We Asked Daves About Dave, Marcus and Other First-Name Money Apps

Can these customers count on getting the help they need? (So far, none of the start-ups has called him for advice.)

The question is borne out by some pretty recent history.

Robinhood’s trading platform and messaging system melted down when the markets gyrated early this year. When it cut off certain trades altogether during the GameStop saga, users were furious about the lack of answers.

Dozens of lawsuits resulted, as well as a host of investigations, including the largest fine that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has ever imposed. During a congressional hearing in February, one lawmaker dialed Robinhood’s automated help line — and got a recorded message telling him to send an email. (The company has vowed to improve its customer service.)

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the emergence of these start-ups is the wildly different ways that they first present themselves to the world. Some have taken their cues from digital bank start-ups of yore, like Ally, and embraced concepts in their branding, with names like Aspiration and, more provocatively, Revolut.

Then there are Dave and the boys, a trend that came into broad view years ago with Charles Schwab and the digital bank offering it eventually introduced in the wake of its low-cost brokerage services. It advised anyone who would listen to “Talk to Chuck.”

Goldman Sachs, with all of its riches, could have bought just about any URL. It chose Marcus, after Marcus Goldman (tough luck, Samuel Sachs), as the bank, the quintessential Wall Street firm, tried to put a friendly face on a new retail banking operation.

Another app, Albert, has a standard debit-card offering plus a service it calls “Albert Genius,” powered, the company says, by a team of human financial experts. (Dave Davies’s legal first name is Albert, by the way.)