Apple iPhone Print Advertisements Feature Personal Finance Apps

image_thumb8Apple must be one of the more lucrative advertisers these days at the Wall Street Journal. Apple has bought the back page more times than I can count to show off the iPhone and more-importantly, the diversity of applications available (see inset, note 1).

Lately, Apple has run “theme” ads showing applications related to a single category. Last week (Thurs, 9 April), the back of the A section showed personal finance apps (see left column below). Yesterday, the apps all supported small business and ran on the back of Marketplace (B) section (see right column below).

The only app to make both lists: personal finance superstar, Mint, which even scored top billing in the personal finance page, occupying the upper-left corner, where it’s blurb would likely score the highest readership. 

The Apple website also has themed app guides. The managing money page (see screenshot below) features again features Mint, which gets the biggest graphic, Bank of America, who’s app was featured in dozens of Apple ads in 2008 and earlier this year, Bloomberg, Gas Cubby, iXpenseIt, Save Benjis, and Home Finder.

Bottom line: Financial institutions should think about how to add similar money management functionality to their mobile and online offers. As Aite’s Ron Shevlin pointed out in a comment here last week (emphasis added):

…..(the FinovateStartup participants) you talk about are helping people manage their financial lives, while the banks are [still] focused on helping people manage their financial accounts.

Big difference.

Table: iPhone apps listed in recent WSJ ads (clockwise from upper left)

Personal Finance Theme Small Business Theme
Helping you stretch your budget, one app at a time. Helping you run your small business, one app at a time.
Date: 9 April 2009 Date: 15 April 2009
Mint.com (PFM) Credit card terminal
Gas Cubby (mileage tracker) Print & share (document management)
Spotasaurus (parking finder) FedEx Mobile
RepairPal (mechanic finder) Jott (voice recording/transcription)
AllRecipes.com (recipe finder) iXpenseIt (expense report mgmt)
GoodGuide (product finder) Jobs – Time Tracking
WootWatch (cheap gadgets) Analytics App (website analytics)
Save Benjis (shopping comparison) LinkedIn
RN Dining (rewards dining) LogMeIn (remote computer access)
Find an Apartment YellowPages.com
Cellfire (mobile coupons) Mint.com
Barista (how to guide) Quicksheet (spreadsheet)
Wi-Fi finder Air Sharing (file manager)
CompareMe (price calculator) Nomina (name/trademark search)
Loan Shark (loan tool) SimpleMind Xpress (brainstorming)
Small Spend (mini PFM) Keynote Remote (presentation tool)

Apple’s Money Management page on its Website (link, 16 Apr 2009)

image_thumb1

Notes:
1. My apologies for the image quality, taken via iPhone naturally.
2. For more info, see our latest Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.

Will the Online Personal Finance Specialists Survive?

image I love personal financial management websites. Not so much for the reality, actually I hate tracking expenses, but for the promise. The illusion of having everything under control, never overdrafting, never missing a payment, and with perfectly-shaded multi-color pie charts just a click away (inset from Mint). 

But I’ve always thought that once banks and credit unions added basic PFM functions to their online banking services (see note 1), it’s game-over for most independent PFM sites. They would have to either license their platform to financial institutions, sell out, or close their doors.

Now I’m not so sure.

Mint did something recently that made me reconsider. It was really pretty simple when you think about it. Yet as far as I know, no bank, card issuer, or even credit union has ever taken this on. 

The Mountain View, CA-based startup scanned their members’ credit card statements to identify bogus charges from a known scam. And the company plans to make the resulting fraud alert service a standard part of its offering.  

From American Banker (23 Jan 2009):

Mint Software Inc. is planning to roll out a tool that will automatically scan its 800,000 users’ accounts for potentially bogus charges….Aaron Patzer, Mint’s founder and chief executive, said the idea for the new product came after his company heard of a scam involving Adele Services of Melville, N.Y., a bogus merchant that was making 25-cent charges to millions of consumer accounts. The news was widely reported, and Mint decided to check its users’ accounts its to see if any had been affected; it found 800 that were.

