are sick and tired of experts, they are bored of them.

The board all have iPads, they work digitally, they think digitally, they have ever more digits added to their pay cheques digitally. Their digital iPads keep them on the digital pulse of the digital world. Filled by underlings with perfectly formatted two page, Times New Roman board papers, digital dashboards to show realtime the numbers their managers below want them to see. They get the digital world now. They see digital is the only way. They are digital, We are digital. Fintech ain’t shit. Digital banking is already here. Digitally deal with it losers.

Open banking in the UK rescued by the CMA?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its final report on its two-year review into the UK banking market this week. It contains a number of ‘remedies’ for the lack of competition, switching, customer value and innovation in the UK. You can read all 766 pages if you are so inclined, or the slightly more consumable 55-page summary report, or the 15-page high level summary. Take your pick.

While I have an interest in the research, and the wider findings and remedies, the area I’m most interested in is the push for open banking (i.e., via application programming interfaces, or APIs). The following sections of the 55-page summary report (though you really should read the whole thing) contain the most interesting mentions of APIs: 157, 161, 162, 166-171, 174 and 200 (b). This is the best paragraph in the report, in my opinion:

Of all the measures we have considered as part of this investigation, the timely development and implementation of an open API banking standard has the greatest potential to transform competition in retail banking markets.

I think we can all agree on that. The remedies around providing APIs for financial data only applies to the biggest banks in the UK, which, according to the report, are RBS, LBG, Barclays, HSBC, Santander, Nationwide, Danske, BoI and AIB. This feels like a somewhat strange grouping, and does it mean Yorkshire and Clydesdale Bank isn’t included? Is that because the parent group is Australian, or am I missing something?

Tight timescales

The basic timeline set out is that these APIs and access methods for read and write access to transaction data will be provided by Q1 2018. This all sounds good to me (if a little slow). Yet, as the banks rightly point out in their 67 responses to the interim report back in May, which featured tighter timescales, the challenge of implementing these changes while we still have no technical standards for either the formats and types of data (let alone the authorisation and access methods) from either the Open Banking Working Group or, more importantly, the Regulatory Technical Standards from PSD2, means that 2018 is the earliest it could be realistically delivered.

Key to this delivery is a new group – the Open Banking Development Group, launched by the Open Data Institute to “drive open innovation around an open banking standard on a UK and international basis”. It will work in conjunction with a number of organisations, including Payments UK and the nine largest banks. I urge startups and challenger banks to join as soon as possible, so that we don’t just have bankers designing today’s APIs for the financial services we want tomorrow.

I’m very happy that the CMA has stepped up on this issue and is putting in place measures to ensure open banking does happen in the UK. Everyone was pinning their hopes on PSD2 delivering this, but post-Brexit, and with no mention in the last budget, I suspect some UK banks were ready to move it down/off their agendas. That being said, there are still a great deal of hurdles to overcome.

Designing for loss of control

To ensure the swift implementation of the open banking standard, the CMA will create an independent body:

We will ensure that the programme of work to introduce open APIs is effectively managed and does not get bogged down in debates between market participants by creating a new entity, funded by the banks but led by an independent trustee, to ensure the timely delivery of this core remedy.

This is a good thing. How this body will operate and what its remit will be is of great interest. However, an initial draft of the proposed structure for this body does give me a few concerns with regards to having the fintech companies and challenger banks on the outside of the core group.

The responses from the banks feel like this body will give them an element of control over who can have access to this data. It feels to me like the banks want to keep control under the guise of security. Clearly there are security risks, and for aggregators there has to be a code of conduct similar to PCI DSS for storing and use of that data. But how independent will this new control body be, and what measures will individual banks build over the top of any process?

HSBC’s API proposal in response to the interim report from July makes for interesting reading. It’s not a final design, but it still shows a desire to retain as much control as possible for security measures. I do wonder how much effort went into building infrastructure, governing bodies and other security measures for the manual downloading of data? I don’t remember there being any changes following the Midata rollout in March 2015 that allowed people to take 13 months (of slightly redacted) transaction data and do with it as they pleased. Clearly an automated/real-time data feed is a different beast, but the measures don’t seem commensurate to the manual methods. Strange.

