Game On: What Banking Can Learn from Fitbit

TDbank_fitbit_signageI’ve always been a “wanna be” tracker. I like watching the stats closely, but I also lose interest if the process, either capturing the data or compiling it, becomes tedious. But thanks to mobile (including wearables), the drudgery is disappearing and that has big implications for banking and financial services.

Some examples: I’ve used Mint since 2007 for personal and business expenses, so I have a massive database of transactions, which in theory should make it easy to locate just about anything I’ve charged to a credit or debit card in the past eight years. However, it’s never quite perfect because I will go for long periods without doing the required maintenance to keep every aggregated account flowing. Recently, I just fixed one of my main credit cards which has been on hiatus for two years. So, there are big holes in the data.

Then there’s BillGuard, another service I love and have been using for years. I love how it alerts me to questionable items as they hit my card accounts. However, BillGuard’s database is so good, that I rarely hear from them any more. This is good news for me (no questionable items), but less so for them. Because what’s invisible, loses its perceived value.

And I’ve tried tracking other things over the years, both financial and personal. And nothing seems to stick. Until now. I just hit my two-year anniversary using Fitbit, usually glancing at its tiny readout several times per day. So what is it about Fitbit that makes it addictive? And more importantly, how can financial institutions do the same for money management?

capitalone_uber1. Make it easy to use: While Fitibit requires zero maintenance once you get it activated, you do have to remember to keep it on you. The same goes double for a bank’s credit or debit card. You not only have to remember it, but also must choose to use it at the point of sale.

Action item: Incent users to get your card loaded into digital ecommerce sites such as Apple Pay, Amazon, iTunes, PayPal, Uber, Spotify and others. Capital One just unleased a great, albeit expensive, program with Uber to credit back 20% of rides to its cardholders (link).

2. Make it easy to see exactly where you stand in real-time: Fitbit provides feedback literally every step of the day. It’s extremely motivating, though at times discouraging when you fall way behind in personal goals. Card issuers today do something similar delivering real-time alerts right to the smartphone homescreen (and soon to the Apple Watch). But transaction alerts still don’t tell you where you are.

Action item: Make notifications smarter by including daily, weekly, monthly transaction summaries and/or credit available. They could be included in the notification, or enabled with a swipe of the transaction alert.

3. Make it easy to compare to previous periods: This is still a missing piece of my ultimate Fitbit experience. The mobile app makes it easy to scroll backwards or look at bar charts to see how you are doing over time. But there are no simple month-over-month or year-over-year comparisons to see your progress in similar time periods.

Action item: Create single-click views of financial activity and balances compared to one month ago, one year ago, two years ago, etc.

Fitbit email

4. Provide ongoing incentives: Similar to saving money being its own reward, burning calories by walking and climbing is clearly its own incentive to bump up your Fitbit numbers. But it doesn’t hurt to provide extra incentives along the way. An incentive can not only keep customers engaged, but also appreciative of the game provider. Unlike BillGuard, which so quietly goes about its business that I forget about it, Fitbit delights users with badges and pop-up notifications, for hitting various daily or lifetime milestones. (Fitbit actually needs to do more incentivizing, as experienced users can rarely get a new badge; I haven’t had a new one since last November).

Action item: The badges may be cheesy, but the email congratulations are powerful (see inset from Fitbit the first time you walk 20,000 steps in a day). This has to be one of the simplest things you could do to reinforce good money management. Send an email congratulating a customer when their savings balance, rewards points, interest earned, or whatever, increases compared to a month ago or a year ago. Who doesn’t appreciate an “atta boy or girl” every now and then (even if it is from your bank).

5. Get social: While I’m not of the social media generation, I do understand its appeal. Just today, Fitbit sent me a reminder to add friends. This allows users to compete against friends and family, a potentially motivating way to get you off the couch and moving. And while I’d never share Fitbit data with friends, I do enjoy a friendly competition with my wife. The key is to make sharing highly selective, customizable, and easy to switch on and off.

Action item: While financial information is not as readily shareable as fitness data, Venmo has proven that it has potential. The youthful set who’ve taken to using Venmo (see the Venmo line), enjoy sharing payment activity, but only without revealing the actual dollar amount, and allowing for maximum snark in the share. And there are also plenty of serious use-cases for sharing financial data, such as employees with their employers, kids with their parents, etc. Card issuers should add optional sharing to all card-management platforms.