Score 1 for the upstarts.

Bottom line: If the online PFM purveyors harness technology to take better care of banking customers than the banks themselves, especially with practical, money-saving ways such as Wesabe’s Cutback Tool (below), the newcomers have a bright future indeed.

image

Note: For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features for Online Banking.

Mint, Quicken Online Release Registered-User Totals

mint_logoWe’ve regularly cited third-party estimates of website traffic to Mint and other PFMs. More often that not, we’ll get a comment or email taking us to task for using such inexact and/or irrelevant data. But we believe that website traffic, even a rough approximation, is a leading indicator of success.  image

Luckily, we now have better metrics for the two online leaders. In response to what appears to be a truth-in-advertising query from Intuit’s general counsel (see note 1), Mint disclosed its registered-user count (note 2), which has been growing at an average of 17% per month in Q4 2008 and so far in this year. 

As of yesterday, Mint had 934,000 users, double third quarter’s end-count. That’s 3,400 new registered users per day (seven days a week), almost 25,000 per week. The company should pass one million before St. Patrick’s day.

While this growth in registered users is impressive, what’s truly astonishing is that 70% of the registered users, 680,000 so far, have entered at least one bank or credit card username/password in order to automatically download transactions into Mint.

In response to Mint’s disclosure, Quicken Online reported its 650,000 registered users, currently growing at a 45,000-per-week clip. If that continues, they’ll pass one million before the April tax deadline.

It looks like there’s quite a battle shaping up between the two leading online personal finance specialists. And don’t overlook the banks. Both Bank of America (2.5 mil as of April 2008) and Wells Fargo (1 mil as of Nov 2008) have more online personal finance users at this point.

What it means: Account aggregation, left for dead a few years ago, is making a fearsome comeback. The three biggest players, Bank of America, Mint, and Quicken Online, now have more than 4 million registered users, approximately 4% of all U.S. banking households (note 3).

Table: Mint Registered Users by Month

Month-End Registered Users* Monthly
Gain
Month/Month
% Gain
Aug 2008 404,000
Sep 2008 458,000 54,000 13%
Oct 2008 544,000 96,000 21%
Nov 2008 606,000 62,000 11%
Dec 2008 720,000 114,000 19%
Jan 2009** 864,000** 144,000** 20%**
Feb 2009*** 934,000***
Avg gain/mo 94,000 17%

Source: Mint, Feb. 2009
*Registered users are anyone who has signed up with email address
** Through Jan 25 (per Mint letter, 28 Jan)
***Through Feb 19 (per
TechCrunch post, 19 Feb)

Notes:
1. Intuit’s letter to Mint here.
2. Mint’s response here.
3. Yodlee provides the aggregation engine for both Bank of America and Mint.
4. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Account Aggregation and Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features

Online Personal Finance Traffic Soars; Mint Passes One Million Unique Visitors

imageJanuary is always a great month for personal finance. Consumers working off holiday spending binges and/or attempting to live up to New Years resolutions naturally find their way to personal financial management sites. It’s especially pronounced this year as consumers try to better understand their spending and manage for the downturn.

So it’s not surprising to see that traffic grew by 300,000 unique visitors in January (+20%) compared to December. Total traffic was up 4.5-fold at sites open for a year or more (see Table 1). Including the class of 2008, total traffic was 2.0 million, a five-fold increase from a year ago.

