Following a bad experience of criminal activity on her debit card, Jessica Ellerm outlines how her own bank would tackle fraud.

Recently, I experienced one of those terrible and highly inconvenient banking “life events” no one wants to go through, yet these days seems all too inevitable. My debit card got skimmed.

It’s the second time in a year I’ve been an unwilling participant in this particular banking rite of passage. Last time, it was some rogue spending up large online with my credit card, on stationery at Officeworks, of all things. This time, the fraudsters managed to get hold of my debit card details, duplicate the physical card and withdraw my hard-earned cash from an ATM, cleaning out my everyday account completely.

This all took place over two days before I noticed anything irregular with my account. My bank noticed nothing, leading me to seriously question my confidence in their fraud engine. In a subsequent email complaint, I noted with irony how their fraud engine seems to have no problem shutting down my card when I travel overseas, but can’t seem to deduce that multiple ATM withdrawals of $800 each at 3am in the morning are questionable.

Now I’m sure fraud incidents like mine are an ever-growing headache for banks. And generally speaking I’m relatively forgiving when things go wrong with service providers, provided they demonstrate they’re trying their hardest to rectify the problem. However, in my case, it’s been over 30 days and I’m still waiting for my money. So it got me thinking … if I was building a bank, how would I do things differently?

Real-time alerts on every transaction

This seems like a no-brainer, but in Australia, a limited number of financial providers offer this type of service. My AmEx card and app is one of them, and I love it. Any time the card is pinged – either online, offline or for a recurring charge – the app sends me an instant notification. If I was building a bank from scratch, setting up your alert preferences in a mobile app would be the first step when customising your account.

Personalised fraud engine

Wouldn’t it be great if you could create your own personalised “fraud recipes” based on how you know you behave with your own money? In that case, if I was building a bank from scratch, I’d allow my customers to create their own logic around what was normal and what wasn’t for them. Personalised fraud logic combined with a bank’s base fraud protection could be a powerful tool. In my case, ATM withdrawals at 3am in the morning certainly wouldn’t be allowed, at least not without some kind of two-factor authentication.

Automated payback for credit purchases

One of the reasons I tend not to use my credit card too often is I know it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of spending more than I really should. The downside to avoiding my credit card is that I automatically miss out on the increased consumer protection that’s generally more readily available on credit products. So if I were building a bank, I’d let my customers make purchases from their credit card, but automatically credit their card with the same amount from their everyday account. It’s possible today, just super-cumbersome and manual. So why not automate it and make people’s lives easier?

We’ll handle it for you, no questions asked

I get it, there are bad people out there. But there are also good people who have bad things happen to them, and I tend to think the latter is far more common. If you’ve got a strong track history with a bank, why shouldn’t you be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to suspected criminal activity? This is no doubt the toughest one, and the hardest to scale. But if the first line of defence is strong, then this second line of defence is only called upon occasionally. In this day and age, I’d be happy to pay a monthly account premium to access this kind of protection, just like I do health insurance. Maybe my future bank customers will, too.

The exciting thing is what if, at my bank, all of these upgraded security offerings were provided by best-of-breed fintech providers, who accessed my bank’s rails for a fee? I could even shift the risk around my “no questions asked guarantee” to a third party as well. My customers could simply pick and choose their banking add-ons, manage them all from one mobile dashboard, and choose to be billed one monthly charge for everything combined. I know, I know, this is hardly radical, and lots of people have the same idea, but real-world examples are still hard to come by.

I know I’m not alone in being a victim of shoddy bank security. Sadly, it’s slowly eroding consumer confidence in banks, and our belief they can keep up with an increasingly sophisticated, agile and well resourced criminal underworld.

The future of banking requires the best solutions to come together, and to be given the right rails that allow them to work alongside each other seamlessly. But this can only happen if one banking platform allows their ego to come after their customers. And I’d say we’re yet to see the true incarnation of that one yet.

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– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. Read more here. Photo: Rasulov,

About the author

Jessica Ellerm

Jessica Ellerm is CEO and co-founder at Australian fintech startup Zuper Superannuation. She's also a fintech commentator, blogging at her own website ( and guest posting for BankNXT. In addition, she writes for the fintech blog Daily Fintech Advisers, specialising in small business banking. Prior to Zuper, Jessica spent 6+ years at payments company and small business startup bank Tyro. Jessica is a contributor to Brett King's Breaking Banks, and has freelanced as a finance news journalist for Australia's leading online markets channel Finance News Network.

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