Another large challenge I see for the banks building these APIs is not just building to get data out, but building the infrastructure to consume them from other banks is much more difficult. Will two years be enough to alter their apps and services to take in this data and make the most of it for the customer/CRM systems? Definitely not for all banks. We may see some early advantages for the more technically adept banks, and especially for those challenger banks who will have been building for data in as well as out (if they’re smart), as they build their achingly hip core banking platforms.

Lack of clarity

As good as the report is, there are a number of key points I don’t believe it answers well enough. I really would like the CMA/OBDG to quickly clarify a few things.

What APIs will be built?

I would like to see a much clearer definition/list/table of all the proposed APIs and the data items that will be included. The CMA should be able to provide this at a high level today. I suspect the detailed aspect of this will be a key piece of work of the OBDG.

Which segments will the APIs cover?

With the heavy use of acronyms PCA (personal current account) and BBA (business bank account) throughout the report, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of which accounts will be covered. Is this up to the banks to provide a list of their accounts and say whether or not an API will arrive for it, and when? Will basic bank account holders get the same APIs premium account holders do?

For businesses, it’s not clear up to what level/size of business will be covered (i.e., which size business accounts will be exempt? A turnover of x million?). Also, private banking seems exempt. I assume rich people don’t like having good digital interfaces. Credit cards and savings/investment accounts are also not included. There are only 60 million credit cards in the UK, so it’s not like that much spending is done on them. Again, a clear list/table showing what’s in and what’s out would be fantastic.

The downside to this is that, even by the second quarter of 2018, building apps and services that provide people with a holistic view of their finances will still be impossible without manual methods or the dreaded scraping. The hopeful/naive side of me hopes that the credit card companies will not want to be left out of this wave of innovation and will put pressure on the issuers. The same applies to commercial banking when businesses put pressure on them for better links to online accountancy services, for example. Lots of work still to be done.

When will these APIs be available?

The CMA report states that the development and adoption of an open API standard will have a commencement date “by or between Q1 2017 and Q1 2018”. I think this means less sensitive data (though including the Midata redacted transaction data) by Q1 2017, and the full, non-redacted transaction data by Q1 2018. It’s not so clear, though.

PSD2 regulation timelines will also have an impact. The deadline for European Banking Authority draft Regulatory Technical Standards on authentication and communication is 13 January 2017. The draft version is available today. Account Information Service Providers (AISP) registration isn’t open until 13 July. The FCA has said from February 2017, though, for UK companies.

The banks aren’t that happy with proposed timescales, particularly with the burden of other regulatory changes. Ring-fencing is one of the most complex changes in banking systems history, and the failure of RBS’s Williams & Glyn spin-out shows those changes will not go smoothly.

The alignment with PSD2 is welcome from a consistency point of view, but I suspect not so welcome in that it’s a long, slow process to get the RTS guidelines ratified as stated above. Throw in all the other mandatory pieces of work and it’s clear this will not be easy for banks to accommodate. That being said, as the majority of banks are all about “digital transformation” being their number one priority, APIs are a very good sign that you are really on that journey and not just using the phrase emptily.

A lot of moving parts, and quite a bit of resistance, undoubtedly means the deadlines set yesterday will not be final.

Can I build my own app?

Can I access my own API for my own use? Do I have to register to be an AISP or something similar to handle my own data? Even though I can access it manually? Could I feed my data into a Google Spreadsheet, or does Google have to be licensed to hold the data? Is it OK for Google to hold the data if I’ve manually downloaded, then re-uploaded it? What if someone creates a Google sheet template that I then use? Do they need to be an AISP/approved developer? Thankfully, I’m not involved in defining the governance for this.

Taking control

There has been quite a bit of negativity around the CMA report, including some of the above. However, I’m very happy it has been published and that the CMA is taking control in ensuring APIs get delivered in the UK. I would just like a little more clarity on the what and when, because as the CMA says, “An open API banking standard has the greatest potential to transform competition in retail banking markets”, and that’s what we really need.


This article was originally published on Banknxt on the 4th of August 2016. It was also kindly edited by Shaun Weston

YouTube Family Failings

Today while my six year old son was watching a video from his favourite Youtuber DanTDM midway through the video an advert for French beer Kronenbourg 1664 was shown. I was not pleased his viewing was interrupted (when did YouTube start doing ads midway through videos?) as it meant he whined at me, I was even less pleased it was for beer when he is six years old. The UK has very strong regulations around the advertising of alcohol. For a company that is telling everyone it is going to be AI first then I hope they get a hell of a lot smarter before they go fully aware.