Highlights:

  • Mint had another great month, increasing site visitors by about 200,000, a five-fold increase in the past year. Mint’s gain in January was more than that total traffic of all nine 2008 newcomers combined. Mint had a 60% market share of the total of 1.8 million visitors in the category, about the same as December.  image
  • Geezeo continued its wicked pace, growing 30% during the month, and posting a 12-fold increase over a year ago.
  • Quicken Online, which launched in January 2008, more than doubled visitors to 150,000 compared to December. However, traffic at Quicken is hard to compare to other sites due to the massive traffic at its parent site: for example, <quicken.intuit.com> received 1.2 million visitors and <intuit.com> website had more than 10 million. 
  • image Wesabe was the only site, of those open for a year or more, that turned in a traffic decline, falling more than 30% in the month. However, keep in mind the Compete estimates are derived from an online panel and are not always accurate, especially for sites in the low six-figures or less. The company said that it had record page views in January. That includes both U.S. traffic, measured by Compete, and international visitors.
  • BudgetTracker also turned in amazing results, nearly doubling its traffic to an imageestimated 27,000 visitors.
  • Of the 2008 startups (see Table 2), Thrive was the only one showing strong growth, increasing 50% over the previous month. On Friday the company was acquired by Lending Tree for an undisclosed amount.

Table 1: Traffic at online PFMs launched more than one year ago

  Jan 2009 Dec 2008 Jan 2008 YOY Chg
Mint 1.1 mil 890,000 200,000 5.2x
Geezeo 220,000 170,000 18,000 12x
Yodlee 120,000 100,000 84,000 44%
Finicity/Mvelopes 100,000 71,000 91,000 10%
Wesabe 89,000 140,000 56,000 60%
BudgetTracker 27,000 14,000 15,000 86%
Buxfer 22,000 15,000 13,000 78%
PearBudget 12,000 7,600 4,200 3x
ClearCheckbook
BudgetPulse
11,000
8,200
9,100
4,300
4,600
2,200
2.3x
3.6x
Total 1.7 mil 1.4 mil 490,000 4.5x

Table 2: Traffic at the online PFM class of 2008

  Jan 2009 Dec 2008 Month Chg
Quicken Online 150,000 53,0
00
1.8x
PNC Virtual Wallet 41,000 45,000 (9%)
Rudder 39,000 61,000 (35%)
Thrive 21,000 14,000 52%
Scred 2,600 630 4x
Expensr 2,500 3,700 (32%)
RateSurfer 2,100 3,600 (41%)
Expensify 1,400 600 2.5x
Banzai 1,300 1,500 (15%)
GreenSherpa 400 ina
iThryv 210 2,100 (90%)
Total 260,000 185,000 41%

Source: Compete, 7 Feb. 2009; estimates of monthly unique visitors from the United States

*The percent changes were calculated from the underlying data set and due to rounding of the monthly traffic figures; the percentages may look slightly off

Note: For more information on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features and Online Banking Report on Social Personal Finance.

Chase Bank, Mint Top the Charts with New iPhone Apps

imageimage No one knows for sure how Apple compiles the list of its top-selling iPhone apps, but it’s related to how many are sold during the past few hours. I’ve seen speculation that the measurement period is 2 hours (see note 1).

But there is no doubt about the benefits of rising to the top. The winner receives prime exposure in the iTunes Store and on the iPhone itself (see screenshots below).

I’ve checked the Finance category rankings dozens of times since the store opened in July, and the top app had always been Bloomberg with Bank of America usually the runnerup.

But Friday, a new top seller emerged in the Free list in the Finance category (note 2), Chase Mobile  while Bloomberg and BofA were each knocked down a spot to numbers 2 and 3. The Chase app was released just one week ago (12 Dec). But by Saturday morning (20 Dec), Chase had already been replaced at the top by online personal finance startup Mint, which released its iPhone app Monday (15 Dec), but it didn’t show up in the iTunes store until 1 AM Friday.  Mint stayed at the top all weekend and is still number one now (10 AM Pacific, 22 Dec).

imageIn the screenshot below and right, you can see the free publicity derived from holding the top spot. Also, note that you should put your name into the application. Bank of America, ranked number 3, neglected to include its name in the title, so it loses some branding value. Although, they would have to use BofA to fit into the space.  

