PFMs Are Top Browser “Money” Plugins for Google Chrome

image While they are overshadowed by the hundreds of thousands of mobile apps, there is a growing eco-system of plugins and apps for use with desktop browsers. I recently poked around in the Money section of Google’s Chrome Web Store.

Not surprisingly, Google Finance was the most popular with almost 300,000 users. Mint was second at about half that (160,000 users). No one else was close (see table below).

Of the top 11 money plugins, six were PFMs: Mint, Finance 41, CashBase, PocketSmith, Easy Envelope Budget, and Toshl. Four were investing related, and Zillow tracks residential real estate (note 1).

One surprise: There was just one U.S. financial in the store. BofA? Fidelity? PayPal? No, it was Mountain America Credit Union (screenshot below). There were several international financial institutions in the store as well (Maybank, BBVA, Bradesco).

Bottom line: With 700,000 total users across the top-11 apps, this is a niche market so far, and could remain that way. But interestingly, it’s another place where Mint dominates.


Table: 11 Most Popular Chrome Extension
in the “Money” Category

Name Users Type
1. Google Finance 283,000 Investing
2. Mint 161,000 PFM
3. Zillow 49,000 Real estate
4. Finance 41 41,000 PFM
5. Cash Base 35,000 PFM
6t. Pocketsmith 34,000 PFM
6t. Wikinvest 34,000 Investing
8. WealthLift 28,000 Investing
9. Free Stock Charts 20,000 Investing
10. Easy Envelope Budget 18,000 PFM
11. Toshl 15,000 PFM
TOTAL 710,000

Source: Google, 18 Jan 2013


Mountain American Credit Union extension for Google Chrome browser (link)
Note: The app currently has 127 users

Mountain American Credit Union extension for Google Chrome browser

PFM Toshl featured in the Google Chrome Web Store (link, 18 Jan 2013)
Third-party PFM Toshl was one of the featured apps in the broader Lifestyle Category. They have about 15,000 users, making it the 10th most popular app in the Money category.

PFM Toshl featured in the Google Chrome Web Store  


1. And Finovate alums are well represented. In addition to Mint, Pocketsmith and Wikinvest, BillGuard, FutureAdvisor, Xero, ImpulseSave and SmartyPig (previous post) have plugins.
2. For our take on PFMs, see our May 2010 Online Banking Report (subscription).

SmartyPig Launches OneClick, Goal-Based Savings Account Browser Plugin


It’s not easy making savings accounts sexy, but Social Money, with its GoalSaver and SmartyPig brands, is trying. The latest innovation? A Google Chrome browser extension called SmartyPig OneClick (link), that allows users to create savings goals on the fly while shopping online.

The service launched last week and can be found in the Extensions: Shopping section of the Chrome app store. The app has 30 users according to stats displayed in the store. In comparison, the most popular shopping extension, from Amazon, has more than 600,000 users.

The SmartyPig OneClick system can be licensed by banks looking to juice their savings account feature set.

How it works
smartypig_browserbutton_300.jpg1. Install from Google Play app-store (see screenshot 1 below)

2. A SmartyPig icon is added to the upper right of the browser (see inset)

3. When shopping online (at any website), users click on the SmartyPig icon in the upper right, which launches a popup (screenshot 2)

4. After logging in (screenshot 3), users establish a goal and automatic savings plan to fund the purchase of the desired item (screenshots 4 & 5). SmartyPig automatically imports the item’s price and image and stores it for the user at 



Goal-based savings is an important feature to add to online banking (note 1). And shopping helpers are a relatively popular browser extension (Amazon’s Chrome extension has 600,000 users). So marrying the two is an interesting play.

Will this boost savings-account balances? Perhaps a little. But the more important FI benefit is getting a branded button in the corner of the user’s browser (whether anyone will remember it’s there is another matter). That’s a bit of a Trojan Horse that can be used for a variety of services (note 2).