Now he was logged in on my account because he can’t have his own account until he is 13 apparently. Either way I don’t think beer advertising is right for Dan’s young audience. My son could/should have been using the awful (one for another post) YouTube Kids app but I do not believe you can access DanTDM through that very poor app. There is so much scope for Google to do far better with this but they seem reluctant / incapable. Clearly their business model is advertising but there are surely ways to advertise to children in far better ways.

I also have a three year old who likes watching YouTube videos too but he has an uncanny side view explore method which means he rapidly gets from watching Super Mario playthroughs to the ten hottest porn star alive. He has obviously been using mummies logon. Visual browsing needs some really smart thinking to stop it getting out of hand.

The boys also watch YouTube through our TV. It can be logged on as me also and safe search can be enabled but still plenty of swearing and violence gets through.

I think the whole aspect of family control over digital services has really not been thought out/done well by many if any companies. I have recently been looking at setting my son a Windows 10 laptop up and they seem to have some good family account controls in place. More on that as I test them. Back to Google though….
What I want from YouTube (and a few other VOD providers and other digital services)

I want a way to allow my children to have their own identities. Why can’t they have logons? They have their own viewing habits and algortimic suggestions then. I want to be able to send video to them. A watch later from Mum & Dad type feature. Why can’t I set my TV to have YouTube levels of access for day time vs night time? or just a kids vs adults feature. Easy to switch between on multiple devices (not easy at all)

I want a multitude of ways to control and analyse those logons. Whitelisted channels. Restricted search terms. Viewing time. Searches. Allow the trust to level up with age or at my decision point e.g. unlock mild violence / swearing as they approach teens. Difficult to design and implement but seemingly just ignoring it is a disgrace.

I want to have sight of what they see. I want to know what adverts they see too. this would be a great feature to add to the Google Dashboard. I would love to be able to whitelist & blacklist advertisers / categories (I am happy for them to see LEGO adverts all day long, Lelly Kelly not so much). How about asking me when I am watching if adverts/advertisers would be suitable for my children. Some people may balk at this but I would prefer them to see adverts transparency over an ability for them to use a service safely.

I have a lot of ideas around this area but this post is a grumpy hot take so I will return to them another day (unless anyone wants to hire me to work on the design of some).

Clearly marketing to children is a very tricky area and there are regulations that make giving children digital identities problematic. I think we need to see services designed to challenge these regulations but also show the potential of services like YouTube as they are used by an ever younger demographic. The challenge of digital identity for adults is complex enough, for children it feels even more challenging.

I don’t want YouTube to do my parenting for me but I want my children to be able to use it as safely as possible without me having to watch through every thing they want to watch first.

There is so much potential in making YouTube an even more amazing service for children. I want them to be suggested new trailers for suitable films, highlight new youtubers who have been approved or recommended by other families as let’s say swearing free. I want them to be able to search for animals or game play throughs or cartoons or NASA videos or whatever rabbit hole they want to tumble down knowing they are going to view something that is appropriate for their age, for their parents and to be advertised to appropriately.

PS I hated Kronenbourg 1664 before this shambles. It tastes like someone has tried to filter piss through a dog blanket.

Just another brick in the walled garden

We live in an age where we benefit greatly from some of the most open and connected technologies ever created. The Internet and the the world wide web built on top of that, have given rise to all manner of technological and societal change. They have seen corporate giants rise upon the shoulders of open and connected, yet they all seem headed towards ever more closed gigantic networks where inter-operation is always at a bare minimum and usually only to benefit themselves, they will let you share outwards in some cases but not all, they will let content in but it must come in through their chosen and tightly controlled methods.

Now I suspect a lot of people will be thinking the answer is blockchain/distributed ledgers/new rails etc. and they might be right but I have avoided mentioning them in this piece. I have avoided them because I am interested in the fixing of the existing system rather than its wholesale replacement. Longer term perhaps new rails will exist but that will not be for decades at least.

I have long desired for banking to be far more open and inter-operable. Open APIs are on the horizon in Europe driven by regulations such as the second Payments Service Directive (PSD2) and UK government initiatives such as the Open Bank Working Group backed by HM treasury. I worry however that these are fragile initiatives even if they are mandatory regulatory changes. The lack of implementation clarity allows for too many opportunities to brick up experiences. Be that making accessing your own transaction data so complicated it is better to screen scrape the data than use official methods. Payment options that are so complex in using that plastic will always be preferred. The closed nature of banking remains even when the rules say open up because of UX disasters.