Screenshot: TD Bank landing page (22 April 20015, link)




Picture Credit: TD Bank has been giving away Fitbit Flex trackers to new checking account customers (screenshot above). A reader from contributed this upper-right photo of TD signage in the NYC subway.


Mobile PFM: Tracking Automobile Trips

imageLast week, MileIQ cracked the top-50 in Apple’s “Finance | Free” category. Think of it as Fitbit for cars, running in the background automatically logging all car trips (and killing battery life). 

At the end of each trip, users categorize the trip by swiping left for personal or right for business (see screenshots below). Users can also annotate transactions by “flipping” them over and typing basic details (see screenshot 2 below).

That’s basically all there is to the mobile part. Users go to the companion desktop dashboard (screenshot #5) to further categorize trips, stitch the various segments into a single trip, delete items, add parking and toll fees, edit the tags, manually add a trip and create reports.

You can also create a quick email report at the push of button from within the app (screenshot #6).

It’s free for 40 trips per month, but then costs $5.99/mo or $60 annually. It could make for a nice auto loan/lease premium item.


Relevance for FIs

This feature would be a nice, fee-based value-add for personal financial management (PFM) programs. But the more interesting aspect is the UI. Banks could provide a similar function for handling all transactions. Users swipe to the left to categorize a transaction as tax-deductible/business or right if not. Later, just the left-swiped transactions could be tagged with more specific categories (business travel, charitable contributions, etc).

This simple approach ever so slightly “gamifies” mobile-transaction processing, helping users save money and better manage their finances. 


Mobile UI

#1 (left) Main page shows drive(s) to classify
#2 (right) Annotation available on the “back” of each drive card

 image        image

#3 (left) Congratulations for handling all transactions  
#4 (right) Pricing options

 image       image

#5 Desktop dashboard


#6 Quick email report, generated by button in mobile



1. We’ve tackled PFM numerous times over the years in our Online Banking Report. Most recently here (subscription).

Fintech Four: Banno, Borro, Personetics & are on a Roll

It’s been a crazy week in fintech, and it’s only Wednesday morning. Because my brain can hold no more than four stories at a time (and that’s a stretch), it’s time to publish a “fintech four” mid-week. I don’t know which of these is more dramatic, so I’ll go in alphabetic order: 

1. joins the billion-dollar fintech club

Thumbnail image for auction.jpgI’m not sure everyone considers a fintech play, but as an online asset sales platform (which moved $7 billion last year), it’s close enough for me. It just raised a fresh $50 million from Google Ventures at a valuation of $1.2 billion. So I’ll be adding to our “Fintech billion-dollar club.” 

>>> Metrics and more from Bloomberg here.

2. Banno acquired by Jack Henry

banno.jpgWhile we don’t know the $$ number, given the traction Finovate alum Banno had in the market (375 bank clients), and the relatively high valuations in the fintech space these days ($1.75 billion for Stripe), this must have been a pretty nice payday for the owners and investors in Iowa-based Banno (formerly T8 Webware). Founder Wade Arnold is staying on at Jack Henry and is super excited about his future with the Kansas City-based technology vendor. 
English: Wordmark of Borro, the characters &qu...

3. Borro borrows $112 million

In one of the biggest fundraising rounds in fintech history, U.K.-based Borro landed $112 million to further its high-end online pawn brokerage business. I met founder Paul Aitken last fall and was impressed with the product, which allows consumers to borrow against non-liquid assets, say, a Jacob Lawrence in the hall, at pretty high rates (3% to 4% per month). Until then, I had no idea there was a large, underserved (near prime?) market holding high-end assets (outside Downton Abbey anyway). Even so, I was shocked to see a $112 million round. While terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, I have to believe all or part of the money is debt, not equity. So I’m not going to add Borro to the billion-dollar club, yet. Apparently online lending is back! 

