Hey #OccupyWallStreet, We Have Your Solution!
By Marina Shifrin Mon Oct 24, 2011
MyBankTracker.com had the privilege of sitting down with some industry leaders to hear their thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street movement and what changes are needed.
On Friday, October 21, a handful of financial entrepreneurs sat down with various members of the press to discuss what is happening on Wall Street and what changes need to be made. It boiled down to three things, financial industry leaders need to:
- Participate in productive activities.
- Meet your fiduciary standards.
- Create a fair playing field.
We all know how difficult it is to change someone not willing to change, but that has not stopped the crew at Occupy Wall Street to keep trying, nor has it stopped the three men leading this discussion.
The Men Behind The Advice
There is a lot of speculation over who is to blame over the country’s debt and the protesters anger, but the answer will not bring us any closer to a solution.
Jonathan Stein, co-founder & CEO of Betterment, Jason Henrichs, co-founder & COO of PerkStreet Financial and Yaron Samid, co-founder & CEO of BillGuard all saw a disconnect in the financial industry when it came to looking out for the customer. Finding it difficult to conform current financial practices, they each set off on their own path to create a business that ultimately benefits the consumer.
The recent developments on Wall Street brought the men together to explain what is needed to be done in order to offer better financial services and products to the American people.
Three Steps to the Solution
In reality, the three solutions listed above are not abstract concepts. The banking industry just needs to get back to the roots of appropriate business practices. Each speaker had countless examples of banking practices that were opposite of these things resulting in their drive to create businesses out of trying to combat these disconnects.
Productive Activities: For a decade, Jason Henrichs worked in the credit card business where he saw “the credit industry really pushing debt onto people using practices like hidden fees, fine print and marketing tactics, [it] created products that were toxic to the consumer.”
Tired of trying to push change within the industry, Henrichs left and with partner Dan O’Mally launched PerkStreet Financial, offering online checking accounts with better rewards.
Seeing the need for change within the financial industry and acting on this change is exactly the type of productivity our country needs to get American back on track financially according to the three.
Fiduciary Standards: basically a fancy way of saying be honest.
Yaron Samid, had a personal anecdote when it came to honesty within the financial industry when he noticed a reoccurring charge from the large financial institution he banked with, “When I googled the charge I saw that actually thousands of people were complaining about. And that’s where the big idea for BillGuard was born, which was lets level the playing field between these merchants taking advantage of us and all the consumers out there that are getting hit by these charges, by actually harnessing all the collective knowledge of people…turn it around and let it protect consumer against these unfair, erroneous and fraudulent billing practices.”
Not only does BillGuard bring more transparency to the financial industry, but the two other companies work to show consumers their objectives as a company that both makes profits and caters to the customer.
Create a fair playing field: At the end of the day, the most important thing these entrepreneurs are trying to push is value based customer services. Although the practices big banks have been participating in have shown great profit, at the end of the day the consumer and the rest of the economy takes a hit — trickling back to the banking services.
Jonathan Stein may not be in the banking industry anymore, but he still works closely with people’s finances. Seeing that investment opportunities were getting too convoluted for the average investor, Stein set out to create a company that would help investors achieve the highest return and Betterment.com was born. You don’t have to be a multi-millionaire or economic genius to use Betterment, and you can still watch your savings grow.
What’s the Next Step for Occupy Wall Street
These guys have a pretty good handle on what the industry needs to do to change, but what about the people? Jason Henrichs was first to weigh in on the subject of the protesters saying they were “necessary but not sufficient.”
We asked what advice he would give to the Occupy Wall Street protesters to get the banks to recognize these needs and make these changes. “If people really want to see change, they have to take action, not just articulate that we’re upset with it. If it is actually a bank that’s taking advantage of you…you actually have to make the change. Show them where it’s going to hurt, which is in their profits.”
Basically, it’s time to get out of the venting phase and to get into the acting phase. All three agreed that it is time for some leadership to rise up and map out the next move. Jonathan Stein made the point that “people have been waiting since the financial collapse for a leader to stand up and say something about these things that have been bothering us.”
To clarify, they all agreed this leader cannot be a politician, but a leader of the people. Explaining the changes needed to be made. So OWS protesters, are you ready to appoint a leader?