Bottom line: I like SmartyPig’s move. Smartphones have conditioned users to look for specialized apps. I believe consumers will use full-featured online banking via direct desktop links (see also Mint’s QuickView). Although, it will take education and marketing support.


1. Installing browser extensions is a painless process (Chrome store link)
Note: Users must allow SmartyPig to “access your data on all websites” and “access your tabs and browsing activity.” The first one is likely to give users pause.


2. Creating a goal on the fly while shopping


3. Login to SmartyPig via popup box


4. Confirm the savings goal


5. Customize the savings goal


1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report (Nov. 2008, subscription) detailing various ways to leverage your online/mobile channel to boost deposits.
2. Long ago, we wrote a report (Aug 2002, subscription) on ways to put your bank onto the computer desktop. The strategy is still the same, though the specific techniques are somewhat different today.

Innovations Don’t Always Work: PayPal to Discontinue Browser Plug-in

image For years I’ve longed for a financial institution-delivered browser plugin that would help manage receipts, verify available funds, complete online forms, and provide secure payment options at legitimate ecommerce sites. The PayPal browser plugin, launched less than three years ago, offered most of that, in theory. 

I used it successfully a few times, but too often it popped up offering assistance when I didn’t need it. So I disabled it. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who found it not worth the hassle (for more insight into the problems, read the comment thread and updates to the original announcement post). The company is pulling the plug on the service next month.

Now that PayPal’s plugin is off my computer, it’s time to give Billeo’s another try. I used previous versions in the past, but hadn’t given it a thorough test since I moved to a Mac for most Internet browsing.

PayPal login splash screen (link, 9 August 2010)



Note: We wrote about plugins, toolbars, and tools in Online Banking Report: Grabbing Desktop Mindshare (published Aug. 2002).

Mortgagebot Offers Custom Mortgage Rates Widget

Mortgagebot widget for Fairwinds Credit Union Mortgagebot LLC, the online mortgage spinoff from M&I, has introduced an online widget for its clients (see Fairwinds CU version inset). The widget allows users to keep current mortgage rates visible on their desktop.

Typically, it would appeal primarily to someone currently in the market for a mortgage or refi where an 1/8 difference in rate can add up to thousands over the life of the loan. 

So far, seven of Mortgagebot's 600 clients have posted the widget at Yahoo's widget center; however, many more offer the service through their websites.

The first widget posted on Yahoo was uploaded Aug. 28 for Northwest Savings Bank and has been downloaded 711 times. In total, the Mortgagebot widget has been downloaded 2,200 times.

  • Northwest Savings Bank (national), 711 downloads since Aug. 28
  • Fairwinds Credit Union (Florida), 215 downloads since Sept. 27
  • Vista Federal Credit Union (California), 330 downloads since Sept. 27
  • Gateway Community Bank (Iowa, Nebraska), 275 downloads since Oct. 2
  • Northwest Bank (national), 351 downloads
    since Oct. 3 
  • Macon Bank (North Carolina), 216 downloads
    since Oct. 12
  • Riverside Bank of Florida, 127 downloads
    since Oct. 12

For more information on creating a desktop presence, read Online Banking Report #85, Grabbing Desktop Mindshare. Also see our previous coverage here.

billQ Bill Payment Mac Widget Released

Billq_widgetOur most recent OBR Best of the Web winner (NB Sep 1), Seen Creative's billQ, has achieved another industry first, a bill payment-tracking widget for Apple Mac users (here's where you can download it from Apple's site).

The widget allows Mac users to drop a small billQ screen right onto their desktop (see NB 2 May 2005). It allows users to see what bills are due and mark them as paid without ever leaving their desktop.

The widget can also be downloaded at billQ's website <>.

Desktop Financial Marketing Demand

Southwest_ding_screenIn a study released by market researcher Compete, Inc. <>, online users surveyed overwhelmingly said they wanted more information from their financial service providers, and they were willing to download a special application or plug-in to facilitate the information exchange (click on inset to see closeup of Southwest Airlines DING service).