>>> Average loan amount = $12k (against a $20k value)… see Press release
>>> TechCrunch breaks down the Borro loan process and metrics here

4. Personetics is on a roll

pesonetics.jpgAt this week’s great Bank Innovation event in Seattle, I finally had a chance to meet face-to-face with Personetics, the Sequoia-backed “predictive financial services engine.” I’ve been impressed with what I’ve read about the company, and loved the Fiserv demo at FinovateEurope last month (demo here) featuring a forward-looking PFM piece powered by Personetics. But I had no idea how much traction the company was gaining in less than three years since its A-round. While I can’t name names, if even one of these deals moves into production, it has the potential to change the face of online banking. 
>>> Fiserv demo at FinovateEurope featuring insights powered by Personetics here (12 Feb 2014)

BillGuard Brings Email-Like UI to Mobile Banking Transaction Flow

image The ink wasn’t dry on my 2014 wishlist, when I got a message from BillGuard founder Yaron Samid, informing me that its new mobile UI was already doing what I’d most hoped for:

Wish #1: A Gmail-like priority inbox/feed for my financial transactions.

It’s as yet not quite Gmail-level functionality — for example, I’d like more tagging options than just “flag for later” — but compared to the state-of-the-mobile-art today, it’s pretty awesome. Thanks to BillGuard for getting the year off to a great start (note 1).


How it works

imageBillGuard aggregates credit and debit card transactions and flags suspicious items for review (see previous posts). So in that way, it has always acted like the Priority Inbox function within Gmail. However, its desktop UI looks more like a traditional PFM than an email inbox.

But for the smartphone, BillGuard has dramatically changed the interface. As you can see in the inset, they use “Inbox” as the name of the transaction register. There is even a red bubble showing how many new charges are available for review (see inset right).

The five primary items on the main screen:

  • Large green “card” >> Summarizes current month’s spending across all aggregated cards (you can also swipe through the individual cards)
  • Inbox >> New transactions and any that you’ve flagged for followup
  • All >> All transactions in a single infinitely scrolling list (I have 1,000+ transaction going back three years, and I can scroll through all of them in less than a minute). You can look at all transactions or just the recurring ones.
  • Analytics >> Month-over-month spending graphs
  • Savings >> Merchant-funded offers


imageMore on the UI

1. Inbox view (click screenshot for a larger graphic):

  • Transactions are sorted with suspicious and unknown merchants listed on top and new, unviewed transactions below
  • Users can choose the right “Follow Up” tab to view only those transactions they have flagged for followup (see #x below)
  • User can swipe the transaction right to move it out of the new transaction inbox, as shown in the green “Metropolitan Market” transaction at right

2. Transaction detail image

  • The transaction “card” contains expanded info on known merchants such as full name, location, and URL
  • There are three key buttons:
    A. Green checkbox to okay the transaction, removing it from the inbox
    B. Orange “followup” button to keep the transaction in the pending list for later review
    C. Small gray box in upper right with a number that indicates how many transactions you’ve had with this merchant; clicking it brings up the list of all (10 in this case)


image 3. Merchant offer

  • Based on my transaction history, a discount offer from Target is displayed; clicking the green button brings up redemption options, in this case:
    – Email offer
    – Shop now



1. The mobile UI was actually released in the latter part of 2013.
2. Screenshot at top of post is an iPhone notification.

Fintech Four from Last Week

Since my previous Fintech Four (when Bitcoin was a lowly $200), it’s been an interesting few weeks. Here are the standouts last week:


One: Coin is an overnight YouTube sensation

image Who would have guessed a $50 payment gadget could be a viral hit? In the week since it was announced, the 105-second demo video (made Sandwich Video) has racked up more than 6 million views, 26,000 likes, and almost 9,000 comments. The company said it’s original $50,000 crowdfunding goal was hit in 47 minutes, they have not said how many have been sold since. According to a button on its site, the pre-order period will last 30 days.

Many of speculated about why this happened, but the most concise summary is on Quora written by Brian Roemmele. He lists five reasons:

1. The product solves a real problem, too many cards in the wallet

2. Coin implies there is a limited supply

3. It was selling at for a limited time at 50% off

4. It appealed to early adopters with a blend of “old” meets “new”

5. $5 referral credit (against the $50 cost) with a built-in sharing button at the end of the purchase process.