Chase App (link to iphone App)
The Chase app itself is attractive and is similar to Bank of America’s with a login button to the website and an ATM/branch-finder utility. As of this evening, 64 reviews have been posted with an average 3.5-star rating out of five, slightly better than the 3-star rating of Bank of America’s iPhone app with similar features.

Mint App (link to iPhone app)
As expected from a company that is carefully using design to help distinguish it from the pack, Mint’s new app is great looking. Across all aggregated accounts, the mobile app shows account balances, transactions, and progress towards budget goals. A nifty alerts icon on the bottom provides a convenient way for users to keep tabs on important info on the go.

Another difference from most banking apps: Mint lets users choose whether they want password protection enabled after their initial login. If you choose to log out, then the app erases all data in memory, and you must log back in next time. If you choose not to log out, then your data remains visible until the next visit with no login required (note 4). This is a great convenience, but something that may not be allowed at regulated financial institutions.

Some users have reported trouble with the app on older phones. On my first-generation iPhone running version 2.1 software, the Mint app wouldn’t download. But once I upgraded the iPhone software to version 2.2, it downloaded flawlessly and all functions worked perfectly. In Mint’s forum, some users were reporting problems with the Budget feature, but it seems to work fine for me (forum thread) (note 3).

Top Apps in the finance category of iTunes’ App Store
(7 PM Pacific, 19 Dec 2008) 

image

 Top free finance apps list displayed on iPhone:
          at 7 PM Pacific, Fri. Dec. 19                               at  2 PM Pacific, Sat. Dec. 20  image        image

Chase Mobile iPhone app                    Mint iPhone app main screen
main screen
(19 Dec 2009)                          (19 Dec 2009)

image       image

Notes:
1. That 2-hour window could be about right. When I made this screenshot, the new Mint app was at number 10; two hours later (9 PM) it had risen to number 5 (see screenshot above). By 9 AM Saturday morning (20 Dec) it had risen to number 1.

2. The App Store divides the top apps into two categories, free and paid. The top 20 free apps are listed on the right side and the top 20 paid apps are listed on the left. The apps in the middle are listed by newest first.

3. These operating system incompatibilities, a real problem in pre-1995 online banking services, had largely been left behind when banks embraced the Web in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, mobile banking will add to your tech-support costs. 

4. Mint also reminds users that they can choose to lock their entire iPhone for extra security.

5. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking

Online Personal Finance Traffic More than Doubles; PNC Virtual Wallet Grabs Second Place

image As I was drilling into the latest Compete traffic numbers for the annual Online Banking Report planning issue, I noticed a significant uptick in traffic to online personal finance specialists, almost across the board.

Sept. traffic revealed a total of 1.2 million unique visitors (note 1) compared to less than 400,000 a year ago. Not surprisingly, consumers appear to be taking a closer look at their finances. 

The big three newcomers last year: Mint, Wesabe, and Geezeo saw combined traffic increase by 450,000 users, a nearly three-fold increase from 2007. Geezeo was the star percentage-wise, growing more than six-fold. But Mint accounted for three-fourths of the net gain across the existing players with 330,000 more visitors (see Table 1 below):

Also, two newcomers made a big splash last month:

  • PNC Virtual Wallet launched in July (coverage here) by PNC Bank, which trailed only Mint last month with nearly 140,000 unique visitors (see 2 below).
  • Rudder (a relaunch of Spendview) drew 50,000 visitors last month after its launch at DEMOfall in early Sept.

Granted, the PNC Virtual Wallet benefits enormously from the 2 million monthly visitors to parent PNC.com and PNCBank.com. Yet, it’s still an impressive total and is encouraging for banks and credit unions considering similar efforts.