Mobile payments are also showing worrying trends in heading down these paths. Mobile payments are here yet not quite evenly distributed at the moment. They are tied largely to handset makers (Apple and Samsung Pay), or telcos, or existing card schemes. Interoperability remains patchy at this early stage as the market finds its feet. You need to have phone X or operating system Y and then you need to have the luck of the gods in finding merchants that actually accept your chosen payment method. The big boys are playing for keeps, they want to own the ecosystem as much as possible and they want to lock in the consumer to this perfectly constructed world. The new tech giants are just doing what banks have always done. Is it hubris that their global scale and technical prowess can allow them to succeed where banks have failed? Is it an us vs them story playing out? The new breed vs the old breed? Or is Apple Pay just helping the incumbents become more so? Technological progress is welcome but what is the end game and who will be allowed on the playing field?


My concern is that we will never get the interoperability I, and I am sure many others, desire. What if Sir Tim Berners Lee had patented the World Wide Web? Where would we be today? We have so many innovations limited by their lack of interoperability. We will surely never see a universal dial tone for say video or instant messaging. Even just something like presence, am I available to talk right now? Am I online? Am I in this country or that city?

We have had many great standards to help unify things but they are rejected at every turn and now lay dying. XMPP for messaging, RSS for all manner of content is an afterthought or seen as a historic anomaly. Anyone remember Open Social? An attempt to make interoperable social network components.

Those standards arose from a technical need to solve specific problems I.e. interoperability, and did so well but it is a problem solved that most companies would rather not have solved. Marketing money wants to know who, how many and how engaged the audience they are targeting is. The higher the walls of the garden the more it looks like a barrel and the more users look like fish fresh for shooting.

Those walls also seem to get ever thicker. Bickering between companies feels school yard level as they trade tit for tat blows. Whatsapp users being unable use their Telegram ID in their profile, Instagram and twitter blocking users/photo sharing and all manner of other petty nonsense. I guess when marketing money drives the company though then a barrel is the shape to aim for. What battles will we see between payments companies? Early shots were fired when telcos blocked software based payments like Google Wallet.

The telephone, fixed line and mobile talk too each other irrespective of telco provider, country or make of phone. This took both regulatory change to ensure networks and patents were used to benefit the greater good and avoid monopolies being formed. Email can be routed to any provider and software user due to the open standard of SMTP. Can you imagine if you could only send email to specific email clients Gmail to Gmail, Outlook to Outlook etc? Or Vodafone to Vodafone or Sprint to Sprint? (for some old enough they can probably remember what that was like). Now we acccept these closed networks as the norm as we all have Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Snapchat and lots of other messaging apps. I strongly believe this should not happen with financial services.

History repeating

I cannot pay everywhere.

I cannot get my data from every financial product and use it with other providers or services.

I see this exact same thing playing out in the tech world playing out in the finance world with payments and financial data. Those with the most to lose want to retain control. Those with the most to gain (Tech giants, new fintech entrants) cry for openness but will they reciprocate this in the future once they have a market share outcrop to cling to? Can we build a set of principles and standards that ensure once banking data and payments are opened up they stay open ensuring more and more layers can be built upon them, web like.

I worry for PSD2 because of how the design seems to be happening. Loose guidelines, country specific translations and implementations. Who are the people designing these technical guidelines? Are they bankers or people that understand the web? Can the fintech industry build a solution better/quicker? A better fit for what we need rather than this design by multiple committee stuff that seems to be dragging on and on. Is this regulatory change ultimately just a stick to make the market come up with something better? Will it be OSI vs TCP/IP all over again? Working and well implemented code beating the 172 page page guidelines document?

Money moving is complex and risky. The governance requirements are huge. The liability issues byzantine. I just feel that if we see a few more companies getting some working code (APIs, Auth Methods, Data Standards etc.) then it will make a greater dent in progress. Companies joining forces could do a greater good than yet more committees I reckon. I like the work Xignite has done in joining forces with 21 other companies to form a Fintech API Revolution Ecosystem. I would love to see much more of this ecosystem building, how about just some simple principles or badges of honour for those that make APIs available in FS? Maybe we see banks and FS firms joining initiatives such as the Web We Want (The bank network we want?) Build awareness to allow more building, more inclusion, more access.