Two: The latest fintech prize winners

Fintech startups have been taking home awards at various fall tech events this fall. Here are six winners in from the past 10 days:

1.  imageFinovateAsia Best of Show winners from Singapore (post):

image2. Innotribe Disrupt winner at NextBank LatinAmerica (Bogota, Columbia)

  • Intoo, a 6-person Brazilian small business financing portal, won the Latin American round of the year-long Innotribe contest 

image3. Get In the Ring winner at this Dutch startup competition (Rotterdam)

  • EyeVerify (FinovateSpring 13) took home $11,000 in cash, plus a potential million euro investment, for its eyeprint authentication technology (post)


Three: Finovera launches “PFM for your bills”

Finovera (FinovateSpring 13), officially launched its billing/PFM portal and landed a favorable TechCrunch post. The service competes in the PFM space, but is more focused on the billing and payments side (along with Manilla and doxo). Unlike analyzing/charting spending, the process of organizing, paying, and archiving bills is a near-universal need. So, it’s an area that retail banks should pay close attention to (note 1). 



Four: Virtual currencies gain more real-world backing

U.S. regulators didn’t exactly endorse Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, but they didn’t condemn it either (Financial Times article). That was enough to send prices through the roof, touching $900 by some reports, a nice 50x gain since Jan 1. Most assets that appreciate so rapidly fall back to earth, but no one knows for sure if Bitcoin isn’t than 1-in-a-million item that defies common sense.

But this is not JUST a Bitcoin story, it’s about the “Internet of money.” And it could be the biggest financial innovation since the credit card. However, it’s still boggles my mind that regulators who are having a hard time letting normal people invest in privately held companies, are not clamping down on unregulated virtual currency trading. This story is far from finished. 

Table: USD value of a Bitcoin at Mt. Gox (last 6 months)



1. For a deeper dive, see our report on paperless billing and banking (Nov. 2010, subscription).
2. All Finovate alum videos are available free of charge at our website. 

Group Banking Gets an App, A Look at Yodlee’s Tandem

image In the six years PM (post Mint), dozens of startups have launched with the goal of simplifying group finances. For the most part, they’ve started with two use cases:

1. Sharing rent and utilities among roommates
2. Splitting the bar/dinner tab among friends

Those are the significant financial problems faced by 24-year old founders living in the Bay Area or Brooklyn. But for the rest of the world, those are relatively small or non-existent issues. What we need are financial collaboration tools for adults.

But I’m happy to report there is finally an app for that. And it’s from a fintech company known for providing the PFM plumbing, not the fixtures, Yodlee. The company’s Tandem app made its debut in September at FinovateFall earning a Best of Show award. Tandem repeated with another Best of Show at its international debut last week at FinovateAsia (upper right).

imageTandem uses a four-layer "financial circles" approach inspired by Circles in Google Plus (see inset left):

  1. You
  2. Inner circle: Used to transact
      with family members 
  3. Friends: Used to share expenses
      with groups of friends 
  4. Advisors: Used to collaborate 
      with professional advisors  

The app allows the various circles to jointly manage financial issues, such as siblings chipping in to manage and elderly parent’s expenses. The brilliant thing Yodllee did, which is often overlooked, is to imagefocus on the communications about group finances. Compared to the relatively simple transaction, communicating is often far more time consuming, prone to error, not to mention creating ill will.

In its demo (right), Yodlee showed how siblings could communicate within Tandem about a suspicious charge on their mom’s account. Each person in this financial circle are depicted with thumbnails at the top. Each can communicate with the others using the text-message like interface (lower half of the screen).

Bottom line: There is still hard work required to make Tandem a reality. Yodlee is in discussions with a number of potential clients, but doesn’t expect it to be live much before mid-2014.

Even so, Tandem is the type of tangible improvement that PFM has long promised (note 1). I’d love to move beyond text messaging, and use Tandem to better sync financially with my son when he heads off to college next fall. 

But don’t take my word for it, here’s a final thought from USAA’s acclaimed innovator, Neff Hudson (Tweeted during FinovateFall, 10 Sep 2013)



FinovateFall 2013 Demo 
Check out Yodlee CEO Anil Agora and VP Katy Gibson show it off at FinovateFall (note, this is not an embed, click on the picture and you’ll go to the webpage where you can play it):



Post-show interview of Anil Agora, by Finovate’s David Penn:

clip_image002For some, PFM innovations are like hearing that the Dallas Cowboys have a new coach or the New York Yankees have a new pitcher. At the end of the day, they are still the Cowboys and the Yankees and you either love them or you don’t.

