PFM discussion at BarCampBank SF

Session 3 of BarCampBank SFThe following are my rough notes typed during session two of BarCampBankSF, held in the Wozniak Lounge of the UC Berkeley campus. BarCampBank SF was an unconference devoted to innovation in personal finance. Here is the wiki page and the CrowdVine page. More photos can be found on the BCBSF Flickr Group. Attendance was around 60 people, including Andy Kaufman who found out about the event that morning at 9 am (because someone who had already arrived was twittering about it), and arrived in time for the last two sessions of the day.

One of the most remarkable things about this session is that we had several different Personal Financial Management (PFM) companies represented at one table, along with two companies in the personal retirement/net worth site category. (And Zopa, and someone who formerly worked for a personal finance division of Yahoo!) While there was a small amount of guardedness re: business plans, there were also a lot of kudos given, and much sharing of ideas. This was probably mostly due to the consensus that this type of site is just in its infancy.

Personal Financial Management Sites session (Session two of the day)

Areas to be discussed during this session:
1 – account aggregation
2 – making it simple
3 – customization
4 – mobile
5 – security

Notes from what was actually discussed:
Let’s introduce all the PFM companies here at the table:
Expensr – build awareness for each user – compare expenses to people like me
– tag yourself — manually enter or bank ofx download
Wesabe – Prospective tool, helps you going forward (compared to Quicken is rearview mirror)
– banks think of PFM as a tool to sell more products to customers, lock them in, etc.
– Wesabe really wants to help people
Networth IQ — track your net worth – track, share, compare your networth
(Also at table: Boulevardr, VaultStreet)

Other PFMs not here:
Mint – the positive about Mint: drives through to a result

Wesabe & Expensr, shoot for a positive customer result FIRST, unlike Mint which built the right side of Google before the left side

users want to analyze data – in a consumer form –

what’s the value proposition of PFM sites?

difference in these types of tools for investment vs expenses – who am I comparing to? large, global community versus small tight-knit community like me

different people in different life stages and income want different things out of these tools
(college students budgeting pizza and beer vs. older folks looking at financing kids’ college)

trust level with the PFM tools- younger professionals totally trust, not a big issue. Issue is for older folks.

with Wesabe – security – decouple person’s name from financial data
Jason is worried about one security corruption by ANY one PFM company blows up the entire industry

Pizza Breakwhat is the ideal way that transactions SHOULD work for PFM sites?

Jason -wesabe – wants customer transaction to belong to CUSTOMER – token given to Wesabe once by customer so that bank then gives JUST transactional data to Wesabe and nothing else
suggestion: why not create a consortium of PFM’s for this platform of interoperability standards (BITS – banking industry technology secretary)

Credit card companies – don’t know Expensr and PFMs exist
Wesabe – big banks know this is happening, some things are great about it, some things they wish they could make go away

Yodlee – good at building sucky tools. Yodlee plateaued at 1 million users

Jason – what is a PFM tool at end of day? Decision support tool. Interested in helping people make good decisions about money. helping people about making good financial decisions. Overcome ability to actually transact (like bill pay)

People don’t like to manage money. how do we overcome inertia?

Is Wesabe and PFMs where it’s going?

Jason – people aren’t going to chose their bank based on PFM (ie Mint is wrong/bad)

Banks have snouts in trough with customer fees – banks will eventually have to take snouts out of trough and actually help people with their money

Jwalla PFM – through CU online banking side

PFMs will be like Bill Pay is now – another tool/product, which hooks you into the instutuion so the customer won’t leave

Wesabe in discussions to partner with CUs

Takes forever to get trusted in the financial space – Yahoo didn’t have that. – at the end of the day made by brand name is all that matters, even when product is inferior

PFM only at the very very beginning of what this space is/will be (Wesabe, Expensr etc)

Social aspect is where it’s at (for both Wesabe, Expensr) (not about wizards and tools) community gives emotion, sticky & voyeuristic

Life events are what drive people to PFM (graduation, marriage, etc), not bottoming out

How do we make PFM fun? video game-like? what’s the pain point? notifications that are in my best interest. get rid of pain, maximize opportunity


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10 Responses to “PFM discussion at BarCampBank SF”

  1. Ryan Williams Says:

    Hey Morriss, great to meet yesterday and best of luck next weekend in Boston. Thanks for getting this review up, it was cool to see some great insight from everybody, I’m excited to see what comes next.

  2. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hey Ryan, great to meet you as well. I look forward to diving in to learn more about NetWorth IQ and keeping up with your latest and greatest developments!

  3. Forte Financial Blog Says:

    My Experience at BarCampBankSF

    A few weeks ago I mentioned BarCampBankSF – an unstructured, participant-organized, conference on banking and payments – and promised to share my observations. The event was this past Saturday and I thought it was great. BarCampBankSF BarCampBankSF wik…

  4. Bruce Huie Says:

    Hey you forgot to mention VaultStreet, a service of Docuthentic, LLC. To learn more go to

    We’ve taken a different approach to “personal financial management” services. We focus on documents rather than data. Documents are very important at this time of year with a consumer focus on tax preparation. These same consumers have accounts at a variety of banks, brokerages and mutual funds. In addition, institutions want to lower their costs, but increase customer services, so many offer “paperless statements”.

    Unlike personal financial management online services such as Mint, Wesabe and other accounting and tax preparation programs software such as Quicken and Microsoft Money, VaultStreet makes it simple for consumers to automate the collection, organization, management, and online storage of financial documents from a variety of sources, including the top five online brokerages, the 9 leading top 10 online banks, and leading utilities. VaultStreet is in a unique position to provide institutions and their consumers with valuable, secure and reliable online document storage and organizational tools used mainly at tax preparation, credit loan application and financial advisement as more consumers use online banking and brokerage accounts.

    Same issues, but different approach to personal financial management …

  5. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hey Bruce, thanks so much for letting us know about VaultStreet’s approach. That does indeed sound like a very promising and important approach to financial documents!

  6. Kirk Letourneau Says:

    One of the problems I think these various PFM solutions have, if I’m not mistaken, is the inability to “split” transactions into different categories. At least that is my belief. Someone correct me if I am wrong. You see, when I go to Costco, I typically by groceries, clothes, sporting good, electronics, stuff for my car, etc. But in the PFM’s that I have seen, you basically just tell them how you want your purchases at “Costco” categorized. One category for Costco wouldn’t be very helpful in telling you where you are spending your money.

  7. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hi Kirk, this aspect was touched on during the session. One advantage the PFMs like Expensr and Wesabe have over out-of-the-box solutions like Quicken or Microsoft Money is that courtesy of the communities that inform them, many vendors are already categorized. But indeed, they aren’t perfect. If you shop Target, there’s no way of knowing if it were for food, clothing or entertainment. But since at the end of the day, as Jason Knight said, they are tools for making decisions with, it’s close enough to be useful.

  8. PodCampBoston 3 « World 2.0 Adventure Says:

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