Netbank Plays The Dating Game

Mike’s bank is asking inappropriately personal security questions, and Mike doesn’t feel that he will be able to remember the answers 12 months down the line.

We think Mike should consider the fact that Netbank is actually playing, “The Dating Game.”

“By the time I came up with 5 good questions and their answers,” writes Mike, “my session had expired and I needed to login again. And also, I was fucking pissed.”

Maybe Netbank just wants to know more about Mike before taking their banking relationship to the next level.

The rest of Mike’s spleen, inside.

This annoyed the shit out of me this morning. My bank wouldn’t let me login to check my account balance until I played their game of “25 questions”.

Review the attached list of questions. Choose five, and produce answers you are confident you can recite when prompted in, say, 12 months. For added fun, do this while fuming about how you don’t have time right now, and you just wanted to check your account balance before you left for work.

About 6 years ago, I moved my checking account to Netbank ( because they offered higher interest rates and free bill payment service. It was a huge improvement over my local bank, and I’m still mostly happy with them. I’m writing this because they’re starting to act stupid and they need a kick in the pants.

Some time ago, Netbank updated their web interface. After the change, when those of us running something other than Internet Exploder on a Windows PC tried to access our accounts, we found certain critical services were non-functional. It took several days for them to straighten it out, and even now the service is slightly degraded on non-majority platforms (read: Mac).

If you’re in the Online Banking business and your customers depend on your web site for access to their money, you might want to become familiar with concepts such as Standards Compliance and Cross-Platform Compatibility. And you should consider testing your updates before you release them.

I had all but forgiven them for the browser compatibility debacle when they dumped a new turd on us. They’re calling it a state-of-the-art security upgrade, but so far, all I’m seeing is a poorly-designed challenge-response system. It’s a nuisance to users, and the benefits seem negligible. This morning, when I wanted to log into my account to quickly review recent activity and check my account balances, I was confronted with a setup procedure for their new security feature. There was no option to postpone it until I had more time. I would not be allowed access to my accounts until I completed this step.

They gave me 25 questions to choose from. I was required to select 5, and then provide answers I could reliably recall when prompted in the future. Normally, systems like this will ask questions that have static answers, such as the name of your first grade teacher or the city in which you were born. Netbank’s questions are more abstract, and have responses one would expect to change with time.

– What is your biggest pet peeve?
– What is your dream job?
– What is your favorite quote?

It took me awhile to pick the questions and responses I felt I could answer most reliably a year or two from now. I don’t have a favorite candy, and I don’t think I could tell you what my favorite song or movie was 12 months ago. In fact, I don’t think I could answer any of the “favorite” or “dream” questions consistently over time. By the time I came up with 5 good questions and their answers, my session had expired and I needed to login again. And also, I was fucking pissed.

— Like I said, I’m still mostly happy with Netbank. I know they’ve got good intentions. I just wish they’d spend more time on quality assurance. It’s not hard to sanity check something like this before you unleash it on your customers. There are ways to implement this kind of functionality without infuriating your user base. I’ve communicated this sort of concern to Netbank before. I’m not sure how attentively they’re listening, though. They still seem to be lacking a meaningful process for ensuring their updates are reasonable and consumer-friendly. So, what brand of shampoo were you using when I opened my Netbank account 6 years ago? (Answer: Stop acting stupid, Netbank.)

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