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Finovate Debuts: MaxMyInterest from Six Trees Capital

MaxMyInterestLogo_FF2014

The Finovate Debuts series introduces new Finovate alums. This past September, Six Trees Capital made its Finovate Debut with MaxMyInterest, an innovative cash management solution for high net worth individuals and their families.

MaxMyInterest

From Six Trees Capital, MaxMyInterest is an automated cash management technology that dynamically allocates cash balances between online savings accounts to ensure FDIC insurance coverage while earning superior yields. Financial institutions gain wallet share and increase customer stickiness from high-net-worth clients.
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The Stats
  • Founded in July 2013
  • Headquartered in New York City, NY
  • Gary Zimmerman is CEO and Founder
  • Technology launched in April 2014
The Story
Some technology, as the saying goes, is almost indistinguishable from magic. Other technology, is almost indistinguishable from “why in the world didn’t I think of that!?”
MaxMyInterest was initially developed as a way to preserve capital rather than a way of helping grow it. Founder and CEO Gary Zimmerman was working as an investment banker recently relocated to Japan when the financial crisis hit in 2008. And to put it mildly, his experience trying to manage and reallocate his cash from the other side of the world in the midst of global financial turmoil was instructive. 
Sure, the FDIC would insure cash deposits up to $100,000 (the limit before October 2008). But as far as the rest of Zimmerman’s cash was concerned, it was every dollar for itself.
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Zimmerman found himself manually moving hundreds of thousands of dollar around from one newly-opened online bank account to the next for three years. And in the process, he realized he had earned tens of thousands of dollars in interest shuffling his money around. In the beginning, Zimmerman explains, it had “nothing to do with interest rates – just protecting the cash.” But his revelation after three years of manual cash management had him thinking: hmmm, if only we could automate this …
The Solution
So what does MaxMyInterest do and how does it do it? Put simply, MaxMyInterest lets high-net-worth savers, those for whom the FDIC’s $250,000 insurance limit is not enough, move their cash holdings dynamically to whichever account provides the highest rate of interest. The money movement is automatic and keeps cash savings accounts under $250,000 so that depositors can make the most of FDIC insurance guarantees. 
Signing up is straightforward. Members link a checking account and at least one savings account in a process that takes less than 15 minutes. Users set up a Target Balance, which tells Max how much money to keep in the checking account. The rest of the cash is allocated into the highest yielding FDIC-insured savings accounts available in a process MaxMyInterest calls “optimizing”. Optimization takes place monthly, but the company says that rebalancing with greater frequency is possible.
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Members track their balances, the status of the optimization or transfer, and have access to their cash at any time (except during the 2-3 day ACH transfer). MaxMyInterest also has an “Intelligent Funds Transfer” feature that allows members to transfer funds back and forth between checking and savings with a single click. Note that Max ever takes actual custody of the funds of its members. 
The service costs 0.02% of the cash being optimized each quarter, or 0.08% per year. This is competitive with money market management fees which can range as high as 0.16%. Zimmerman said his platform can deliver cash returns of 0.80% net of fees.
Where can you use MaxMyInterest? The technology is compatible with checking accounts at:
    • Bank of America
    • Citibank
    • First Republic Bank
    • JPMorgan/Chase
    • Wells Fargo
MaxMyInterest is also compatible with FDIC-insured online savings accounts at:
    • Ally Bank
    • American Express
    • Barclays
    • Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct)
    • GE Capital
The Technology
Zimmerman admits that initially he wasn’t sure that “MaxMyInterest the Concept” could actually be turned into “MaxMyInterest the Product.” “There’s a lot of difference between having an idea and executing an idea,” he said. Then after four months of work proved that the cash management solution could be built, the sprint to see just how fast it could be built was on. And while there were plenty of moving parts, working with banks and navigating their various security protocols proved to be the biggest challenge.
Zimmerman and Director of Engineering Richard Wu turned to a major security firm to help them build out the architecture and do the requisite testing. The goal was to make MaxMyInterest as secure as the banks they worked with. The lack of common standards for interfacing with the banks was one challenge, especially when much of it was automated. “There were a lot of solutions available,” said Wu, “but none really worked for us.”
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Starting from the ground up, they were able to construct a platform with a simple user interface, smooth and prompt execution, and security strong enough to convince major banks like Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo to make the service available. 
The Future
Why do banks like MaxMyInterest? Zimmerman admits that some banks he thought wouldn’t like his cash management service actually did. “A lot of banks have a problem with clients holding too much cash,” he said. MaxMyInterest also gives banks the opportunity for competitive advantage. Brick-and-mortar banks can be at a disadvanta
ge of as much as 150 basis points compared to online banks, Zimmerman explained. And online banks pass this savings on to their customers in the former of better returns on cash.
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With MaxMyInterest, banks can offer higher yielding opportunities to their clients. “The irony,” he said, “was that by reducing the stickiness of bank deposits, you increase the stickiness of bank relationships.” Zimmerman thinks that early adopters of his technology will have a major advantage over those that hesitate.

For many in fintech, “cash” is simply shorthand for paper bills and coins. But in reality, “cash” is a $12 trillion dollar field of assets sitting idly in banks and money market funds. “The average American is 40% in cash,” said Zimmerman, cash that is paying on average between zero and 0.15% annual percentage yield. 
MaxMyInterest helps high net worth savers make the best of a low-interest rate world by automatically moving cash to online banks where yields are greater (averaging between 0.75% and 0.95% APY).  And if Zimmerman and his team are able to grow MaxMyInterest in the current environment, it is easy to imagine a bright future for the company – and its members – as online savings options grow and interest rates (eventually) normalize and begin to move higher.