The tech giants have built their new gardens and we humans seem to love silos. We love to control and be controlled but these things ultimately limit the scope and scale of technological shifts. They seemingly ensure maximum value can be extracted by the corporate overlords rather than making something bigger, more open that I strongly believe would be better. Will we just end up living in a world where you are either a Google, Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, BBVA ecosystem person and have no choice otherwise?

The opening up of transaction data access and payments instructions is clearly a huge complex change and I have simplified massively but my main point is that walled gardens will lead to fragmented experiences unless you are willing to commit yourself entirely to a single ecosystem owner. The banks have been the ultimate walled gardens as they try to ‘own the customer’ instead of being truly customer centric. They would do well to understand this shift. Excel where they can and make it is easy or seamless for their customers to do business elsewhere. Think platforms and ecosystems not locked in and owned.

Ultimately what is the end game the regulators desire for PSD2? Stop existing incumbents getting an ever stronger hold over the European Payments market i.e. EMVco. To enable greater competition and allow market forces to create a beautiful open ecosystem.


I think PSD2 will eventually crack open the transaction data and payments markets in Europe and hopefully the shockwaves will be felt around the world. The changes proposed however are seen as a real threat to a great many very powerful players and what the country level implementations of PSD2 we finally see in 2018/2019 will look like is a concern. I think the Open Data Institute are doing well to take a lead in the UK but do they wield enough power? Do they have enough momentum? I would like to see more involvement from the W3C. I would like to hear more from HM Treasury and the Competition Market Authority and I believe moves are underway. Also from the governments around the world making openness key. The bottom line is I would like to see a far more open approach to PSD2 from as many parties involved as possible. There are so many people relying on it and it will lead a great change. That maybe too terrifying for those that enjoy the benefits of those huge walls today.

Unless cooperation is forced is the chance of it happening lost forever? Also is the wrong sort of force / design potentially even more harmful? There are industries that need a kick to get started and some industries that need a kick to remember their history e.g. Telcos. I want PSD2 to succeed in cracking the engine open but while the bonnet is up I want to be sure then when it slams shut it’s not all covered in glue and irreparable, licensed components and parts only, registered dealers the only ones allowed to fix and the DIY hobbyist i.e. the individual user is left out.

This all points to a wonderful opportunity for forward thinking financial services players, be they the incumbents or the newer breed but either way I want more of them to work together, to aim for something more open, flexible and altruistic like the web. Altruism and banking might not be easy bedfellows but if you want to be truly customer centric as most keep saying and to truly digitally transform then it would be a wise goal to aim for.

Failing the commuter

As I look to land a role in London I am also looking for some flexibility in not only working pattern but also commuting services. I want to do three fixed days in London (Wednesday to Friday) and two days from home to begin with. This means I will have to book travel and accommodation on a weekly basis for over forty weeks of the year. There seems to be a real service industry opportunity to help people like me in this position as I assume I am not alone in this pattern of working? Am I? So here are a few ideas that would make my soon to be life a lot easier.

Booking trains

I want to book two trains a week for the foreseeable future. I would like to be able to block book say a months worth of train tickets. This would also enable me to take the best prices available on those routes at my allotted times. At the moment this is a laborious process where I have to book each trip individually. Just a simple repeat this booking for next X weeks would be a fairly simple addition I would have thought.

In addition to this some decent notifications capability around booking would be helpful. ‘Aden your preferred route and time slot is at its cheapest price now and will go up in 24 hours to £x. Book now?’ That is a call to action I will be answering.

The ability to change up or down times of travel more easily would also be great. I often book the last train home to Sheffield which is a killer. It leaves St. Pancras at 22.25 and gets into Sheffield around 1.30. I wish I could easily switch to an earlier train sometimes. This would be a great realtime offer from East Midlands, ping me around 7pm ‘Fancy getting home two hours earlier for just £10?’ Sold.

Why are season tickets only seen as something people who travel every day would use? Why are there no season tickets for a few days a week or even a daily season ticket? I want a year/three months of Wednesdays to London and Fridays back to Sheffield please.

Booking reservations being sent directly to my Google Calendar is a very nice feature but I agree strongly with Ben’s post about why on earth they don’t include the reference number in the headline calendar entry. Fix this please.

Better yet remove the need to collect paper tickets at all. When are trains getting paperless tickets like airlines? An app and a QR code seems easy at the software level, the challenge is the barriers and ticket collectors handheld devices. I think we are a way off that yet for East Midlands trains but we live in hope so there is less rush and hassle at the station just walk straight onto a train.


