Simple has released an update to its mobile banking app to support Apple’s TouchID and Android’s wearable devices. The update follows a period of difficulty for the digital bank which saw customers locked out of their accounts for prolonged periods. Billy Bambrough investigates


What’s the physical bank comparison to a digital bank that locks its customers out of the only way to access their money? Metro Bank in the UK locking its doors and refusing to open them? Oregon based Umpqua Bank boarding up its brightly lit windows? An interesting way of looking at Simple’s recent problems is perhaps to consider whether you would bank with a branch only lender that might do these things at any moment.

It seems impossible that either of these things could happen but Simple has shown us in the last month that the app isn’t quite the 24/7 all stop shop that some have claimed.

Back in August following a particularly extended "scheduled maintenance" outage, some Simple customers were left with no access to their accounts for a whole day when the system didn’t come back online.

The company, which has 120,000 US customers, said 10% of accounts weren’t upgraded in the seven hours allotted – meaning those customers were essentially locked out of their accounts for 24 hours. And unlike with traditional banks, Simple customers were unable to use their debit cards during the outage.

The reason for these hardships was because the bank was going through a major move to an inhouse transaction processing platform. While the issues have now mostly been resolved there are still some customers complaining that about missing payments and delays in updating balances, leaving observers wondering what Simple has been doing with itself.

A week or so later, on 19 August, Simple rolled out a completely rebuilt version of its mobile application, with even more whizz-bang digital features than before in the form of Simple Instant, a peer to peer service for Simple customers previously only available on desktop and Goals, a tool to help customer save their money.

Now, in a bid to further restore confidence in its service, Simple has added further features, which hopefully will work as promised (digital and physical banks alike need to remember that customers are rarely annoyed by banks closing at night and websites doing scheduled maintenance, it’s when these things happen unexpectedly that causes issue).

Perhaps in lieu of making sure its core systems are working up to scratch Simple has now added one-touch access for iPhone users by using Apple’s TouchID fingerprint verification, replacing the need to input a four-digit unlock code.

The bank has also partnered with highly regarded secure app start up 1Password, to store passwords in a single secure location, enabling one-tap entry for both sign in and app access.

Simple has adding introduced support for Android Wearables, providing push notifications of support messages and transaction updates to both smartphones and Android Wear devices, such as smart watches.

These things are nice additions to any digital wallet but without the core service working they’re about as useful as embossed lettering on credit cards.

My advice to Simple would be to make sure the back office is in order before adding bells and whistles to the front end.