Archive for the ‘Personal Finance Management’ Category

Mint Launches Bill Reminders

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Mint has released a new feature, “bill reminders”, for their online PFM software. One awesome feature is that the reminders can be sent to you by SMS. You can read more here.

PFM Saved My Bacon

Over the weekend, I was collecting information to prepare for doing our taxes.  During my preparation, I needed to get some account information for 2010.  Unfortunately, for one bank, I could only view 6 months of history.  For another, I could only view 12 months.  With each bank, I could view 18 months of statements online, but didn’t feel like viewing each statement to get the information.  What I needed was a way to search and download the information I wanted.

After pondering it for a few minutes, I figured, there’s got to be an easier way.  Then I remembered, “duh, login to Mint to get it”.  After a quick search in Mint, I had all the information I needed and finished putting everything together.

Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed that neither of my banks offered more than 12 months of history (6 months seems to be the standard) and 18 months of eStatements.  Financial institutions are pushing their customers towards electronic services, but there is a time limit on available information.  The question I have is, “Why?”

For the bigger FIs that built their own online banking system, there is no excuse.  If I do a quick search online, I can find an external terabyte hard drive for less than $100.  When I last checked, I had over 7 GBs of space available for use in my Gmail account.  With the abundance of cheap storage, FIs can’t offer more than 12 months of transaction history and 18 eStatement files per account?

I’m willing to bet that if I download all my available transaction history and eStatements, it would take up less than 250 MB.  That is all the information for 15 accounts and 270 eStatement files.  I’m also including all loan history and check images in that number (but who writes a lot checks now-a-days?)

With online storage solutions like Amazon Web Services, there is no excuse for the larger FIs to not offer unlimited history and storage.  The smaller FIs have their vendor to blame.  They aren’t completely off the hook, however.  Their vendor will implement a larger storage solution as soon as a few FIs start complaining loudly and/or switching vendors. (With all their hype, I fully expect BankSimple to offer unlimited storage.)

So I hope you all start complaining to your FI, and they start complaining to their IT department or vendor.  If they want us to go the self-service route, then they need to enhance the service.  Otherwise, there’s always Mint.

Betting on PFM

March 28, 2011 2 comments

With so many articles about the benefits of PFM, you’d think you’d see more banks and credit unions jumping on the bandwagon.  The big boys are starting to offer it and you know we all like to follow the big banks.  But there seems to still be a lot of skepticism on offering the service.  One thing that decision makers seem to be unsure about is the ROI on offering the service.  I can understand the reluctance to charge for the service, but there is a customer segment that is more than willing to pay.

Small businesses seem to love what PFM can offer them.  PFM offers a better way to see the financial health of their business.  Interestingly enough, I haven’t heard anything about banks and credit unions offering a PFM solution to their business customers.  And business customers are proving that they are more than willing to pay for this type of service.  Just ask inDinero and 60mo.

Once again, banks and credit unions are missing out on a market that is interested in paying for a needed service.  Fortunately, customers would prefer to use their FI for this service.  However, they won’t wait forever for their FI to make up their mind and offer the service.

Photo by RambergMediaImages

Wesabe, We Hardly Knew You

July 1, 2010 2 comments

Wow.  I’m really sad to see Wesabe go; I was really rooting for this company.  Their technology was great and really helped transform PFM.  The Springboard application was also a cool idea.  I believe Wesabe was the first bank tech vendor to offer a way for banks and credit unions to signup for a customer facing service that would be active within 48 hours.  A lot of vendors could learn from that.  Sidenote: if I were a white-label OFM company, I’d look into buying this piece of technology from them.

But looking back, as much as I liked Wesabe, I didn’t really use the service that much.  Mint, on the other hand, I use at least once a month.  The reason for this?  I’m lazy.  One of Wesabe’s key points was that they didn’t store your online banking credentials.  You had to constantly upload your account information.  Mint, on the other hand, loaded it whenever you logged into their service.