Similarly to train bookings there is no easy way to block book hotel rooms. I have contacted several hotels to see if any deals are possible and they have quoted me ludicrous business rates which I could get cheaper from any search. Real missed opportunity to build loyalty? I am hoping to get two nights in London for round about £120…the cheaper the better though. Give me your tiniest windowless broom cupboard. As long as it has a bed big enough for me, a shower/toilet/sink and is relatively close to a tube station / my future place of work, then I will be very happy.

I have also considered AirBnB and I wish they had some more commuter friendly options. If I can’t find a regular hotel cheap enough then maybe a deal could be done with an AirBnB host. Try out their flat a few times, get to know the owner see if they will do a block booking off AirBnB at a better price without them taking a cut or AirBnB could build that service (bordering on renting rather than hotel use) and level out the service charges etc. etc. Maybe some sort of auction / VRM style process. I have £120 for two nights for x weeks in this sort of area, who can accommodate me?

Another nice plus would be the ability to store a bag in London. The ability to just leave a toiletry bag and some clean underwear/clothes/phone charger/gym gear/12″ Breakfast Plate would be great. What is the scope for something like that? Hotels? Helpful landlord in the AirBnB scenario, a locker at work perhaps or some sort of locker elsewhere?


Keeping track of what I spend in a month/quarter/year on travel would be a very useful service indeed. Basic Personal Financial Management features for a bank capable. Some service like Expensify could also help here but for ease, built into my bank would be ideal. One day perhaps. Come on Mondo et al.

I am sure when I actually get a job there will be other services I will want to make use of but for now these seems like the most pressing needs. Please someone fix them, especially you East Midlands Trains. If anyone has any pointers for services that can help with these kinds of requests then please do let me know.

Update: Simon White made this lovely observation. If only I had two wheels.

The female is more precious and resilient

I have a problem with USB C. It has been designed the wrong way round, inside out, back to front. The socket is easier to break than the cable. It seems a bit sturdier than the wretched Micro USB. I have snapped the pins inside Micro USB sockets on several devices and to repair means cracking the device open and soldering on a new socket. Make the cheap replaceable bit break more gracefully than the expensive to replace socket.


Apple lightning cables are the right way round. The cable will snap before the socket and cables are far easier to replace. Do Apple have a patent on it being this way round? Or are USB designers obsessed with getting things slightly wrong with an interface that does so many things right?

The search for an Aden shaped role – an update

A brief update on my search for employment following on from my last post in January. I have been on pause for the last month as I concentrated on two roles that were progressing nicely. They have unfortunately both gone cold so it is back on with the search. One especially was going really well and I was very excited about it but some complications around making an offer means it now will not happen, gutted. I need to take my self off pause and look for more eggs for the basket. I have been mainly using my network of contacts but now I need to maybe take a more formal approach to run in parallel. I have spoken with a few nice recruiters following some recommendations.

I should maybe revisit some of those contact requests from strangers that clutter my messages inbox on Linked In. Why do people not add context to why they want to connect if you have never met them or spoken to them? Start a conversation, Linked in should make this easier / default behaviour. If you want to connect on there then please put something in the message as to the reason why as a blank connection request feels strange to me. I am always looking for new contacts / interesting people to meet I just want a bit of a starter in an introduction.

Whilst looking for the next big permanent role I also should get myself set up a sole trader or a Ltd. company (I had put that on pause too) so I can look at freelance opportunities. Feels like a lot of paperwork mind you.

In the last post I said I was looking somewhere at the intersection/overlap of Product Management, Digital Planning and Consultancy. That is still the case but I am open to anything of interest be it financial services or not.

I have been relatively busy not fully on pause. A few things of interest.

I was interviewed recently by Stessa Cohen for UX Crunch.

My FintechBot was also ‘interviewed’ by Irish Tech News.

A post of mine was recently picked up by Finextra which means more than ten people read it ;)They seemed to dislike my original headline of ‘Faster Plastic Horse‘ though.

I also get married on Saturday so I need to ‘get that out of the way’ 😉

The week after next I will be back to London for a few days (the honeymoon is in June). Wednesday the 24th to Thursday the 25th of February. So please do get in touch if you would like to meet. Also get in touch if you would like a chat and you are not in London.