I have been using my new PNC Virtual Wallet account for a week now (previous coverage of the application process). The account takes a novel approach to core online banking and money management. Honestly, the user experience is so different, I’m still digesting it.
I think I love it, but I want to make sure it’s not just the novelty I’m attracted to. And that it really makes sense for users to interact with their bank accounts this way. I cover the PFM/OFM features in the most recent Online Banking Report and will publish a complete analysis in the future. But <spoiler alert>, I’ll reveal the account’s secret now.
PNC did not invent the calendar approach to tracking finances. Most of the OFM/PFMs and online banking platforms we’ve had on stage in Finovate during the past three years, eg. Mint, Fiserv, Metavante, Intuit and others, have it.
But Virtual Wallet (VW) defaults to calendar view. And they don’t let you change that. If you are a VW user, you will be managing your finances in calendar-flow mode. The designers took a risk here, but I think it pays off. They are targeting younger users, who have not grown up viewing reverse-chronological transaction lists, so why not train them from the get-go in how to manage the past, present, and future on a single page.
The first time you log in, the software asks when you get paid so it can add those happy events to your cash-flow calendar. Then as soon as you start making transactions they show up on the calendar along with your current balance in a blue bar at the top of each date (see screenshot below). Also, future events such as bill payments, are shown on the appropriate day to keep you from overdrawing your account.
It’s a good way to see what’s happening. But it also seems like a little more work. Like I said, I’m still evaluating the user experience tradeoffs here.
As much as I enjoy exploring the big-picture ramifications of this new user experience, the real reason I finally opened a VW account is for the pig. Maybe it’s the Iowa boy in me, but I’m a sucker for pigs.
VW has a cute feature, admittedly aimed at somewhat younger customer than your typical banking industry analyst, that allows you to make a checking-to-savings transfer by punching the pig graphic at the top of the screen (note 2). And the oinking sound, followed by a the cash register, kaching, punctuates the transfer perfectly.
But it was a little annoying to have to confirm each punch with a popup window asking if I really did want to send $1 to my savings account (see note 1). How about just building an undo button to protect those who get a little carried away clicking that little oinker (see the pig in the upper right in screenshot).
1. Users can change the default transfer amount so that punches are equal to more than $1.
2. Users can customize the look and sounds their pig makes. I switched mine to an orange flame motif, which I’m not sure my farming ancestors would approve of.
3. We awarded PNC’s Virtual Wallet with an OBR Best of the Web in our recap of the most important innovations of 2008 (OBR here).
4. For more on adding appropriate online financial management (OFM) features to your online banking offering, see our latest OBR published just yesterday: Online Financial Management 3.0.