I imagine that for a lot of people, this also made a difference.  Now, I don’t remember if Wesabe offered weekly alerts about your accounts, but I know Mint does.  Seeing those weekly emails and push notifications to my iPhone constantly reminded me about the service and reminded me to login and update my accounts.

So what does this mean to us financial folks?  It means that we need to stay in constant contact with our customers.  Customer apathy towards their FI helps increase the churn rate.  As we push our customers to online channels and branch traffic drops, contact becomes increasingly important.  Ron Shevlin’s post Why Engagement Matters and The Financial Brand’s post How To Build Relationships With Branch Avoiders are two great insights into this.  Otherwise, you could look up one day and wonder where all your customers went.

One bright side to all this is Wesabe will open source some of their technology.  I’ve been looking for a reason to build my Ruby on Rails chops and this looks like a great one.  I’m sure other developers are chomping at the bit also.

Related Posts:
Is PFM Really the Answer?
Wesabe Launches Springboard
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Buy ‘Em
No Know-How, No Order

iPad and Banking

April 8, 2010 3 comments

The Financial Brand sent an interesting tweet earlier: “If online banking works fine on iPads, then why would a financial institution ever need to build an iPad-specific app?”

Maybe it’s the geek in me, but I see the iPad as a way to redefine online banking.  While having lunch this week with a couple of co-workers and  Bryan Clagett (@clagett) of Geezeo, we talked about online banking in general.  Most FI customers currently go to their FI’s homepage and then go directly to online banking.  They never look over the other information that’s listed on the website.

I believe an iPad app can be more beneficial to customers.  For instance, you can push balance/transaction alerts.  You could also push alerts about rate changes and marketing events or even iAds.  An iPad app would give a FI the opportunity to make mobile banking more PFM like, which would be a much better experience.

My point is, if newspapers can see the benefit of having an app instead of just letting people go to their website, there must be some tangible benefit.  You’re only limited by your imagination.  I believe most online and mobile web banking experiences are pretty crappy.  The iPad gives you the outlet to really do it right.

Picture by d!zzy/flickr

Is PFM Really the Answer?

March 5, 2010 5 comments

While attending BarCampBankCharleston, I tweeted that “the jury is still out on bank benefits of offering PFM”.  The reason for this was because there aren’t a lot of numbers to back up the ROI of offering PFM.  I have heard that it can increase the retention for financial institutions.  But what is the current online usage for these FIs now?  Currently, 40% of our customers are actively using online banking.  I’ll let you marinate on that for a moment.

Ok.  Now, that wasn’t a typo.  We have 40% of our customers active on online banking.  70% of our customers have signed up for the service.  Heck, we haven’t even done a really hard push into mobile and we have 1% of our customers signed up after five months.  I think it took Bank of America a little over a year to get to that point in mobile banking customers.  Also, I believe 20% of FI customers actively using online banking is considered great.

So if we have 40% using online banking, what benefit would PFM bring us?  Personally, I think that the current online banking offerings suck when compared to PFM.  I’ve used Mint and Wesabe and seen demos for FinanceWorks, Jwaala and Yodlee.  Honestly, the experience on any of these is way better than what’s currently offered by online banking vendors.  Even Cisco’s Generation Y survey mentioned them wanting PFM type information offered by their banks.

But I’m not sold on adding PFM as another service.  What I really want is for my online banking to function more like a PFM.  The only things that are really missing from PFM are bill pay and transfers.  Digital Insight is in a unique position in that Intuit bought Mint.  I’m sure they’ll be phasing out FinanceWorks and switch everyone over to Mint.  But why not just turn Mint into their online banking system?

If I worked at a PFM vendor, this would be my biggest fear.  Customers want more financial advice and the social aspect that can be obtained from PFM.  FIs want the ability to easily market additional and new products.  Add in aggregating all your financial information, bill pay and internal/external transfers and you would have a killer online banking experience.

So now we know what the potential of online banking/PFM can be.  The question is, who’s going to step up and make it a reality for us first?

BarCampBankCharleston: Recap

March 1, 2010 1 comment

Well, we finally pulled BarCampBankCharleston off.  Although there were only six of us in attendance, I believe everyone felt that the event was very rewarding.