Table 1: Online PFMs launched more than 1 year ago

  Sep 2008 Sep 2007 Gain ’08 vs. ’07 Multiple
Mint 530,000 200,000 330,000 2.7 x
Geezeo 72,000 11,000 61,000 6.5 x
Wesabe 89,000 33,000 56,000 2.7 x
Yodlee 97,000 50,000 47,000 1.9 x
Finicity/Mvelopes 91,000 73,000 18,000 1.2 x
Buxfer 9,000 3,500 5,500 2.5 x
PearBudget 6,300 2,100 4,200 3.0 x
ClearCheckbook 6,200 2,800 3,400 2.2 x
BudgetTracker 12,000 12,000 0 Flat
  Total 910,000 380,000 530,000 2.4x

Table 2: The online PFM class of 2008

  Sep 2008 Sep 2007 Gain
PNC Virtual Wallet 140,000 0 140,000
Rudder 50,000 2,000 (1) 48,000
Expensify 9,600 0 9,600
GreenSherpa 6,300 0 6,300
RateSurfer 4,400 0 4,400
Thrive 3,500 0 3,500
Expensr 2,900 0 2,900
Banzai 2,700 0 2,700
iThryv 2,000 0 2,000
  T
otal
220,000 2,000 220,000
       
Grand Total 1.2 million 380,000 750,000

 Notes:

1. Sum of the monthly unique visitors from all PFM companies, visitors that went to more than one PFM provider are not eliminated from the total, so there is double counting in the totals. Data source is Compete, pulled 21 Oct 2008.

2. Rudder was previously Spendview, but we consider them to be essentially a new company.

CheckFree, Credit Karma, Mint and MoneyAisle Win Finovate Best of Show Awards

image As conference host, I haven’t quite recovered from the whirlwind of activity yesterday. I’ll post a final conference wrapup tomorrow, but I wanted to get in a quick update with the Finovate 2008 Best of Show winners. 

We had planned to award it to the top three, but there were four companies in a virtual tie at the top (note 1), so we named four winners this year.

In alphabetic order, the winners:

  • image CheckFree which demonstrated its new online banking platform packed with new features
  • image Credit Karma which showed several new features including a tool allowing “what-if” calculations with your credit file
  • imageMint which announced its move out of beta and demo’d several new investment management functions
  • imageNeosaej which showed its unique MoneyAisle real-time, reverse-deposit auction service

Congratulations to these four companies and to everyone else who made the day so interesting.

About the voting
All attendees not affiliated with the presenters rated each demo on a scale of one to six. The ballots were turned in at the end of the final demo session. Approximately 70% of eligible voters turned in complete ballots.

Note:
The companies didn’t finish with the same average scores, but rounding to the nearest tenth created a four-way tie.

Finovate 2008 Mint

image Mint CEO & Founder Aaron Patzer will be presenting next. 

Online personal finance provider Mint launched a year ago and won a Best of Show award at our first Finovate conference in 2007.

What’s new
Mint moves out of beta today, with 500,000 users. Their sign-up rate has more than doubled in the past 3 weeks.

Today they launched new investment tracking functionality that allows Mint users to track their accounts at more than 1000 investment companies, mutual funds, and retirement services.

A unique aspect of its investment tracking is the ability to see the value of the account vs. the cost basis.

Mint has an IRA Rollover Advisor where they are partnering with Fidelity, Scottrade, E*Trade, and Schwab.

Results: 10% of users have changed investment behavior and 50% of users have changed their spending behavior by using Mint.

Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg Loves Mint, Hates Financial Email

imageIt was online banking week in Walt Mossberg’s popular Wall Street Journal technology columns. Yesterday in The Mossberg Solution, authored by 20-something Katherine Boehret and edited by Mossberg, Mint’s personal finance service received a half-page article so complimentary I had to look twice to make sure it wasn’t an advertisement. Boehret couldn’t find a single thing wrong with the service, although she did wish for bill payment capability so she could do all her banking with Mint. I’m sure she’ll have her wish granted relatively soon.

image In today’s Personal Technology column entitled, How to Avoid Cons that Can Lead to Identify Theft, Mossberg himself dropped a bomb which will impact bank-marketing efforts for years to come. His first of seven tips for safe computing:

Never, ever click on a link embedded in an email (from your) financial institution….