But you could almost hear the collective “yes!” when the Yodlee team presented the “shared finances” feature of their PFM app, TANDEM. Who knew the ability to manage finances for elderly parents or high school age children without having to talk with your ex-husband (or ex-wife, I assume) would be so popular?

Congratulations to Yodlee for helping make PFM new again. Here are a few thoughts on TANDEM from Yodlee President and CEO Anil Arora.

Q. Why did Yodlee win Best of Show?

Anil: We think Yodlee won Best of Show at FinovateFall with our Tandem app for two simple reasons: 1.) It’s truly unique, and 2.) Everyone in the audience could relate to it personally.

With nearly 70 presenters, it’s challenging to create something that is dramatically different. We saw a void (and opportunity) in the market to go beyond traditional money management conversations around budgeting and spending to create real dialogue and action around relationships. One of our favorite tweets recognized that “life is messy.” We are all complicated and social beings. So Tandem was designed to both embrace that and to help create some order and peace of mind around how we manage finances within the context of personal relationships (children, spouses, aging parents, teams, friends, roommates, etc.).

Our goal was to tell the Tandem story through real-world use-cases that everyone can understand. We used scenarios such as having a child in college who needs money for school purchases, communicating with siblings to help an aging parent manage bills and protect against fraud, and business partners working through the process of getting a business loan with their bank. These are just a few of hundreds of scenarios that we all face every
day where our new Yodlee Tandem mobile app could play a valued and proactive role in both the communication around finances and actual money movement. It’s safe, easy, and relevant to every day life.

Innovation is key to Yodlee’s DNA. We are passionate about creating a platform and an ecosystem that solves real problems, breaks down technical barriers, and moves industries forward. We hope our new Tandem app does all that!

Q. What would you like to add to what we’ve learned from your demo?

Anil: Telling a complete story in seven minutes is really tough. For example, we showed only a few use-cases for Tandem out of the hundreds that exist. When you’re excited and passionate about how an app can change lives, it’s hard to choose just two or three instances to show the crowd. We also would have loved to add more about the ease and power of how someone can actually set up a financial circle. It’s very easy and it’s very powerful.

The financial circles concept of communication within pre-determined social circles is really unique, and the ability to control the account-sharing access is paramount. This clearly distinguishes Tandem from other apps and services. We haven’t seen anything else in the market where you can securely interact with others around specific accounts and transactions with distinct parameters around what is shared and accessed, from specific (tagged) transactions to full account access with a trusted advisor. Tandem enables full control while empowering users to have a real dialogue around important financial matters in real-time.

Q. What can we look forward to over the next three to six months?

Anil: Since Finovate, we have received tremendous interest in the Tandem app. We’re really excited about seeing Yodlee Tandem live and in action providing value to millions of people around the world. We’re already getting substantial consumer feedback on both the concept and the user experience and that will increase exponentially when the app goes live.

We will provide Tandem to existing and new customers within both our financial institution business and also within our API business to consumer services companies, large and small. We believe this is a very useful and valuable app that will engage people in all-new ways around managing financial relationships and having productive conversations about a very sensitive topic: money.


1. We’ve tackled PFM numerous times over the years in our Online Banking Report. Most recently here (subscription). 

New Banking Business Models

image There will likely be a few more post-mortems on Perkstreet’s failure to create a viable business using a debit-card rewards model (note 1). Whether its downfall was due primarily to unfortunate commodity pricing (my theory), lack of demand from the debanked (see Ron Shevlin’s post), or something else entirely, it’s interesting to ponder just what problems are big enough to support VC-backed bank-like entrants (note 2). 

I wrote the following piece for our OBR clients a year ago (note 3). It seems even more pertinent today in light of Perkstreet’s failed $15 million bet.  


Embracing New Business Models for a Digital World

For 20 years, online and mobile banking has been bolted on to traditional business models. Exceptions are few: ING Direct, PayPal, Virgin Money and several other smaller players (note 4).

