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Ross Wolfe

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To splurge or not to splurge? What to do with your tax refund

Ross Wolfe on Mar 01, 2013


It’s that time of year again.

“April is not the cruelest month,” observes Catherine New for Daily Finance, waxing poetic.  “At least, not when it comes to getting a little extra cash in your pocket.”  But if we’re talking tax refunds, as New sets out to do, then she may have been paraphrasing the wrong dead British poet.  Remember the old line that opens T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”? “April is the cruelest month…” and all that jazz? — Ok, maybe not.  Just us failed writers.

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"Banking" On The Underbanked: To Serve The Underserved

Ross Wolfe on Feb 08, 2013

Stuffing too much money under your mattress? You might be underbanked

Arjan Schütte has some pretty bold opinions, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind.  For this, he doubtless deserves to be praised.  And we certainly thank him for his openness in granting us an interview.

Still, there’s some evidence and opposing viewpoints that would seem to run counter to his claims regarding the underserved — the unbanked and underbanked, for those unfamiliar with the industry jargon — and the possibilities of mobile technologies.  So it’s not entirely beyond the pale that we might gently critique a few of his assertions with counterevidence we’ve come across. 

For example, Arjan at one point makes the following blanket statement:

I don’t see the [major] banks trying to serve [the underserved].  Minor initiatives and feel-good efforts around the edges, sure.  Nothing at scale.  For tens of millions of people, the bank will never be an attractive solution.  For thousands of banks, these potential customers will never be attractive.

Michelle Parks of Crain’s Cleveland Business sees things otherwise.  In an article written last September, “Lenders go after ‘Underbanked’ to fill Revenue Gap,” she noted that the unbanked and underbanked have increased in number of late, especially during the recent (ongoing) recession.  Parks cites James Thurston, spokesman of the Ohio Bankers’ League, as having indicated “[t]here’s a lot of growth potential for the banks.  We’re not talking a few thousand people.” 

Nor does it end there.  Parks has done her homework.  In dialogue with Bruce Murphy, the president of Community Development Banking at KeyBank, a company that has offered products and services to the underserved since 2004, the subject of the so-called “MegaBanks” came up.  Murphy asserted:

There is an awakening in traditional financial institutions that they can no longer ignore this segment.  I think two years ago, people were saying, “OK, guys, we have to pay attention to this.”  Things are coming to market now.

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Think Big: An Interview With Arjan Schütte

Ross Wolfe on Feb 05, 2013

Arjan Schütte

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The "Fiscal Cliff"

Ross Wolfe on Dec 15, 2012

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The Future of Banking - Part 2

Ross Wolfe on Nov 30, 2012

Last week we gave you a peek at the upside of mobile banking moving forward.  This week, by contrast, we’ll show you the downside.

It’s important to bear in mind, however.  The downside of mobile banking isn’t anything intentional on the part of the software programmers and designers.  Nor is it the fault of the companies that distribute the finished product.  If it were, we wouldn’t be doing what we do! So don’t get us wrong: mobile banking is — or at least should be — GREAT.  Mobile banking makes paying easier, more convenient, and can offer all sorts of cool features to boot.  Junk fees can be a headache, of course, but you don’t have to worry about that if you’ve got Refundo.  All in all, mobile banking is pretty awesome.

Rather, the negative effects of mobile banking result from the unintended consequences that come with any new invention.  Let us explain.  As soon as something new comes on the scene and becomes widely available, it renders old technologies obsolete.  That is, if it serves some kind of function better than the products that came before it.  This is what was illustrated last week with the example of the telegram and the telephone, but it holds just as well in the case of automobiles replacing the horse-and-buggy.

Obsolescence can mean hard times for those companies that haven’t managed to keep up with the times.  Hence Schumpeter’s old law of “creative destruction.”  New possibilities are opened, but the future for some of the old realities is closed.  Just as the old saying goes, this is “the price we sometimes have to pay for progress.”

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The Future of Banking - Part 1

Ross Wolfe on Nov 20, 2012

Soon enough we'll all be using one of these nifty gadgets! To transfer funds, no less!


The Creative Side of Going Mobile

The focus of this week’s blog post touches on a subject that’s very dear to the heart of Refundo: the future.  Like it or not, the past is over and done with.  The present, it turns out, is fleeting — it comes and goes in the blink of an eye.  No doubt some would prefer to return to the world of five, ten, or twenty years ago, or freeze things as they are now in hoping that nothing will ever change.  Sooner or later, though, we all end up in the future.  And insofar as Refundo wants to be part of that future, and keep providing our customers with the latest in banking technologies, it’s something we think about a lot.

So let’s start.  Where to begin?

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Who Prepares the Tax Preparer?

Ross Wolfe on Nov 13, 2012

An interview with Carlos Lopez of Latino Tax Professional Association

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Frankenbank, How to Prepare for the Frankenstorm.

Ross Wolfe on Nov 01, 2012

 Rising water from the Hudson River during super storm Sandy. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)


Mobile Banking During a Hurricane

One of the news stories that’s been largely overlooked in connection with Hurricane Sandy is the role played by mobile banking software in the lead-up and aftermath of the storm.  To some extent, this is wholly understandable.  With the high-water mark reaching close to 14’ in some areas of lower Manhattan and subway stations flooded with corrosive saltwater, there’s been more than enough for news stations to keep busy reporting on.

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RALs, RACs and Superheroes

Ross Wolfe on Oct 26, 2012

Refundo: Mild-mannered software programmers by day, superheroes by night?


The needs of the ordinary taxpayer — especially the underbanked and unbanked — have for too long now gone unmet.  Junk fees, hidden costs, and exorbitant rates for routine tax preparations act as financial disincentives for those who would otherwise save or invest and needlessly penalize those who are just trying to make ends meet.  To make matters worse, the ones hardest hit by these unnecessary charges are often those who can least afford it.  A recent study by the US Treasury Department has found that the people most reliant on Refund Anticipation Checks (RACs) and Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) to get quick cash are single parents, young adults, immigrants, active military personnel, and the working poor.

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Safety First! Our Shared Responsibility

Ross Wolfe on Oct 17, 2012

Like your parents and teachers always told you: “Safety first!”

 Mark your calendars! It’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.  Bet you didn’t know that.

These days it seems like just about everything gets its own holiday or month.  Once upon a time, federal gestures of recognition such as these mirrored meaningful shifts in governance and society at large.  Labor Day back in 1882 gave a nod to the growing strength of unions and industrial workers; Black History Month in 1970 acknowledged the success of the Civil Rights movement; National Women’s Day in 1909 celebrated the long-overlooked contribution of women to social life.

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