Key findings:

  • 73% would like to be made more aware of new offerings and services
  • 69% would download a desktop application so that they could receive useful information from their financial services provider on a regular basis
  • 78% would do so if the program protected them from fraud
  • 5% would be unwilling to go online to receive information from financial services

The success of Southwest Airline’s DING service (NetBanker Dec 5), which puts Southwest right on the computer desktop, along with toolbars from eBay, Google, and most recently Bank of America (NetBanker Dec 12), have not gone unnoticed in the financial services community. Until email trust issues are solved, which may take three or four years, a direct connection to the user’s desktop makes good business sense. As Compete’s data shows, more than three-quarters of consumers said they would download a desktop application, as long as they felt it would be a security improvement to do so.

Financial institutions should try to add a "safe and secure" theme to all account management tools, from email alerts to electronic statements and more.


Bank of America’s New Security Toolbar

Bofa_toolbar_closeupBank of America launched a co-branded version of Earthlink’s toolbar designed to prevent users from surfing to fraudulent websites. Of note is its official name, Bank of America Toolbar Powered by Earthlink. It’s highly unusual for a bank, especially the largest consumer bank in the country, to give a partner such high billing. Our guess, although unconfirmed, is that Earthlink is paying the bank for the product placement.

In a similar manner to eBay’s toolbar released in 2002, the BofA/Earthlink version uses red, green, and yellow lights to indicate whether a website is known to be safe (green), known to be fraudulent (red), or unknown Bofa_homepage(yellow). A popup blocker is also included. The toolbar is free and can be downloaded by any Internet Explorer for Windows user, you do not have to be a customer of the bank or Earthlink. According to Earthlink, a Mac version will be available soon. The toolbar does not work in other browsers.

The toolbar was announced in a press release today, and is accessible from a small link on the right of the homepage (click on inset for a closeup).

Bank of America’s toolbar is the first of what we expect to be a major source of differentiation during the next five years: the branded desktop presence (see OBR 85, for more information). The Scamblocker toolbar is a relatively low-tech entry into the space. More sophisticated offerings, such as Southwest Airlines Ding (NetBanker, 5 Dec), are on the way later this year, if not at BofA, then at its U.S. competitors.


Southwest’s DING Widget Marketing Growth

Southwest_ding_downloadsOnline marketing consultancy Compete <> released interesting results today about the popularity and effectiveness of the DING!, the innovative desktop application that Southwest Airlines released earlier this year (see NetBanker 4 March 2005).

According to the Boston-based firm, the Southwest application has been downloaded almost 1 million times this year (click on inset for closer view). More importantly, DING! users are 45% more likely to book through Southwest than non-DING users leading to more than $60 million in incremental bookings this year. Southwest_ding_icon_1

These 1 million DING users join the nearly 20 million using similar toolbar-based programs from Google, Ebay, and many others.

In related research, Compete’s recent study of online banking users found widespread interest among consumers in receiving MORE information from their financial services providers:

  • 73% indicated a desire for more information on new offerings and services
  • 69% would download a desktop app (such as DING!) to receive useful info on a regular basis; 78% would do so if the application helped protect against fraud
  • Only 5% indicated an unwillingness to use the online channel for information

The next two years are an ideal window to launch a direct-to-the-desktop application like DING or a toolbar-based interface such as Google Toolbar or Billeo. A significant number of users have grown accustomed to the technology, while at the same time, due to widespread phishing and spam, email has become less effective for online marketing.

Going direct to the desktop provides a secure, trusted pipe directly to the user where you can deliver account-related info, triggered messaging, service announcements, and the occasional sales message.

For more information, see Online Banking Report #85, Grabbing Desktop Mindshare, published in 2002.