The bolt-on strategy worked amazingly well. Major U.S. banks have lost virtually no deposit, loan or fee-income market share to upstarts in the Internet era. Robust profits allowed incumbents to build online and mobile capabilities without sacrificing their brick-and-mortar channel.

But the banking world changed in 2008. Worldwide recession, regulatory price controls, an uncertain lending environment, low rates and increased competition from VC-backed startups have all combined to make holding on to market share less certain.

We see three areas where financial services startups could gain ground:

  • Digital financial advocate
    : Consumer advocate in the cloud always watching over your transactions and financial well-being; and can tap investors (crowdfunding) to get you some needed cash
    How: P2P lend + aggregation/PFM + P2P pay + insurance + service + safety
    Who: Mashup of BillGuard + Mint + Lending Club
  • Virtual CFO/CPA
    Digital business partner supporting financial activity, accounting and capital needs
    How: Payments + P2B lending + aggregation + bookkeeping/accounting + fraud protection
    Who: Cross between Funding Circle and Xero
  • Personalized mutual fund
    : Personalized and highly automated mutual fund/ETF
    How: Simple UI + limited options highlighting appropriate choices (think Hipmunk) + systematic savings + automated rebalancing
    Who: Betterment on steroids

These businesses require sophisticated software, such as PFM modules, fraud protection, and business management functions. It will be fascinating to watch it unfold.

Photo credit: ThePeacefulMom

1. My apologies to Dan, Jason and the rest of the team. I imagine it’s frustrating to see your valiant efforts reduced to fodder for blog posts. We’d be happy to host if you want to publish a guest post with your observations.  
2. If IBM really paid nearly $1 billion for Trusteer, I guess you can add “fighting financial malware” in the category of big problems.    
3. See Online Banking Report #208/209 (subscription)
4. Certain other countries have experienced more disruption. But in most developed countries the incumbents as a whole have held on to most of their market share.

Gamification & Banking

image I don’t know what we did before the term gamification was coined. Back in the day we just talked about comparisons, metrics, charts and so on (or maybe "game mechanics" if you working on your PhD). But it’s nice to be able to wrap those concepts up into a single term, even if it does have a bit of a frivolous, video-gaming connotation. 

But, let’s not get hung up on the wording. Call it what you want, but the concept of providing detailed feedback about your customers’ use and abuse of their money is a critical part of being a 21st century financial provider. My absolute favorite thing about Mint is the weekly financial summary its been sending me for five years. It’s still the single most important financial tool I use.

Since it’s Friday, I will cut directly to the visual aid (screenshot below). The weekly activity tracking summary from FitBit provides good ideas for a comparable financial version. For example:

  • Totals for the week
  • Daily averages
  • High/low days
  • Badges
  • Color coding: green is good, red is bad
  • Leaderboard (if you are sharing with friends)
  • Thumbnail picture (if you’ve uploaded)

Have a great weekend!


Weekly Progress Report from Fitbit (6 Aug 2013)


1. Graphic from WePlay, a London-based marketing consultancy.
2. For more, see the Online Banking Report PFM library (subscription required): PFM 4.0 (June 2012); Alerts & Streaming (July 2010);  PFM 3.0 (May 2010); Social Personal Finance (June 2007); Personal Finance Features for Online Banking (Aug 2006).

Will mobile finally make PFM popular?

image In the online desktop era, we’ve seen only one direct-to-consumer PFM mega-hit: Mint (see note 1).

But looking at recent rankings in the U.S. Apple App Store (iOS) it looks like that may be changing. There are currently five specialty PFMs in the 13 most-downloaded free finance apps, including Mint of course. Is the mobile device finally what will make PFMs popular with consumers? Or are these apps just being downloaded by curious smartphone owners who will never register for the service, let alone become active users? 

My Take: Mobile is, and will be, a huge driver for specialty PFM apps. App stores help consumers find the services, and mobile makes them less daunting to use. But it’s not just the mobile platform driving usage at these four challengers (see below), it’s the way they have positioned themselves with tangible consumer benefits (e.g., save money by spotting fraud charges) rather than the nebulous (e.g., “manage your spending for a better life”).