Jared Smith (@jaredwsmith) from ReadWriteWeb kicked off the first session with a talk about social media.  Because it was mostly First Federal employees at the event, he geared his talk towards how we used social media.

Since we already have a Facebook page and twitter account (@firstfederal), he gave us some ideas about how we could use these sites for lead generation.  One example was using geo-targeting in advanced search on Twitter to target prospective customers.  Another was using Collecta for real-time search about any posts about our bank.

He seemed impressed with what we’re currently doing.  One thing he mentioned was not sending private information through social media.  He said that personally, he would feel very uncomfortable contacting his bank with confidential information through such a channel.

Next, Adrienne Cobbs, from First Federal, gave a presentation on business continuity plans.  Some things she talked about were recovery and resumption tasks for critical business processes, alternative facilities and establishing reliable communications with employees and customers.

She mentioned that continually testing your plan was critical.  A disaster is a poor time to find out that your offsite changed the tape backups and yours’ are no longer compatible or the phone system only has one working line.

Using social media was also brought up as a way to keep employees and customers informed.  For instance, if our website was down, we could post information on our Facebook page and use Yammer to get information to employees.  Keeping the media informed was also a key point.

Finally, Quintin Sykes (@bank_daddy) from Cornerstone Advisors spoke about trends in the banking industry.  One thing that stood out to me was the payments space.  Phone manufacturers seem to be holding off on NFC until the merchants have their systems in place.  But the merchants are waiting until customers have devices that can use NFC.  Classic chicken and egg scenario.  Also, there are many vendors but universal standards haven’t been set yet.

Another thing was the jury is still out on the benefits of PFM.  Although I’ve heard that it helps drive up retention rates, hard numbers haven’t been issued.  So if banks can’t quantify a ROI, they will be reluctant to jump into offering the product.  I plan to discuss my thoughts about this in a later post.

Overall, I think BarCampBank was a success and I look forward to helping organize another one next year.  We’ll really have to get the word out and let people know that collaboration is a good thing.  Just knowing about new tools and what the future for the industry holds is valuable stuff that we can all use.  I’d also like to thank our sponsors: ECPI College of Technology, ClairMail and Cornerstone Advisors. See you next year.

Wesabe Launches Springboard

November 25, 2009 7 comments

Skipper: Kowalski, options.
Kowalski: Just one, close your eyes so you don’t see it coming.

“The Penguins of Madagascar”

Wesabe recently announced their Springboard web application for banks and credit unions.  In case you missed it, Springboard is an online PFM that can be branded by any financial institution (FI) that signs up for the service.

While I think Springboard is a great way for FIs to finally take a leap into offering an online PFM service, I’m more curious of how banking tech vendors will view this new service.

Wesabe is doing something that is unheard of in the financial industry.  They are offering an online, consumer facing banking product that a FI can have up and running in HOURS.  Think about that for a moment.  Your FI’s CIO could go the Springboard website, select the plan she wants, break out the corporate credit card, and have an online PFM product running for their customers in a day or two at most.

I don’t know of another banking tech vendor that offers implementation like this.  No salesperson to haggle over features and pricing. No project manager to coordinate all the departments needed to make it happen.  Just five minutes to fill out the registration form.

I believe this is another sign of Chris Skinner’s idea of banking-as-a-service coming true.

Photo by Jeff Howard

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Buy ‘Em

September 15, 2009 1 comment

The big news today was being bought by Intuit.  My guess is Intuit was worried about this new upstart that had astronomical growth in an area they assumed they had on lock.  It makes you wonder whether the threatening letter Intuit sent to Mint was just a way to gauge Mint’s success.

I see this as a great move by Intuit.  FinanceWorks is, well, not as good as the other web PFMs that are available.  A year ago, Mint, Wesabe and Jwaala all had features that I don’t think FinanceWorks has to this day.  From what I’ve seen in my usage, Mint really gets the whole web PFM space.  With Intuit, I see the small business demographic really being helped.