That’s harsh, but it’s also understandable why he’d take that stand. Mossberg strives to make technology issues understandable to non-techie readers. However, it would have been better to add, “unless your bank adds account-specific personalization to the messages so you know for sure where they originated.” 

Action items
Many financial institutions, including Citibank and Bank of America, have long used personalization to distinguish legitimate messages from phishing attempts. Financial institutions with good personalized messaging should consider a public outreach program to counter the negative perception from the Mossberg column. It also might be a good time to remind front-line employees how to respond to customer concerns about phishing emails.

For more information, see our Online Banking Report on Marketing Security

Bank of America Reports 2.5 Million Users of My Portfolio, its Online Personal Finance Tool

image Two months ago we published a table (here) showing active users at the leading online personal finance startups. Below is the table, updated with March traffic and the addition of one more player: Bank of America.

The bank, which offers a full-featured online personal finance management solution called My Portfolio, powered by Yodlee, has 2.5 million active users, according to BofA exec Marina Moore (note 3). That's an impressive 10% of the bank's online user base, and about 6x the total user base of all the online startups combined (note 4). 

Company Users (1) % of Total March Traffic(2) Jan Traffic(2) Chg
Bank of America 2.5 million 86%
Mint 180,000 6% 160,000 150,000 7%
Wesabe 100,000 3% 28,000 41,000 (32%)
Buxfer 80,000 3% 8,400 9,200 (9%)
Geezeo 20,000+ 0.7% 8,400 14,000 (40%)
NetWorthIQ 13,000 0.5% 10,000 11,000 (10%)
BillMonk 10,000+ 0.3% 1,700 1,000 +70%
Expensr Five figs 0.3%+ 2,000 1,700 +18%
Total 2.9 million 100%      

For more information:

Notes/Sources:

1. Users: per BusinessWeek Online, Feb 2008, figures are reported by the companies and may include inactive users; Mint has been updated to 180,000 from 130,00 based on new figures reported in the Bank Technology News article published in April 2008

2. Traffic: per Compete estimates of website traffic for March 2008, retrieved April 21, 2008. Compete estimates traffic from its online data and can be off by a factor of two or three-fold for smaller websites.

3. As reported in a Bank Technology News article published in April 2008.

4. This table does not reflect all the players, such as Intuit's new Quicken Online, just the ones highlighted in the BusinessWeek article.

400,000 Users at Online Personal Finance Startups

link to BusinessWeek article In a Feb. 11 BusinessWeek Online feature (here), reporter John Tozzi listed the self-reported user bases at seven new entrants in online personal finance. The roundup led with an anecdote about Wesabe CEO Jason Knight answering phone calls from users (see inset).

The seven companies listed below are only a subset of the online personal finance space. The list does not include users at Quicken Online, Yodlee, Mvelopes, and another two dozen smaller players. Nor does it include users at financial institutions that support online personal financial management such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Key Bank, River City Bank and others.

Company   Users Traffic
Mint* 135,000 150,000
Wesabe* 100,000 41,000
Buxfer*   80,000   9,200
Geezeo   20,000+ 14,000
NetWorthIQ   13,000 11,000
BillMonk   10,000+   1,000
Expensr* Five figures   1,700
Total 370,000+ 230,000

Sources: Users per BusinessWeek Online, Feb 2008, figures are reported by the companies and may include inactive users; Traffic: Compete, Inc, estimated unique visitors for January 2008

*Will be presenting at our FINOVATE Startup conference April 29, 2008

For more information:

  • Previous NetBanker coverage here
  • Online Banking Report #131/132: Personal Finance Features for Online Banking
  • Online Banking Report #142/143: Social Personal Finance