Improving Your Bank’s Desktop Marketing Presence with Widgets

Konfabulator_logoIt’s been three years since our last report on improving your bank’s visibility on the PC desktop (Grabbing Desktop Mindshare, OBR 85). Back then, Google and eBay had just launched toolbars and we were advising banks to improve their desktop positioning through buttons, bars, and various browser plug-ins.

While there’s been less progress than we anticipated, several new services this year demonstrate the potential:

Yahoo_savings_meter_closeupIf you are looking for inspiration, check out Yahoo’s Konfabulator, a program that lets Windows  and Mac users add spiffy utilities to their PC desktop, such as a calendar or system performance monitor. Yahoo_savings_bell_1

There are several widgets of interest to bankers. Two savings meters (see above and right) allow users to track progress towards savings goals. This would be a good way to support and add value to your deposit accounts.


Billeo’s Business Model is B2B

We finally had a chance to talk to Billeo founder and CEO, Raj Lalwani. First last Thursday, then a followup demo today.

I am happy to report the CEO is as impressive as the software.

And it turns out their business model is more B2B than B2C. Billeo will be custom-designing toolbars for banks, credit card issuers, other ecommerce players, such as retailers, travel booking sites, and yes, even billers. They hope to announce a HUGE customer win in the next few weeks. 

We think this application has great promise

We will dissect the company in the next issue of Online Banking Report (available online approximately April 12).

Previous articles can be found here.


Update on Billeo Bill Payment Toolbar

Billeo_billboardSince our <a href="initial report on Billeo, we’ve been using the system to pay and view bills. It’s a new category of software we’ll call toolbar-ware.

The primary user interface is an toolbar located near the top of Internet Explorer. Many of the toolbar functions call-out web pages from the Billeo server, so as you use the program it ends up being a mix of website and toolbar functions. It’s actually a bit confusing for the new user.

Part of the reason it’s not as intuitive as the Google or eBay toolbar, is that the user must learn an entirely new approach to tracking their billing. Whereas, with eBay and Google, most toolbar users are already well-versed in the nuances of using those popular sites.

Billeo_adsWe’ve also discovered their business model, running Google-like ads that run on the right of the page as you use the program. Click on the screenshot above to see the entire page. See left for the advertising section only.

Currently the advertisers running on the Billeo Billboard are ING Direct, The Wall Street Journal, Quicken Loans, and Value Line. The advertisers all stayed the same during our testing.

Bottom line: It’s a great program, and we recommend banks consider developing a similar toolbar which also incorporates banking functions, or licensing this one from Billeo. We’ll be publishing a complete review of Billeo in OBR #116, published in mid-April.

For more information:


Editor’s Note: Billeo was named "OBR Best of the Web" in the second part of its series on E-Payments (OBR 119) published in June 2005. 

Southwest’s Ding Marketing Direct to the Desktop

Southwest_ding_icon Southwest Airlines, the cheeky U.S. discounter, has just launched a desktop alert system, aptly called Ding, that bypasses the entire spam-clogged email system and delivers alerts to the Windows system tray. It works much like WeatherBug, the popular weather application with more than 10 million users. Southwest_desktop_alerts

When a new fare becomes available, Southwest plays an audible tone and inserts an envelope over the Ding icon in the Windows system tray (see graphic right–click to enlarge). Users can click on the icon to launch the Southwest website and act on the special offer.

You’d have to be a real Southwest frequent-flyer nut to want the airline dinging you with messages every day. But since most companies make 80% of their profits from 20% of their customers, this is probably a savvy move from the airline.

Certainly, Southwest knows what it’s doing. And since they do not sell tickets via other online travel services, they especially need this unique corridor to their best customers.

This approach could do wonders for a bank’s online delivery. Instead of trying to wind your way through your customer’s clogged in-box with alerts and marketing messages, drop an account balance alert onto their desktop every day. See Online Banking Report #85, Grabbing Desktop Mindshare, for more information on delivering financial services directly to the desktop.