Parsing this list a little closer, only Mint is positioned as a pure PFM. The challengers are all backing into PFM from various niches:

  • imageBillGuard (#5) is positioned as a fraudulent charge protector
    and accomplishes that through account monitoring. It appeals to
    those concerned about losing money to fraudsters and greedy merchants.
  • imageLemon (#7) is positioned around mobile wallets and payments, but it also offers account monitoring as a premium service. It appeals to early adopters wanting to use their smartphones for payments and all things financial. 

  • imageManilla (#12) revolves around billing and financial statements, but obviously aggregated bank and credit card statements is a core PFM feature. It appeals to those wanting better management of their mess of paper bills, receipts and records. 

  • imageCredit Karma (#13) focuses on credit scores and debt management, but recently extended into full account monitoring. It appeals to those wanting to improve their credit scores and better manage debt.

Because most consumers have no interest in looking at a bar chart of their spending, it makes sense to sneak in the PFM piece through more compelling, benefit-laden service offerings. For banks, all four of these approaches are worth a look. 


Table: 20 most popular free finance mobile apps in U.S. Apple App Store 
Does not include several non-financial apps

  Name Primary Type
1 Capital One Bank/card
2 Chase Bank/card
3 Bank of America Bank/card
4 PayPal Payment
5 BillGuard (note 2) PFM: cards
6 Wells Fargo Bank/card
7 Lemon PFM: cards
8 Mint PFM: general
9 American Express Card
10 Scottrade Investing
11 USAA Bank
12 Manilla PFM: billing
13 Credit Karma PFM: debt
14 Discover Card
15 Citi Bank/card
16 Xoom Money Transfer Remittances
17 TD Bank Bank
18 Venmo (Braintree) Payments
19 Fidelity Investing
20 US Bank Bank/card

Source: U.S. Apple App Store accessed via iPhone 5 from Seattle, WA on Fri. July 26, 2013 at 11 AM PDT 


1. Not counting bank-branded PFMs from Intuit, Yodlee, Geezeo, Money Desktop, et al. And not counting the packaged-software stalwarts from the 1990s, Microsoft Money and Quicken.
2. BillGuard moved up to the #1 position over the weekend and remains there as of 6:00 PM PDT today
3. Check (formerly PageOnce) should also be considered in this discussion. It has been a top-20 finance app for the past few years, despite currently running in the lower 30s, probably due to its recent rebranding to an entirely new name
4. For more info, see the Online Banking Report PFM library (subscription required): PFM 4.0 (June 2012); PFM 3.0 (May 2010); Social Personal Finance (June 2007); Personal Finance Features for Online Banking (Aug 2006).

PFM: Playing the Trust Card

Having been involved in the PFM industry for two decades, I’ve long taken the position that it was the bank’s business to lose. While consumers may not always like their bank, most continue to trust them with their money. And that’s an advantage not easily overcome by newcomers. 

imageI was reminded of the trust factor when I looked at Change Sciences latest report on PFM usability (subscription). As you can see at right, the researcher charted Trust (horizontal axis) vs. Likelihood (to use the service).

The two most trustworthy PFM offerings, by a significant margin (+20%), were operated by banks:

  • PNC Virtual Wallet
  • Chase Blueprint

It was less clear how trustworthiness correlated with trial. In this 12-company study, users were most likely to try the most trusted site, PNC Virtual Wallet, after sampling it. But Chase, with the second most trusted site, was tied with less-trusted sites Mint and newcomer Pocketbook (headquartered in Singapore) for likelihood to try. Not surprisingly, many factors besides trust will impact trial. 

Bottom line: With only two bank-run PFMs in the chart, there isn’t nearly enough data to conclude that banks have an inherent trust advantage in personal financial management. And even if they do, it’s difficult to prove that trust actually LEADS to more usage (trust could simply be correlated, without causation).

Nevertheless, these two data points are encouraging for banks. Both PNC and Chase, who have invested millions on personal financial management, have managed to wow consumers with their offering. PNC Virtual Wallet has also previously finished on top of the Change Sciences UX scorecard.


For more info, see the Online Banking Report PFM library (subscription required): PFM 4.0 (June 2012); PFM 3.0 (May 2010); Social Personal Finance (June 2007); Personal Finance Features for Online Banking (Aug 2006).